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The Effect of Size and Growth on Incidence of DOD and Subsequent Sales and Racing Performance in the Thoroughbred

Using the world’s largest set of growth records for young thoroughbreds, Kentucky Equine Research (KER) has carried out a worldwide investigation into how the size and growth rates of foals are related to sales and racing performance.

Saracen Horse Feeds, Kentucky Equine Research and Hallway Feeds all worked together in partnership on this project by collecting data from participating farms and their veterinary practitioners to provide the required information (full growth records and radiographic surveys and associated findings). We investigated sales and racing performance as part of the research alongside the growth and radiographic data, identified maiden mares vs. multiparous mares and gathered additional details to give us more relevant background knowledge.

"Our latest findings indicate that foal size and month of birth are important factors related to soundness and future racing performance" - Dr. Joe D. Pagan

Skeletal soundness is vital for racehorses; breeders pay particular attention to radiographic abnormalities that may affect a yearling’s sale price or racing career. Data collected by KER's partners in the US, Europe and Australia have been analysed to assess whether size is significantly associated with radiographic findings, and how these measurements are related to sales and racing performance.

Dr. Pagan has been studying equine growth for over 30 years, and has carried out a large variety of different studies in the build up to this international effort. He wanted to compare radiographic findings with growth, management and nutritional information plus regional and environmental effects to determine what factors are most important in the aetiology of development disorders.

Be conscious of how much grass you have on your farm in any season, and feed accordingly. Weigh them, measure their height and monitor the growth rates of your young horses regularly. Taking mare weights during lactation will give a good indication of what is happening with her bodyweight and body condition and how that is related to her foal's own average daily weight gain. - Dr Joe D. Pagan

If you have any further questions, or if you have been measuring and weighing your foals and would like the opportunity to share your data confidentially and participate in this ongoing study, please contact Polly Bonnor on 07973 802210 anytime or email

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Joe Pagan Newmarket

Joe D. Pagan, Ph.D.

President/Founder of Kentucky Equine Research

Dr. Pagan received his B.S.A. degree from the University of Arkansas in animal nutrition and received his M.S. and Ph.D degrees from Cornell University in equine nutrition and exercise physiology.

He formed Kentucky Equine Research in 1988 to be an international research, consulting and product development firm dealing in the areas of equine nutrition and sports medicine. Kentucky Equine Research served as equine nutrition consultants for the last six Olympic Games. Dr. Pagan received the 2005 American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) Award in Equine Nutrition Research. This award recognizes excellence in equine nutrition research and the contributions of an individual to equine feeding management practices and the equine feed industry.

“Kentucky Equine Research works with dozens of feed manufacturers worldwide to ensure that the latest findings in equine nutrition science are utilised in real-world feeding programmes. We have worked with Saracen Horse Feeds in the U.K. for over 20 years. Saracen is an excellent example of our partnership programme at its best – we collaborate on studies, bring expertise in formulation, and provide custom software and technical service for their excellent team of nutrition advisors. We are excited to showcase the science behind this programme through this series of thoroughbred growth forums.”
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