Survey Results Establish Equine Research Priorities
Colic (gastrointestinal diseases) is considered by both equine veterinarians and horse owners as the most important equine health care problem in need of more answers.

Vets and horse owners answered surveys about what equine problems need more answers. Thinkstock

Colic (gastrointestinal diseases) is considered by both equine veterinarians and horse owners as the most important equine health care problem in need of more answers, according to the results of research surveys conducted in partnership by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Foundation and the American Horse Council (AHC) Foundation.

In 2018, AAEP and AHC members were asked to complete similar surveys to identify the most pressing disease problems they encounter and to prioritize the importance of specific diseases. Following colic, veterinarians listed lameness, laminitis, osteoarthritis, endometritis, dental, lacerations, metabolic, infertility and PPID as the 10 most common equine medical problems treated in their practices. These results resembled those of the AAEP’s 2009 membership survey, which identified laminitis, colic, arthritis, tendon injuries and navicular disease as the diseases in most need of research.

When asked to rank technical areas in need of research, veterinarians listed horse side tests, regenerative medicine, podiatry, exercise physiology, vaccines and imaging as the top six.

Among horse owners, infectious diseases and musculoskeletal diseases followed colic/gastrointestinal/liver issues as the most pressing equine health care issues. Owners also prioritized research on pain recognition; information on genetic diseases; and research on non-medical problems, including horse abuse/neglect, wild horse and burro management, alternative therapies and the benefits of riding.

Owner survey results corroborated studies by the National Animal Health Monitoring System at the USDA on horse operations in the United States in 2005 and 2015. Injury (trauma/wounds), lameness and colic were the most common problems occurring at horse operations, totaling 51.6% and 53.4% or problems reported in 2005 and 2015, respectively.

Results of these surveys are intended to help the equine industry direct financial support of equine research projects, the need for which remains high. One possible consideration is reconvening a Research Summit, which in 2006 assembled research scientists from universities, foundations and corporations involved in equine research to develop recommendations to increase medical research.

In response to the summit’s top recommendation of increasing funding by creating a uniform message for owner education about the cost and benefits of research, the AAEP Foundation with assistance from the Equine Research Coordination Group created position papers aimed at increasing public awareness of the need for equine research. Other summit recommendations included increasing collaboration among researchers and funding for graduate student stipends to train future researchers.

Regardless of how the industry addresses the funding issue, only through a cooperative effort and increased resources will research significantly improve horse health.

For more information, please contact Keith Kleine, AAEP Foundation, at or (859) 233-0147.

About the AAEP Foundation

The AAEP Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1994, serves as the charitable arm of the American Association of Equine Practitioners to improve the welfare of horses. Since its inception, the Foundation has disbursed more than $5.4 million to fulfill its vital mission.

About the American Horse Council Foundation

The AHC Foundation, a 501(c)(3), was established in 1992, as a charitable, educational, and scientific arm of the American Horse Council. As the national association representing all segments of the horse industry in Washington, D.C., the American Horse Council, a 501 (c) (6) works daily to represent equine interests and opportunities. 

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