Central Kentucky has long been a hub for scientific research on horses. Going back about a century, the University of Kentucky's Department of Veterinary Science has studied reproduction, breeding, foal diseases, parasite problems and other equine-related issues.
But in 1987, the school took this area of research to an entirely new level with the building of the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center. The 81,000 square foot facility was named after the late Maxwell Gluck, owner of the longtime Lexington Thoroughbred farm, Elmendorf. Gluck and his wife, Muriel, donated $3 million to UK to build the Gluck Center on the condition that the gift be matched by $3 million from the state and another $3 million from the horse industry.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Gluck Center is not only internationally recognized, but there is no facility like it in the world.
“It is the only pure research center for horses,” said Mats Troedsson, the center's director and the chairman of the Department of Veterinary Science. “Most places, time is split between teaching and research. Here, we devote all of our time to research, so there is a critical mass of researchers all working on horses that is unmatched around the world.”
In its first quarter-century, the Gluck Center has been at the forefront of the most important breakthroughs in equine research. The center has developed six of the 10 major vaccines to combat the most serious infectious diseases in horses. UK researchers performed the definitive experiments that identified the cause of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome. The blueprint for the genome sequencing of the domestic horse, published in 2009, was developed at the Gluck Center.
“That's one of the major scientific breakthroughs in equine medicine in several decades,” said Troedsson. “The sequencing of the genome has given us a tremendous amount of information about diseases. It has also identified both negative and positive characteristics for breeding. In the future, the genetic code will be at least as important as the name of the sire and the dam.”
In addition to its international impact, the Gluck Center is also a major resource for the horse industry in Central Kentucky. The center offers year-round short courses and seminars for equine veterinarians, making available to them the latest in continuing education. Vets, horse owners and breeders have access to the newest diagnostic tests. The Gluck Center also has funds set aside to deal with any new diseases that might threaten the horse population.
“In order to address these problems through regular channels, there can be a lag time,” said Troedsson. “We have the funds sitting there to start within a week or two. We have our research farm and over 400 horses for equine studies and research… so, rapid response to emerging diseases is another major impact of the Gluck Center in Central Kentucky.”
Troedsson said a little less than half of the Gluck Center's funding comes from state and federal sources. The rest comes from research grants, and the center is heavily dependent upon industry support.
“The industry has recognized the importance of having an equine research center here, and we have a foundation with an endowment,” Troedsson said. “In addition, we receive donations from the industry for specific projects or for infrastructure. Without that support, it would be impossible to keep the Gluck Center open as we know it.”
Most of the Gluck Equine Research Foundation's endowment has come from Thoroughbred owners and breeders and horse racing organizations. But Troedsson said in recent years, the Gluck Center has been able to expand its scope.
“The demographic has changed in Kentucky with more sport horses and Quarter Horses. So we are much more diverse with our collaborations in the horse industry than ever before.”
As the center looks to the future, Troedsson said controlling infectious diseases will remain important as the international transport of horses is here to stay. Athletic injuries – particularly the prevention of such injuries – will also be a primary focus going forward, as well as research on medication and drugs in racing.
In the short term, Troedsson said parasites are a significant concern. The center has recently hired a new researcher in parasitology.
“We have had very effective dewormers to keep horses parasite-free,” said Troedsson. “Parasites are now developing resistance to these, and there are no new dewormers on the horizon. That's an immediate challenge for us.”
Troedsson said the Gluck Center also hopes to broaden its support net within the horse industry to ensure a healthy future.
“We are completely dependent on support from horse people, and horse people are really passionate about their horses. We are very appreciative of that support,” Troedsson said. “I hope you will call me 25 years from now.”
Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be made in support of the Gluck Equine Research Center. Three Chimneys will be donating $100 each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.
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