May 15, 2008

The US Eventing Association is increasing its efforts to secure funding for studies into equine pulmonary hemorrhage and other sudden cardiovascular events.

The loss of Direct Merger and Leprechaun's Rowdy Boy, who both died from hemorrhages during competition in March, led to the establishment of the USEA's Equine Research Task Force at the end of March, spurring on the effort to determine what can be done to detect and prevent pulmonary hemorrhages and aneurysms in event horses. Another upper level event horse, Tigger Too, also died in similar circumstances.

Direct Merger

Leprechaun's Rowdy Boy
© US Eventing Association

"We are extremely concerned about these incidents, and this research project is a matter of the first priority for us," said USEA President Kevin Baumgardner. "While we know that horses can suffer fatal aneurysms any time and place - even while turned out in a field - the fact remains that if there is anything that can be done to detect and prevent such events, we at the USEA want our members and indeed all Eventers worldwide to have access to that knowledge. Saving the life of even one of our marvelous equine partners is well worth it."

The USEA's Equine Research Task Force is headed by Dr. A. Kent Allen who has put together a team of experts in Dr. Catherine Kohn, Dr. Eleanor Green, and Dr. Mark Revenaugh to help craft the Request for Proposals. They will be assisted by human cardiologists Dr. Mark Hart and Dr. Lynn Cronin. Many of the members also serve on USEF and FEI veterinary committees and the findings coming out of this study will be shared with all equestrian bodies as we all work for the best solution to the problem and the overall welfare of the horse.

"Ideally we will be able to determine the incidence of EIPH (exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage) and fatal pulmonary hemorrhage in event horses, identify risk factors and causes and possibly discover strategies for prevention or treatment," said Dr. Allen.

"The research committee has begun by searching for relevant papers in the scientific literature and searching competition databases for factual incidence of this problem. Compiling the information currently available will help direct research and avoid duplication of effort. Determination of the incidence of EIPH in event horses, currently unknown, would entail endoscopic examinations following exercise of horses in competition. Epidemiologic studies could help clarify the incidence of fatal hemorrhage and explore risk factors. Laboratory studies would be required to identify the mechanisms of disease and treatment and prevention strategies."

"There is no doubt that this type of research will be costly," said USEA CEO, Jo Whitehouse. "We have set up a special fund to which our members may send their donations and have already received a fairly good response. Given the immediacy of the need for this study, we are especially hopeful that one or more of our generous donors will establish a matching fund and challenge other donors to meet or exceed it."

In the early nineties, the USEA was able to raise significant funds to conduct the Equine Physiology Studies, the results of which did so much to protect horses from heat stress during the Atlanta Olympic Games. "Our experience shows that everyone involved in Eventing is deeply concerned about the welfare of the horse and I am certain they will come forward again to support this effort," said Baumgardner.

It is fitting that one of our top international Event horses from the 90s, Ask Away, will be helping raise funds for this research study. Virginia artist, Radford Wine, was recently commissioned to paint Ask Away, the mount of former international rider Wash Bishop and with Wash's approval has generously created two posters from the portrait. These have been made available to the USEA to use in its fundraising efforts and everyone who donates $250 or more to the Equine Research Fund will receive one of these stunning posters. "When Wash retired from competing, he sold Ask Away to a junior who competed him in the jumpers very successfully," said Whitehouse. "He is a wonderful old horse and there is something very poignant about Ask Away now helping to raise money to fund equine research. We are very grateful to Radford and Wash for making this piece of art available to us."