KER Research Horses: Where are the Oldest Ones?By Kentucky Equine Research Staff · April 16, 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 the way the equine skeleton matures.
As they grew, most of the geldings learned to run on the high-speed treadmill for exercise trials, and they were also used in research related to the way various nutrients and sources of energy are digested and used by horses.
KER was founded more than 25 years ago, so some of the research horses from the early years are now classified as seniors. 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 ridden careers, many retired members of the herd can still be found at the research farm in central Kentucky. One example is Fat Man, a 27-year-old dark bay Thoroughbred.
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 a few years ago and is now turned out barefoot with his buddies in a rolling bluegrass pasture.
A veteran of treadmill studies, Fat Man’s 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!