KER studies generally include digestion, exercise, and palatability.
In digestion trials, the horses’ precise intake and excretion are measured to see how the horses utilize their feed and water. To aid in the collection of urine and feces, the horses wear specially designed harnesses called nappies, which are emptied several times a day, and allow the horses the freedom to roam around their stall and take part in daily exercise. If they are wearing nappies, they are hand-walked or stretch their legs in the farm’s six-horse free exerciser. Because researchers need to measure the horses’ exact rations, muzzles that allow them to drink freely, but not graze are employed to allow horses without nappies to enjoy daily turnout without introducing the variability of pasture intake.
Horses participating in exercise studies run on KER’s high-speed treadmill. Horses are carefully trained at low speeds before they are asked to gallop. Before an exercise study begins, the horses are conditioned to reach a baseline level of fitness. Horses on an exercise trial will be asked to walk, trot, canter, or gallop on the treadmill at varying speeds depending on the needs of the study. Sometimes the duration of exercise is determined by how long it takes the horse to reach or maintain a certain heart rate. These studies may require drawing blood at intervals during exercise, which is done via a catheter placed in advance by our on-site veterinarian.
We also do palatability studies, measuring feed intake to see which flavors horses prefer. (The horses really love these studies, of course!) We also perform routine in vivo quality control studies to ensure that KER-affiliated feeds, ingredients, and supplements are free from prohibited substances.
Every horse on the farm is a valued individual. KER does not perform terminal studies.