High performance equine athletes are like people — they need to be at peak fitness to perform at their maximum. But like any athlete, injuries can occur.
How to train horses for top performance while avoiding injury is one issue facing the sport horse industry in Alberta that will be studied further because of a new research chair — the Calgary Chair in Equine Sports Medicine — being established by the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM). Research enabled by the new Chair will benefit the entire equine industry from show jumpers and race horses to Western pleasure and rodeo horses and draft horses.
Inaugural research chair Dr. Renaud Léguillette says the Chair will have a significant impact on the equine industry in Alberta.
“It’s very important for the horse community to be at the cutting edge of research so it has direct access to new discoveries to better take care of horses and improve their health,” says Léguillette.
The process of going from an initial idea for a research project to actually securing the money needed to do the research can be a long one. A process Léguillette says the establishment of the new Chair will make much easier.
“It gives me a lot of tools to be able to do more research and faster,” says Léguillette. “When you have a research chair you have an idea, you know the funding is there already and you can start to work right away.”
Establishing the Calgary Chair in Equine Sports Medicine was kicked off by a $250,000 donation from the Calgary Stampede, which produces and hosts many activities involving sport horses. “Our goal is to support research that continues to inform how the Stampede and other horse-based events can continue to evolve our practices to protect the health and wellbeing of equine competitors,” says Paul Rosenberg, Chief Operating Officer of the Calgary Stampede.
Dr. Erin Shields, who was in UCVM’s first graduating class, is completing a clinical residency program in equine sports medicine, supervised by Léguillette and supported by a $135,000 donation from Moore Equine Veterinary Centre. Shields says the Chair will allow for a closer connection between the university’s research and horse owners and trainers in the area.
“I’ve been working with local clientele and seeing what their needs are really inspires us and allows us to stay in touch with what’s needed,” says Shields.
That connection to the community is what drives Léguillette’s research focus of health and performance of competition horses in all disciplines represented in Alberta. Another supporter, Ms. Linda Atkinson, provided $50,000 after her horse was cared for by Léguillette.
“It’s really about how the horses are breathing, how their hearts are adapting to exercise and training and how to make sure things are safe for these horses so they can compete at their optimal level without getting injured,” says Léguillette.
“This is applied clinical research that aims to solve specific problems facing the horse community. And you don’t need to be at the Olympic level to benefit.”
The community has generously supported this program and UCVM has contributed additional support for a total value of over $1,500,000.
This article is based on a news release provided by the University of Calgary.