The circle of researchers who specialize in horse science is a tight one. Everyone knows everyone else, and an international conference can take on the air of a class reunion when enough graduates from a single university are in attendance.
At the August 2006 International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology (ICEEP) in Fontainebleu, France, one researcher stood out, because no one knew her name...until she presented her research.
ICEEP conducts a unique "starfinder" research competition for students in equine research around the world; the winning project earns the student not only a trip to the conference, but the honor of presenting the research to 26 assembled leaders in the field of equine research, including many potential future employers, and an audience of eager colleagues.
Myerscough College in Lancashire, England claimed the winning student this year. Rebecca Forsyth, a 2005 physiology graduate, presented her research in front of such esteemed researchers as Drs. Hilary Clayton, Rachel Murray, and David Marlin, but her research may gain legs of its own, considering the potential impact on horses worldwide.
Rebecca conducted a detailed, double-blind study of the effects of joint supplements on movement in 20 "senior equines" at Great Britain's Veteran Horse Society. Using the innovative Equinalysis gait evaluation system, Rebecca repeatedly tested both the treated and untreated horses to measure their stride length and joint characteristics.
"Double Blind Investigation of the Effects of Oral Supplementation of Combined Glucosamine Hydrochloride (GHCL) and Chondroitin Sulphate (CS) on the Stride Characteristics of Veteran Horses" is quite a mouthful for a researcher's first presentation. Rebecca's study was also printed in the Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement.
Helpful information from this research: The horses were studied for 12 weeks, during which time they were fed a combination glucosamine/chondroitin sulphate supplement according to the manufacturer's directions. The horses were evaluated every four weeks; improvements were not seen in this group of horses until the eighth week, but improvement was noted in all the treated horses. Of the joints evaluated, the elbow, stifle and hind fetlock improved significantly. Stride length also increased at both the walk and the trot on all treated horses, indicating that supplementation may have welfare benefits for older horses.