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Current Research

Projects Underway at the Virginia Tech MARE Center

Details on health and disease research efforts are forthcoming. 

Details on behavior research efforts are forthcoming. 

Equine Nutritional and Behavioral Responses to Starch Load

The objective of this study is to evaluate how insulin sensitivity and horse behavior are influenced by the proportion of energy coming from starch. Disruptions in insulin response and horse behavior are thought to be associated with consuming large quantities of starch in meals. This study used diets varying in starch content to evaluate how starch loading influenced insulin sensitivity and horse behavior. Results will be used to update horse nutrient requirement recommendations with information about insulin and behavioral responses. 

Seasonal Metabolic and Digestive Response of Grazing Horses
The objective of this study is to identify the seasonal fluctuation of nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) in a Virginia horse pasture and its effect on the metabolic and digestive response in grazing horses. When horses consume a diet rich in NSC, metabolic and digestive disturbances can occur leading to the onset of laminitis. This disease can be very debilitating to the health and well-being of the horse, causing pain and suffering. There are also significant economic costs involved with the diagnosis, management and treatment of insulin resistance and pasture-associated laminitis. The results of this research will lead to the development of grazing strategies to reduce the risk of pasture-associated laminitis in horses.

Effects of a sudden diet change in horses with and without a bicarbonate buffer
The objective of this study is to identify the digestive, inflammatory, and metabolic response of overweight warmblood mares to an abrupt increase in dietary nonstructural carbohydrates with and without a timedrelease bicarbonate buffer product. This research will lead to the further understanding of the onset of laminitis, as well as strategies to reduce the risk of laminitis in obese horses exposed to a diet high in nonstructural carbohydrates.

Details on equine exercise research projects are forthcoming. 

The Evaluation of Novel Turfgrass Grazing Systems for Horses 
(In partnership with the University of Maryland)
The aim is to develop novel grazing systems for horses that protect soil and water as valuable natural resources, provide a safe low-yielding nutritional source for horses prone to metabolic disease, and reduce economic losses. The study will serve as a springboard to identify potential turf grass species based on their growth and yield characteristics, nutritional content, palatability, and water retention properties that are candidates for small acreage farms and pastures for horses prone to metabolic disease.

Grazing management practices for horses
The ultimate objective of this project is to implement and demonstrate horse farm best management practices that will improve horse and environmental health. The objectives are to 1.) Develop an 8-acre model equine rotational grazing system that showcases best management practices (BMP’s) for pastures at the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center. A model rotational grazing system and continuous grazing system will serve as an invaluable tools for educating horse farm owners and students about facility development and management practices that will ultimately improve animal health and water quality by enhancing the utilization of land resources and promoting forage utilization.