Improving the Health & Welfare of Horses
By Sarah Ford on October 14, 2014
Source: Morris Animal Foundation
When I think of freedom, one of the images that instantly comes to mind is that of a horse running free. Anyone who’s spent time around these beautiful animals knows that it isn’t that they merely like to run, they live to run.
Horses are beautiful, majestic and also a scientific marvel because their entire massive being rests on a relatively fragile structure. Think for a second about walking on your middle fingers and middle toes. Then think about always having to do that.
Horses can lie down for only short periods of time because their circulatory and digestive systems are dependent upon them being in somewhat constant motion. From a medical standpoint, horses face a huge challenge because they don’t really have the option of “getting off their feet for a few days.” Couple this fragility with the fact that they spend their lives outside, subjected to all the parasites, weather, bacteria and toxins associated with the outdoors, and it’s no wonder these animals face a huge number of health challenges.
Despite their health issues, very few research dollars are available to study equine problems. Because horses don’t make a great model for studying most human diseases, the federal government largely won’t fund equine research. In addition, the market for new drugs for equine disease is small, so drug companies don’t support the same kinds of research programs that they do for cattle and pigs.
It falls to organizations like Morris Animal Foundation to fund the research so critical to making horses’ lives better. Morris Animal Foundation has funded more than 410 studies to benefit horses over the past 50 years. That adds up to more than $15 million dedicated to improving the health and welfare of horses.