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Spinoff: Vet schools and horses donated for "science".

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  • Spinoff: Vet schools and horses donated for "science".

    The thread about the rearing mare sold under false pretenses and the subsequent discussion raised my interest--can anyone speak about the process of donating horses to a veterinary school for research or teaching purposes?

    I don't have one to donate, although I would certainly consider it under the right circumstances. Just wondering what the need is--how many horses per year, would you say? Besides blood donation, surgical teaching and gross anatomy specimens, what other types of things are horses needed for?
    Click here before you buy.

  • #2
    I've been chatting with my local 2 year college about donating a highly arthritic mare- they have a vet tech program.

    They need horses for vet tech students to learn how to halter, pick feet, lead, give shots etc. VERY basic. Some of these vet tech students have NO horse experience.

    ETA: The only reason I am considering this is because the head of the program is my old vet and I trust her to look after this horse well.
    Big Idea Eventing


    • #3
      I believe there are a few different avenues for horses that get donated to vet schools. I donated one about 20 years ago into a breeding program. It was a tb mare, the vet school was standing a stud, and iirc selling the offspring. The students also used those mares in repro labs etc. I also believe they take horses in some of the equine exercise physiology programs, treadmill work, etc. They would not guarantee that a horse wouldn't end up in a cadaver lab, but they did emphasize that the healthy/useful ones didn't usually end up cadavers...


      • #4
        I donated my OTTB to the University of Illinois Vet School several years ago. He was going blind due to progressive moon blindness, and no longer safe to ride. He was used in a spleen study for sport horses, and then euthanized. The school also disposed of his body.

        According to the person I spoke to, the biggest issue was that some donors wanted a tax write-off, and the vet school was not a 501(c)3. My reason was to be absolutely sure where my horse ended up during his final days. The tax implications did not come into play.

        I had a previous experience donating an old horse to a non-profit equine therapy organization, and finding out 2 years later that the organization, as well as all the horses, had 'disappeared'. I suspect they ended up at the local auction, but I'll never know for sure....

        The vet school idea was a much better choice for me.


        • #5
          I worked at a vet school for a number of years and I think the donated horses have a pretty nice life. The number of horses they take depends on the needs of the department and funding. The vet students practice a number of skills on these horses like IVs, farrier work etc. They also use these horses for ECFMG testing (accreditation for international DVMs).

          I have a good friend that is a DVM/PhD student working with COPD horses. I know she has a herd of "clinical" horses and a herd of "normal" horses that she does pulmonary function testing on. I think most vet schools have particular diseases that they research and tend to collect horses with those diseases.


          • #6
            I donated an OTTB that came off the trailer with a totally trashed knee. I knew he would be humanely treated and hopefully he would be able to give something back in terms of expanding knowledge. When I dropped him off he had 3 vet students loving all over him in the stall.
            If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb


            • #7
              I donated a horse about 10 years ago to Cornell. A couple of people I knew had also donated to their Vet school and gave me the contact information. Much of it depends on what type of studies and needs the particular school may need horses for. In my friend's case, her horse was sent for some type of behavioral program and a tech adopted him after the study;some horses may be cadavers pretty much on arrival. My horse had suffered a cruciate ligament tear in his stifle (from what I read at that time that injury had a very poor prognosis). They were doing some lameness studies and accepted my horse. It was a difficult decision to send him but at least you know that they have the best of care and treated in the most humane way. Once you donate them,that it generally that for contact - they don't want you calling to find out how Bubbles is. They also tell me the outlook for a younger horse donated is not so great as one who is older (teens). I'm not sure what happened w/ my horse but I do know that stifle surgery has been vastly improved since my horse's injury and I would like to think that my donation of him may have helped improve surgical outcomes. And as another poster stated, at least you know


              • #8
                In 1963, when I was 11 yrs. old, my folks bought me a 20 year old TWH. When he foundered in 1965, we took Drummer to the Auburn University Vet College. For the grand cost of $50 , they resected his hooves and gave him plastic feet and orthopedic shoes. They had us bring him back every four weeks to have the plastic feet reapplied and new shoes. (It cost us $25 to have this done each month.) It took six months, but he became sound enough for me to show him in English Pleasure classes in a show.

                Because, as I understand now, Drummer probably had Cushings (long curly coat, chronic laminitis), he foundered again. My Dad suggested that we donate him to Auburn's Vet College for continued research into founder. We dropped him off at the Vet school. Since I was a teenager, I was consumed with grief over leaving him there. I never asked any questions about what would happen to him. Now, I wish that I had the presence of mind to have done so.

                I do not know if I would choose that route again. I guess that it would depend on what the disease affecting my horse was and if I thought that by donating, it would help another horse along the way.
                When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                • #9
                  At Colorado state we have a teaching herd of about 6 horses that are used for teaching physical exam, ultrasound, blood draw, etc on. We just recently used them as demo horses for an equine rehab rotation. Other horses could be used in studies but I don't know too much about that. For our non recovery type labs they have purchased the animals


                  • #10
                    Just make sure you know what happens to the horse when the "research" is done. I know of a TB that was used for "research" and when the study was done, the horse ended up at an auction - dumped by the vet at the school who was doing the research. Previous owners found out and bought him from the auction house (it wasn't a good auction though sadly most aren't).

                    You need to be very, very careful when donating to anything.
                    "When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered." CANTER New England


                    • #11
                      My mare was born at the MARE Center at VA Tech. The woman who owns her mother now found me and I've learned a lot about that from her. The foals that year were fed different diets to see how that affected their growth. G's mother's owner before the MARE Center had loved that horse, breeding her and making her registered JC name having her last name as her "last name" and I'm not sure why she eventually had to give her up. But she was donated and bred some lovely horses, G has some full siblings that do quite well in competitions up in VA. For some reason they started giving the mother a lot of insulin and now she's completely IR. She became a foster mother to a foal whose mother had passed and would not let them take the baby away from her and said foal is still with her today at this lady's farm.
                      Gracious "Gracie," 2002 TB mare
                      Facebook me!

                      I have Higher Standards ...do you?


                      • #12
                        I would say it is highly variable what happens to the horse, depending on what issues it has, and which vet school you are donating him/her to. We maintain a teaching herd of repro mares that live a pretty cushy life. They "work" about 12 weeks a year, being palpated and ultra sounded daily, and are used for labs at various other points in the year (dentistry, farrier, etc). We also maintain an embryo transfer herd of recipient mares, who are sold to clients after they are confirmed pregnant with a donor embryo (these mares are usually purchased rather than donated for this reason). Our cardio/ultrasound dept also maintains a small herd that is used for handling labs, cardio exams, ultrasound, etc. They all (unsurprisingly) have unique or common but distinct cardiac disease that make them good examples for students. Finally, there are herds of research horses that are acquired as needed by individual vets for various research projects. Some are terminal studies, some not, but the minute they are donated they become the property of the institution and may or may not be passed on when the study is complete. There is also a seasonal need for fresh cadavers for students to practice surgical techniques, necropsy procedure or anatomy.

                        So, there are a lot of possible places for your horse to wind up once they are donated (and, as I said, that's just one institution- it varies depending on your local vet school and of course their policies may all vary). If I had a horse that was unsafe to ride or chronically lame that I could no longer support but didn't want to give on for fear of him ending up "in a bad way" I would absolutely consider donating them for euthanasia for a cadaver study. As a student who learned an invaluable amount from cadavers, I have the utmost respect and gratitude for owners who have chosen to do this, because their decision helped me learn techniques that I now use to help my live patients. They are given a humane end and serve a greater good. I know it's not for everyone, but it is something that I advocate for in the right situation and believe firmly is a valuable part of the learning process in vet school.
                        Balanced Care Equine


                        • #13
                          With the experience of working at a vet school hospital, I know the animals are used for whatever they would be most useful. Yes, they are sometimes kept as teaching and teasing mares/stallions or are observed (i.e. shivers). However, most of they time they are used for research. Horses presented with neurological problems, for example, have samples of nervous and muscle tissue harvested after euthanasia. The bodies are also used for dissections, surgery practicals, etc., and healthy animals are needed just as much for comparison/control purposes as diseased or injured animals. They are given a humane end with a purpose of bettering veterinary medicine.
                          The holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it.


                          • #14
                            We have donated a couple over the years. Both had serious soundness issues, and were used as examples of 'this is what 'xyz' looks like'. I know that one was eventually euthanized (she had OCD in her shoulder and was not even pasture sound), and last I heard the other was still there, fat, happy, and used to teach students how to give shots, draw coggins, etc. She is also used in their lameness study as she has severe ringbone that had deformed one of her pasterns.

                            If it can help the future generations of our veterinarians to study these horses, and the horses are well cared for and humanely put down, I do not have a problem with donating them. I know that at times (esp in recent years) the vet schools have been flooded with horses, and have had periods where they wouldn't take anything. However, they will usually take 'special' cases that can provide students with something valuable, and different, to study.
                            Fade to Grey Farm
                            Eventing, Foxhunting & Connemaras
                            *NEW* website:www.fadetogreyfarm.com


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ryansgirl View Post
                              Just make sure you know what happens to the horse when the "research" is done. I know of a TB that was used for "research" and when the study was done, the horse ended up at an auction - dumped by the vet at the school who was doing the research. Previous owners found out and bought him from the auction house (it wasn't a good auction though sadly most aren't).

                              You need to be very, very careful when donating to anything.
                              Based on my lab animal studies in tech school, it's pretty surprising that this would be possible. Even when the animals are adoptable, they are normally euthanized once the research is done because of the universal lab animal protocols in place. It's very much regulated where the animals can come from and what you can do with them afterward....pretty sure that's not an option.


                              • #16
                                My current horse's mother was born with guttural pouch empayaema (sp?)
                                and my vet recommended sending her to WSU as a weanling. They did the surgery and sent her home, but we could not get rid of her infections....so the vet school offered to take her because so few students see this problem in real life, only in books.

                                It was never a case of euthanizing her, just studying her and she lived out with the blood donor horse.

                                A year and a half or so later I got the surprizing news that she was all better and did I want her back? Did I? Heck yes. For the minimal fee of $300.00 I went and picked her up and she was fine for the rest of her life.

                                I have nothing but good to say about how I was treated, how she was treated and a big thank you to Dr Claude Ragle and Dr Lisa Katz.
                                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                • #17
                                  At Mississippi State they have herd mares that they have been using to study pregnant mares and phytotoxin in fescue. They breed them and sell the foals and sometimes the broodmares as well during a "production" sale.
                                  "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                                  Thread killer Extraordinaire


                                  • #18
                                    I don't know really, but I would be surprized if universities took donated horses without explaining that they would NOT be used for agonizing vivisection procedures.
                                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by kmwines01 View Post
                                      At Colorado state we have a teaching herd of about 6 horses that are used for teaching physical exam, ultrasound, blood draw, etc on. We just recently used them as demo horses for an equine rehab rotation. Other horses could be used in studies but I don't know too much about that. For our non recovery type labs they have purchased the animals
                                      From what I understand, CSU is REQUIRED (or used to be) to sell horses they no longer had a use for and were not euthanised in studies at auction. So they went to Centennial, many purchased by the kill buyer and presumably sent off to slaughter in Mexico.

                                      I sincerely hope that policy has changed, but it is an excellent example of why anyone who is interested in donating a horse to a university needs to REALLY UNDERSTAND what is going to happen to that horse in whatever circumstances might occur.


                                      • #20
                                        As stated above, the horses could be used for anything and everything, from being used for breeding or blood donations, to being used to teach palpation techniques (and being palpated over and over and over) to having laminitis induced and then being euthanized.
                                        As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.