KER Research Horses: What Happens to the Oldest Ones?By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · January 5, 2015
Kentucky Equine Research (KER) uses Thoroughbred geldings for its studies on equine nutrition and exercise physiology. Most of these horses were purchased by the company when they were only a year or two old, as many of the studies focused on skeletal maturation.
As they grow, most of the geldings learn to run on the high-speed treadmill for exercise trials, and they are also used in research related to the way various nutrients and sources of energy are digested and used by horses.
KER has just celebrated its 25th year of operation, meaning that some of the research horses from the early years are classified as senior equines. Where are these horses now, and what are they doing?
Though some research horses have been given to staff members or other equine enthusiasts and trained for riding careers, retired members of the herd can still be found at the research farm in central Kentucky where they have spent most of their lives. One example is Fat Man, a 26-year-old dark bay Thoroughbred that recently was the subject of a hands-on demonstration by Bryan Waldridge, D.V.M., staff veterinarian for KER. Lecturing on nutritional management of special-needs horses at the company’s Team Member conference, Waldridge spoke to a group of attendees who gathered in the barn where Fat Man was being held in the aisle.
Fat Man, one of KER’s first research horses, is actually just all-over big rather than fat, and is considered to be in optimal body condition. He was born in 1988 and came to KER in 1995. Fat Man retired from research work only two years ago and is now turned out barefoot with his buddies in a rolling bluegrass pasture. A veteran of treadmill studies, his only official work these days is being used as a blood donor for drug trials where his blood is considered to be a known negative (normal and guaranteed to contain no drugs). Like the other equine retirees at KER, Fat Man gets regular deworming, vaccinations, farrier visits, and dental care. Life is good for this retired, but still healthy, senior horse!