The Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) veterinary science and education investment programme for 2015 includes 14 new research projects and three new scholarships, the latter intended to attract top calibre veterinary surgeons to the equine arena.

The HBLB’s Veterinary Advisory Committee (VAC) will again be managing new veterinary scientific research investment on behalf of The Racing Foundation, the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association (TBA) and the British European Breeders Fund (BEBF).  In addition to the funding allocation approved by HBLB of £1.8m (2014: £1.8m), £160,000 has been made available by the Foundation, and £20,000 by the BEBF and TBA.

Professor Willie Donachie, who retired from the role as Chair of the HBLB’s VAC at the end of December 2014, said:

It’s good news for the future of Thoroughbred health and welfare not only that the HBLB is maintaining the level of its allocation to veterinary science and education, but also that our funding partners, The Racing Foundation, the TBA and the BEBF are continuing to invest in veterinary research.  The VAC will again be taking responsibility for managing all the projects, making sure that the funders are kept up to date with progress.”

Professor Celia Marr, who took over as Chair of the VAC on 1st January 2015, said:

For us, good research has to be both scientifically robust and clearly relevant to the racing and breeding Thoroughbred.  Our communications strategy this year will concentrate on making research outcomes available to and easily understood by the racing industry, and making promising young researchers aware of the huge range and opportunities in equine science.  There is exciting, high quality work going on that is all for the benefit of the Thoroughbred.”

   Louise Kemble, Chief Executive of the TBA, said:

The TBA is fully involved in the equine science research programme.  This year we are looking forward to the final results of a current three-year PhD project at the Royal Veterinary College looking at early pregnancy loss and we will be supporting a small project that will be testing a possible new method of assessing umbilical cord changes in pregnant mares than can cause abortion.  In addition, we are continuing, with the ROA and HBLB, to fund the Infectious Disease Service based at the Animal Health Trust.

“We would be very interested in ideas for future research projects concerning breeding, reproduction and youngstock and would encourage researchers to come forward if they have something promising in mind.“

Chris Mills, Executive Officer of The Racing Foundation, said:

The Racing Foundation is pleased to be able to fund two new applied research projects. One, into the post-natal development of tendons, has the potential to impact how young thoroughbreds are bought into racing to reduce injury risk, whilst the other, research into topical delivery systems, offers the prospect of enhancing the effectiveness of drug delivery to and through the skin of horses. Both projects therefore will be aiming to deliver very practical benefits for the horseracing and thoroughbred breeding industry."

Philip Freedman, Chairman of the BEBF, commented:

The BEBF is committed to assisting in the funding of veterinary research.  The study chosen for support in 2015 will be of long term benefit to breeders and those managing the performance of fillies and mares in training, both in Britain and further afield and we welcome the progress such work will produce.“

All grant applications are assessed by the HBLB’s VAC and external experts in accordance with the established procedure before being submitted to the Foundation, the BEBF and TBA.  In addition, the VAC benefits from the advice of the British Horseracing Authority’s Veterinary Committee in selecting projects for funding.

Six new research projects will be started in 2015, two of which will be part-funded by The Racing Foundation.  To these will be added eight small projects which are designed to be completed within one year and provide an immediate applicable result.  Two of these will be funded by the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and the British European Breeders Fund.

Disease prevention and control remain of paramount importance, and work in this area will include investigation of potential mechanisms for the prevention or limitation of equine flu and the possibility of predicting future changes in the virus.  In addition, the two related programmes based at the Animal Health Trust monitoring both influenza and other infectious diseases are being renewed this year following in depth review in 2014. Other projects will examine various aspects of infectious disease, respiratory problems, musculoskeletal sciences and orthopaedics.

Information on these new projects will be available shortly on the online resource at http://racehorsehealth.hblb.org.uk. The site also displays summaries of recent and current research on diseases and injuries of the Thoroughbred.