Helping Horses of All Breeds

Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

By Holly White, Director of Development, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation

In 2019, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation had the opportunity to participate in the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan® as a charity partner. We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of this world-class event, which showcases and celebrates horses of all breeds. We were further delighted with how we were welcomed with open arms to the competition. Many competitors took the time to sit down and chat about the great work we are doing at Grayson in partnership with our funded universities to protect the health and wellness of all horses through equine research. The days were long, and the weather didn’t always cooperate, so if you didn’t get a chance to speak with the Grayson team, I thought I would share a little about what Grayson does to protect your horse’s health.

Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Formed in 1940, the original Grayson Foundation was named after Admiral Cary Grayson, who was the personal physician to President Woodrow Wilson. Grayson was president of a foundation that assisted in the promotion of research for horses. The Jockey Club was an early supporter of that venture and helped raise part of the $100,000 in seed money. From the beginning, the mission of the organization was to fund research at existing institutions rather than carry out research itself. Prominent equestrians have ensured the success of the foundation through the years with their generosity.

Since 1983, the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has provided $29.1 million to fund some 384 projects at 45 universities, all dedicated to helping horses of all breeds. Many of the studies are two-year projects, and the average cost of the research today is $200,000 per project.

The health of a horse is everyone’s concern, from owners to trainers, riders, and farm staff. Each year, funded research focuses on a wide range of equine health issues. Areas of research have included infectious disease, reproduction, laminitis, colic, and respiratory and musculoskeletal issues.

For example, a current Grayson-funded project that is particularly applicable to the dressage sport horse is “Enhancing the Efficacy of Mesenchymal Stem Cells For Tendon Healing,” a project led by Dr. Lauren Schnabel from North Carolina State University. Digital flexor tendon injuries occur frequently in athletic horses and are particularly debilitating and costly due to both their extensive healing time and their high re-injury rate (50% to 70%). This project examines the tendon inflammatory environment following acute injury and the effect of such an environment on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), with the goal of improving MSC treatment efficacy. To read more about this project and our current research, visit this link.

Projects are selected for funding by a 32-member research advisory committee (RAC) made up of researchers and practicing vets from across the country that meets annually to evaluate all submitted proposals. The best are then recommended to the board of directors, which makes the final decisions. The foundation’s expectation is that any funded projects produce at least one peer-reviewed published article. Of 195 completed projects since 1999, all have met this criterion.

Grant applications are submitted by October 1 each year.  All research is done through universities, so there are no lab set-up costs. The review process begins with proposals being scored on scientific merit, feasibility, budget, impact, and grant writing. The RAC discusses each project, which is eventually scored and then rated head-to-head against other projects until all recommended projects are ranked in order. If a proposal needs adjusting in the eyes of the reviewers, it may be resubmitted the following year.

In addition to supporting today’s equine research community, the foundation issues two career development awards to prospective researchers each year. Lucy Young Hamilton and Richard Klein have stepped forward with initiatives aimed specifically at aiding young researchers. Hamilton, through the Storm Cat Award, and Klein, through his family’s foundation and in honor of parents, Elaine and Bert Klein, have bolstered the salaries of post-residency doctors working toward a Ph.D. The foundation solicits and evaluates proposals from these career development awards. Many of our career development award winners remain active participants in equine research, of the 25 doctors who have received awards, 15 are still actively doing equine research, helping fill the pipeline with the next generation of researchers.

Grayson adheres to the philosophy that research fosters the health and soundness of all horses, from those in an individual’s backyard to those in a top trainer’s stable. We look forward to participating at the US Dressage Finals again this year, and I hope to have the opportunity to meet you and learn more about you and your horse, while watching some phenomenal dressage competition.

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