The TBA has announced that it is to fund a veterinary postgraduate student to undertake research, leading to a doctorate degree (PhD), into early pregnancy failure in thoroughbred mares.

Dr Amanda de Mestre of the Royal Veterinary College has been awarded the scholarship and will be supervising the research. She will work in collaboration with James Crowhurst of Newmarket Equine Hospital, Andrew McGladdery of Rossdales and James Crabtree of Equine Reproductive Services in Malton.

Richard Lancaster: ‘research a benefit to TBA members’

Response from members has supported the TBA Veterinary Committee’s wish that early pregnancy failure should be seen as a priority for research, which will hopefully lead to a better understanding, particularly of non-infectious causes and risk factors, ultimately contributing to their prevention.

The TBA approached the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) to assist it with attracting top-class applications. The HBLB’s Veterinary Advisory Committee applied a rigorous evaluation process to determine the scientific merit of the proposals and worked closely with the TBA’s veterinary advisors to identify projects that complemented the TBA’s research interests.

TBA Chairman Richard Lancaster said: “The TBA is pleased to support this research project and wishes all involved every success in their endeavours. It is anticipated that the eventual results of this research will be of real benefit to the TBA’s members. Supporting veterinary research towards achieving advances in equine reproduction and stud medicine is one of the TBA’s key responsibilities and I am delighted that through funding this work we are able to demonstrate to our members that we are listening to their concerns.”

Dr De Mestre added: “Advances over the last 20 years have led to a significant rise in conception rate per cycle in mares. In contrast, pregnancy losses, particularly in early gestation and in older mares, remain high and in most cases the cause of the loss is not known. Early pregnancy loss (EPL) occurs in 7-10% of all thoroughbred mare pregnancies making it one of the most significant contributors to reproductive wastage in the thorougbred.

“This reproductive wastage represents considerable financial losses to the thoroughbred industry due to lost time to rebreed and increased management and veterinary costs. The aims of this project are to determine the factors that place a pregnancy at a higher risk of failing during early gestation and to develop a method to isolate and study placental material from pregnancies that have failed.

“This is essential if we are to identify novel causes of EPL such as chromosomal defects. Understanding the cause or causes of EPL is essential to reduce the incidence and subsequently the economic and management impact of this important condition.”