Equine Science: Weekly News and Trivia Question - December 18, 2009

Seasons Greetings Barnmice readers – I hope you’re all enjoying the Christmas period. This week I’ll be talking about genetics, human health and finally how science could provide you with a novel Xmas present this year.

First, new research has found that humans could be genetically closer to horses than our canine friends.

Scientists from over 30 research groups combined their work in producing the equine gene sequence (as previously discussed in this blog) and found that horses often share the same diseases as humans, including infertility, inflammatory diseases and muscle disorders. Understanding equine genetics better could thus prove useful for understanding human diseases.

According to a blog post on Vetpulse.tv the project also revealed that 53% of equine chromosomes were found in the same place on human chromosomes (the technical term is conserved ‘synteny’). Whereas research in 2005, found that only “29% of dog chromosomes are composed of material from human chromosomes.” This suggests that dogs are genetically further away from humans than horses.

Sticking with humans now, I’m going to discuss some scientific research about human health with an equine twist. An Australian researcher has found that children are more likely to suffer head injuries as a result of a sporting accident, including equestrianism, than in a traffic accident.

According to Horsetalk.co.nz, the study looked at over 400 children between the ages of 6-16 years old who were admitted to the ER department of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Australia over 12months.

32% of head injuries were as a result of a sports accident (compared to 20% due to traffic accidents) with riding the third most likely sport to cause a head injury – only Australian Rules football and cricket caused more injuries.

Scarily, over half of the children admitted with head injuries from a riding accident were not wearing head protection.

One of the scientists involved in the study told Horsetalk.co.nz how dangerous head injuries can be – they are a “major cause of death and disability in children” and even minor injuries can cause long term problems with behaviour or learning ability. Thankfully most of the time the injuries were mild, eg. a brief loss of consciousness, but 10% of the sport accidents were more serious: “involving skull fractures and bruising of the brain”. Rather scarily, the findings of this study are thought to under-represent the number of riding related injuries, with many children not being seen by any doctor. So next time you ride your horse, make sure you wear a helmet – after all you wouldn’t drive a car without a seatbelt would you?

And finally, are you still trying to finish your Xmas shopping and struggling what to get your horsie friends? Well, in the UK one of the hottest equestrian trends seems to be buying people thermal images of their horses.

Equitherm Diagnostics
, a company in the UK, were used to photographing horses using special infrared cameras to help vets – a process known as equine thermography. By study irregular heat patterns, unusual hot or cold spots could help the vets detect early signs of an injury or ailment.

However, now it seems owners are so impressed with the fascinating colours and patterns, that they are wanting to get their hands on their very own thermal images. People are desperate for thermal images of their horses that the company are now providing a service where owners can get their own thermal images made. A great novel gift for the equestrienne that has everything.

Right, that’s it now for this week but before I go I’m afraid I have some sad news. In a few days time I’m going to be moving house which means that I’m going to be without Internet until sometime in mid-end of January! As a result, this is going to be the last Equine Science News post of this decade and the blog will fall quiet for several weeks. But once I have Internet access up and running I promise it will return with a special bumper edition looking at everything that’s been happening.

In the meantime, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that 2010 brings you much equine success and happiness.

All that’s left now is for the last trivia question of 2009:

Q. A genetics question for you. 90% of all thoroughbreds in the world trace their male lineage back to one of how many stallions?
1. One
2. Two
3. Three
4. Four

Visit my profile page to find out the answer.

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