Protecting horse health, welfare a common bond

AAEP breaks convention attendance record
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The AAEP Executive Committee

A record-breaking 6,842 veterinary professionals, guests, and exhibitors traveled to San Antonio for the American Association of Equine Practitioners' 52nd Annual Convention in December. The previous attendance record of 6,284 was set at the 2004 annual convention in Denver.

The high attendance serves as a reflection of the increasing number of AAEP members. In 2006, the association recruited 1,345 new members, 339 more than in 2005.

As of December, more than 9,500 members from 57 countries belonged to the AAEP. The association is dedicated to protecting the health and welfare of horses.

Practical CE

The AAEP chose "practical" as its educational theme for the 2006 convention.

"Time after time, the AAEP membership has told (the Educational Programs Committee) how important it is that the convention offer practical information that can be taken home and immediately applied to the daily care of the horse," said 2006 Program Chair Dr. Douglas G. Corey. Dr. Corey was named the 2007 AAEP president during the convention; see his profile on page 478.

The practical theme was used through the convention's four how-to sessions, four full afternoons of Table Topics, and interactive Case-Based Dry Labs with Experts.

Attendees also received practical information during the annual Kester News Hour, which is sponsored by a grant from the estate of the late AAEP past president Dr. Wayne O. Kester.

The 2006 convention marked the last time Dr. John Madigan, from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Larry Bramlage, past AAEP president and spokesperson for the AAEP On Call program, would present the news hour. They were the first two presenters since the beginning of the series 10 years ago. The AAEP has not announced who will fill their roles.

During the news hour, Drs. Madigan and Bramlage covered a number of topics ranging from the legalities surrounding drug compounding to the positive effect Barbaro's recovery had on the veterinary profession to the number of infectious disease outbreaks in 2006. In relation to the outbreaks, Dr. Madigan gave attendees a lesson on polymerase chain reaction. In the past year, tests using PCR have identified equine herpesvirus in horses, he said, leading to the temporary closing of racetracks and teaching hospitals.

Disaster response, preparedness

Infectious disease outbreaks were the focus of one how-to session. Presenter Dr. Mary C. Scollay chairs the Infectious Disease Task Force of the AAEP, which recently developed guidelines for use by veterinarians who encounter infectious diseases in horses.

"Effective outbreak management is implemented before the first horse gets sick," Dr. Scollay said. "Develop and commit to a plan before you need one."

Helping horses more effectively in an emergency was the take-home message of a new AAEP program called State Equine Emergency Network. A nationwide communication network, SEEN will provide support for AAEP members who've been impacted by a disaster.

The AAEP Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee, which developed the program, is recruiting AAEP members in every state to serve as liaisons in gathering vital information about the impact of a disaster on other members or horse owners to effectively assist them in getting back to work.

"With this network and its information-gathering ability in place, the AAEP can become a national resource for equine-related data in a postdisaster period," said David L. Foley, executive director of the AAEP.

Value of cloning

Dr. Katrin Hinrichs reviewed cloning in horses as part of a panel on reproduction. She is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science.

In 2005, Dr. Hinrichs was head of a team of researchers responsible for producing the first successfully cloned horse in North America. In 2006, Dr. Hinrichs' TAMU laboratory produced nine live foals, of which seven survived.

One way Dr. Hinrichs sees horse cloning being used in the industry is to conserve genetics. But she notes the cost might limit how obtainable the procedure is for some owners. An Austin, Texas-based commercial cloning company called ViaGen has advertised horse cloning for a fee of $150,000.

Dr. Hinrichs said prices will likely decrease over time as efficiency increases. In the work done on equine cloning in her laboratory, about 30 percent of embryos transferred resulted in live foals.

One way horse cloning may not be useful, Dr. Hinrichs said, would be for owners looking to replicate a winning horse.

"It's unlikely to be an exact copy of the original," she said. Aside from genetics, she added, there are a number of factors that figure into a horse winning a race, such as health at birth, training opportunities, even weather conditions. However, even if the clone has some differences from the donor horse, its foals should be the same as those the donor horse would have produced.

"The bottom line is that cloning is possible," Dr. Hinrichs said. For equine practitioners, she said, cloning provides a procedure that may be offered to clients to preserve valuable genetics in the face of reproductive problems that, in the past, were insurmountable.

Other convention highlights

Thoroughbred trainer D. Wayne Lukas was the keynote speaker. His 40-year career includes Eclipse Awards as the Trainer of the Year, Breeders' Cup wins, and numerous classic victories.

"Just keep it simple," he said. "In training horses, in winning races ... if you will do the common things uncommonly well, you will be successful."

Dr. Nathaniel A. White gave the Frank J. Milne State-of-the-Art Lecture on equine colic, which is responsible for more deaths in horses than any other disease. Dr. White serves as director of the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. Dr. White discussed the cause of colic, its prevention, and new treatments for specific diseases.

Coming in 2007

The AAEP was actively involved in a number of public policy issues affecting horses and veterinary medicine in 2006. During the general membership meeting at convention, Foley said increasing the association's advocacy will remain a goal into the new year.

Unwanted horses serve as one issue the AAEP will continue to address. The Senate didn't act on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (H.R. 503) before the 109th congressional session expired. But when the 110th Congress recently convened, a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and Senate introduced similar bills.

"We will oppose the legislation once again and will go about the business of trying to educate a new Congress on the issue," Foley said. "But what it really indicates is the need for a long-term solution to the unwanted horse issue."

Also in 2007, members will benefit from an extensively upgraded AAEP Web site at Scheduled to launch in the first quarter, the new Web site will integrate, a Web site for horse owners, and offer more interactive educational features such as member forums, and virtual AAEP office functions.

Beginning in February, the journal Equine Veterinary Education will be published monthly instead of bimonthly. Information previously found in the AAEP Guardian newsletter will be included inside the pages of the journal.

The AAEP 53rd Annual Convention will be held in Orlando, Dec. 1-5, 2007. Members and other individuals are invited to submit scientific papers, how-to papers, and review papers to be considered for presentation during the event. All papers must be submitted online by March 15 through the AAEP Web site.

Officials announced

The 2007 Executive Committee and new members of the board of directors took office Dec. 5. The members of the Executive Committee are Drs. Douglas G. Corey, Adams, Ore., president; Eleanor M. Green, Gainesville, Fla., president-elect; Harry W. Werner, North Granby, Conn., vice president; Thomas D. Brokken, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., immediate past president; and R. Reynolds Cowles Jr., Free Union, Va., treasurer. New members of the board of directors are Drs. Jim Morehead, representing District IV; Dan Wilson, District V; Julie Wilson, District VI; Rustin Moore, director-at-large; and David Whitaker, PhD, equine industry board member.