Equine athletes to benefit from new research program

The focus will be on reducing injuries in racehorses, show jumpers, 
and Western pleasure, rodeo, and draft horses

Renaud Léguillette (on left) fits a horse with a special mask to measure the maximal rate of oxygen  consumption (known as VO2 max) as the animal exercises.
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High-performance equine athletes are like people — they need to be at peak fitness to perform at their maximum. And, as with 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 thanks to a new research chair — the Calgary Chair in Equine Sports Medicine — 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 racehorses to Western pleasure and rodeo horses and draft horses.

“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,” said Renaud Léguillette, the inaugural research chair.

The chair was set up following a Calgary Stampede donation of $250,000 and a $50,000 gift from Linda Atkinson, whose horse was cared for by Léguillette.

“It gives me a lot of tools to be able to do more research and faster,” said Léguillette. “When you have a research chair and you have an idea, you know the funding is there already and you can start to work right away.”

Applied research can help solve problems facing the horse community, he said.

“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,” he said.

“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 more than $1.5 million.

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