Areas of Excellence
For more than a century, equine researchers in what is now named the Gluck Equine Research Center have been at the forefront of advancements in the health and wellbeing of the horse, specializing in genetics and genomics, immunology, infectious disease, musculoskeletal disease, parasitology, pharmacology/toxicology/therapeutics and reproductive health. Many groundbreaking studies in the horse over the past century have been conducted here and it remains the only scientific institute in the United States with nearly all faculty conducting full-time research in equine health and diseases.
UK has also become a horse and rider safety knowledge center, a pillar of excellence established in the last decade. The research being done impacts the safety and well-being of both the equine and human athlete and includes the surfaces they compete on, knowledge about the musculoskeletal science of the horse, equine pharmacology, rider safety and more. Two new research laboratories have been put into place in the past several years to address these issues: the Equine Safety Research Laboratory in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory in the Gluck Center and a partnership was formed between the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and UK HealthCare, along with dozens of industry partners, to launch Saddle Up Safely.
Equine researchers at UK have increased their efforts in understanding the role of nutrition and feeding management on the health, growth and longevity of the horse. Nutrition research within Animal and Food Sciences has long been a recognized area of excellence at UK.
Researchers are also documenting the economic and cultural value of the horse industry to Kentucky. UK’s economics specialty lies in Agricultural Economics. The 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey, a comprehensive statewide survey of all breeds of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules – the first such study since 1977 – was conducted in 2012. The survey found that Kentucky is home to 242,400 horses with a total economic impact of almost $3 billion.
The vast majority of horses raised in Kentucky utilize pasture as an important nutrient source. Researchers at UK are developing nutrition and pasture management practices that improve knowledge of optimal feeding programs and optimal production schemes for horses. One standout program is the UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program in Plant and Soil Sciences.
The facilities horses live and work in are also important, and many first of their kind studies are being conducted within Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering to study barns, arenas, other facilities and environmental compliance.
Putting the research into practice is where Extension comes in and UK offers robust equine programming for horse owners and youth with a passion for horses though the 4-H Horse Program.