30 Years of Equine Nutrition Research: What Have We Learned?

Dr. Joe Pagan founded Kentucky Equine Research in 1988 and, in the three decades following, he and his staff have witnessed the evolution of equine nutrition and research trends.
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equine nutrition research
As technologies and techniques advance, equine nutrition research hones in on new problems and topics. Pagan predicted that the future research landscape will focus on nutrigenomics (the study of nutrition’s effect on gene expression) and nutrigenetics (how genes influence the body’s response to nutrition). | Photo: iStock

Equine nutrition and exercise physiology researcher Joe Pagan, PhD, formed Kentucky Equine Research (KER) in 1988. In the three decades following, he and his staff have witnessed the evolution of equine nutrition and research trends. At KER’s 2018 Conference, held Oct. 29-30 in Lexington, he described the research environment over the past 30 years.

Developmental Disorders

In 1980s Central Kentucky, the Thoroughbred capital of the world, most equine nutrition research centered around broodmares, growing horses, and performance horses—“the do all and end all” in that region of the country, said Pagan.

While things like equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and geriatric health weren’t yet on scientists’ radars, he said, developmental orthopedic disease (DOD, a catchall phrase for disease affecting the skeleton of growing horses) was. This was primarily because flaws that showed up on the radiographs of yearlings and 2-year-olds at Thoroughbred sales devalued those horses greatly

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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