Pioneer 100 Horse Health Project

Collage of horses

Pioneer 100 Horse Health Project

Thanks to advanced molecular tools, researchers are now able to understand the equine genome on a deeper level than ever before. In the future, genetic data and advanced diagnostics could be used to tailor medical treatments to an individual horse’s genetics, its environment, and the interactions between the two. The goal is to be able to create a scientifically sound wellness program using a combination of multi-omics (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc.) approaches focused on disease prevention. Data from this project could help evaluate, for example, how a particular patient is likely to respond to one drug versus another, making it possible to target treatments for the most successful outcomes.

Dr. Finno’s laboratory has partnered with CEH and Platinum Performance on the “Pioneer 100 Horse Health Project”, a first-of-its-kind precision medicine study in horses. Precision medicine is "treatment/prevention targeted to the needs of a patient based on genetic, biomarker and phenotypic characteristics that distinguish patients with similar clinical presentations" (Jameson & Longo (2015) New England Journal of Medicine). The Precision Medicine Initiative, launched in 2015 to advance these approaches in people, has resulted in targeted therapies for cancer and other conditions.

This project aims to do the same in horses, beginning by gathering data on 100 CEH teaching herd horses. These horses live at the center, having been donated for various reasons. The advantage of utilizing this population is that we have access to their medical records and can control many aspects of their environment, such as their diets, limiting variables in a way that would not be possible if horses were housed at different locations. In addition, the majority of these horses are long term residents, meaning that researchers can follow their health and associated data over time (deep longitudinal phenotyping). Dr. Callum Donnelly, a second-year PhD student in Dr. Finno’s laboratory has been spearheading the initial data collection. Data collected on every horse includes:

  • Whole genome sequencing (20X coverage)
  • Mammalian methylation array (in collaboration with the Horvath laboratory at UCLA)
  • Proteome - in progress
  • Metabolome
  • Microbiome - in progress
  • Medical and nutritional records
  • Physical examinations/weight/body condition score/height
  • Full ophthalmic and cardiac evaluations
  • Fecal egg counts
  • CBC, chemistry, ACTH, lipid profile
  • Vitamin and mineral panel
  • Plasma sampling
  • Blood type
  • Vaccine history and responses
  • Lameness examinations
  • Coat colors, patterns, and markings
  • Breed
  • Age
  • Reproductive history

For more information: 

How 100 Horses are Helping Horses Everywhere Have Healthier Lives, Morris Animal Foundation AnimalNEWS 101

*Our teaching herd is at the heart of all that we do. Learn more about how you can support these amazing equines - and by extension, horses everywhere - through our Teaching Herd Fund.

Collage of the CEH teaching horses contributing to this project.
Collage of some of the CEH teaching horses that are part of this study.