Photo by Wenbo Fan and courtesy of Amy Biddle

Amy Biddle, left, works in the lab with student researchers Hailey Seigel (center) and Barbara Hahn.

By American Farriers Journal Staff

University of Delaware researchers have established a crowdfunding website in hopes financing a study of the role that bacteria play in equine digestion as it pertains to health and disease, including laminitis.

The Equine Microbiome Project, which is composed of six undergraduate students and a volunteer, is sending out kits to horse owners who wish to contribute to the study. The student project hopes to raise $9,000 to collect and analyze 100 samples. As of Oct. 26, they have raised $4,600, which will enable them to gather and analyze information from 46 kits.

“Horse’s digestive systems are very sensitive to changes, stress or diet,” Amy Biddle, assistant professor of animal and food sciences at the University of Delaware, told the University of Delaware Daily student newspaper. “And, as we’re learning in the human microbiome, there is a constant conversation between the gut microbes and the host, but there hasn’t been a large scale effort to understand those conversations and those relationships in horses.

“There have been several smaller studies, but in terms of a large scale effort, there really isn’t any large study. What we’re hoping to do is to get as many samples as possible, from all over the country. So far people have been very generous.”

The study aims to establish the “normal” gut microbiome for a healthy horse, as well as determine whether there are differences between the gut bacteria of breeds that are prone to laminitis.