The Scholarly Equine: Merial Announces Finalists for Thesis of the Year Award

Equine science student

Got data? Merial's Eqvalan Duo Thesis of the Year Competition Rewards Young Equine Science Students (Photo courtesy of Nottingham Trent University)

What does Great Britain have that the USA does not?

Eqvalan DuoEquine science students, that’s what. Lots of them. Of course, we have them to but unlike the United States, a fair number of equine science students stick around after earning their Bachelors’ degrees; they go on to study for Masters of Science degrees in nutrition, behavior, biomechanics, and the burgeoning field of equitation science. A new emphasis on equine-related therapy is also a center of interest.

We don’t hear much from these students. They’re hard at work, but they show up as speakers at conferences or in the fine print in articles in Horse and Hound.

The exception is once a year, when the EQVALAN® Duo Equine Thesis of the Year Award rolls around and shines a big spotlight on a number of young scientists and their work. Now in its fourteenth year, the competition is sponsored by Merial Animal Health, makers of the Eqvalan wormer.

The winner will receive a cash prize, a trophy and five years of free membership to the Royal Agricultural Society of England, but there is no cash value that can be placed upon an award that will look great on a young scientist’s c.v. when it comes time to seek a PhD program or a job in the equine industry.

microscopeDr Emma Batson from Merial Animal Health says: ”It is always tough to judge this award and this year’s shortlist continues to showcase the high achievement and ambitious scope of the academic research within our industry. The equine industry faces many ongoing challenges and the short-listed theses all help to further our understanding of the horse and the equine industry in which we work. It will be very tough to choose a Thesis of the Year from such a high-quality shortlist but I relish the opportunity to do so.”

Meet the finalists for 2012:
• Rosie Foster, Writtle College. “Positive versus Negative Reinforcement: The effects of target training on measurable equine fearfulness towards a novel stimulus”
• Sarah Helen Rainford, Reaseheath College. “Can a Thirty Minute Hippotherapy Session Significantly Increase the Range of Motion of Four Joints in Five Physically Disabled Children over an Eight week period?”
• Abigail Erian, Royal Agricultural College. “An investigation into the pH of the oesophageal, fundic and pyloric regions of the equid stomach in relation to gastric ulceration, using slaughter house material”
• Roisin Griffin, University of Limerick. “A study of growth Rates in Irish and American Born Thoroughbred Foals”
• Petra Gashi, Anglian Ruskin University. “Is the first response of a horse to human presence linked to social status in the herd?”

In 2011, Lisa Randle was the winner. The Warwickshire College student’s thesis, “Prevalence of Obesity and Health Issues in Mature Leisure Horses in the Midlands of the UK: An Equine Body Condition Survey” was a study to identify the links between equine body condition score and incidence of health issues. The study even went as far as comparing the body condition score of owners against their horses!

The study found an apparent shift towards the more overweight end of the scale in owners’ perception of the correct body condition for their animals.

This result would suggest that some owners may not perceive their horses to be overweight or obese. An easier way for owners to assess if their horse is overweight must be made available to ensure steps are taken to manage horse weight, with consequent health benefits.

Other 2011 finalists and topics:

• Bill Chapman, Moulton College/University of Northampton: Comparison of the efficacy of preloading versus reloading electrolyte supplementation in novice competition horses
• Caryl Ffion Marks, Hartpury College: A case control study to investigate risk factors for horse falls in steeplechase races at Cheltenham racecourse
• Christine Hills, Writtle College: Does grazing limb preference affect equine biomechanics and any developmental asymmetries?

lecture hall

Not only does the thesis winner have to write the best research paper, he or she also has to deliver a speech explaining the research. (Image by Salman Ashraf)

2009 finalists and topics:
• Holly Claridge, Royal Veterinary College: The 3D anatomy of the cervical articular process joint in the horse
• Ann Clausen, Writtle College: Analysis of the trait scoring data in Futurity Evaluations (2005-2008) for young sport horses
• Sarah Craighill, Hadlow College: An investigation to establish if there is a relationship between the orientation of the distal and middle phalanx and injury to the structures of the distal limb in the horse
• James Daly, University of Limerick: Analysis of Career Length and Performance in Irish National Hunt Horses
• Sarah J Mitchell, Sparsholt College: A study into the behavioural and physiological effects of equine assisted therapy, as indicated by changes in Cortisol in saliva and heart rate

2008 finalists and topics:

• Laura Corbin, Warwickshire College: Foot balance and lameness in riding school horses

• Carol Quish, University of Limerick: Irish Point-to-Point Racing: A Critical Review 2000 – 2007

• Alexine Sevack, Hartpury College: The establishment of evidence-based guidelines for the reduction of the equine canine tooth

• Holly Wakefield, Harper Adams University College: A Comparison of the Cryoprotective Effect of different types of Avian Egg Yolk in Stallion Semen Freezing Media on In Vitro Post-Thaw Sperm Quality

• Charlotte White, Nottingham Trent University: An investigation into the Occlusal Secondary Dentine Thickness in Horses of different ages

2007 winner:

Soraya Morsche, University of Limerick: ”An Analysis of Peri-Parturient and Postnatal Events in Thoroughbreds”

2006 winner:

• Rachel Kay, Nottingham Trent University: “The Effect of Creating Surrogate Companionship on Physiology and Behavior of Horses During Transportation”.

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