Center shares studies on equine science, safe riding
Event attracts 100 people interested in state’s $1 billion horse industry
From helmet safety findings to the use of horse waste as a potential energy source, horse enthusiasts learned yesterday about the University’s Equine Science Center’s latest research.
Karyn Malinowski, ESC director, said the center continues to focus on horse health and well-being, a mission its members have strived for since it began in 2001 on Cook campus.
The center consists of four or five core faculty members as well as about 40 affiliated professors, she said.
“Everyone of us here at the center love, uses and participates in equestrian activities,” Malinowski told a crowd of 100 people at the Equine Science Update in the Cook Campus Center. “Not only are we doing the science, we are living and practicing that science.”
The center received $170,000 in grants and contracts as well as $276,627 in donations, gifts and sponsorships, Malinowski said. Fundraising aspects have become an important factor after the center’s state funding was taken away three years ago, she said.
“We spent a lot of time this year meeting with legislators to try and get some of that state funding back for the center,” she said.
Part of the money will go toward two equine health projects the center plans to fund in the next year, she said.
The center honored harness racer Linda Toscano with the 2013 “Spirit of the Horse” award, which Malinowski said was created to recognize those who have both been impacted by horses and have given back to the industry.
Toscano, a New York native, won the Hambletonian, a major U.S. harness race, on Aug. 4, becoming the first female trainer to win the event since it began in 1926.
“It means a lot to me particularly because this isn’t necessarily about my achievements but it’s about the horse, and the horse is really what it’s all about,” Toscano said.
With about 7 million people in the United States who ride horses, the event provided an opportunity to educate others on important equine-related issues such as helmet safety, said Katie Washart, a member of the 4-H equine project in Cape May County.
About one in five riders will acquire a serious injury at some point in their careers and novices are three to eight times more likely to get these injuries, Washart said.
“Statistics show that horse riding is more dangerous than motorcycle riding,” she said.
New Jersey is one of many states with laws concerning the usage of helmets for horse riders, she said.
About 78,000 people went to the hospital for equine-related injuries in 2007, with head injuries comprising about 15 percent of the cases, she said.
Washart said her studies led her to evaluate the helmets used within the different Equestrian disciplines, such as those used by Western riders and English riders.
The two kinds of riders have had their share of fatalities, Washart said, with about 100 equestrian-related deaths reported each year.
“Each discipline presents its own unique risks,” she said.
While professional riders have adopted the use of air bags that inflate to protect vital organs if the rider gets dismounted from the horse, Washart said helmets remain the most practical form of safety for amateur participants.
The center has also produced studies on the effectiveness of converting horse waste into a biomass energy source, said Donna Fennel, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science.
Fennel said the possibility of converting manure into energy is especially attractive in New Jersey, where 42,500 horses make up a $1 billion industry.
“The horse industry is a huge asset to the state of New Jersey,” she said.
Horses produce 37 pounds of feces a day, and Fennel said the manure could potentially act as an important tool in the mix of alternative energy needed to enhance energy sustainability. But more studies need to be done to understand the process, she said.
The center aims to improve education programs aimed at children, said Tiffany Cody, public relations specialist at the ESC.
As a part of a new overhaul of the website for “Equine Science 4 Kids,” children are now able to explore a variety of online games aimed at teaching them about the ESC’s mission and science, Cody said.
“One of the important objectives at the ESC is educating youth. It’s good to have a little bit of fun while you are learning equine science,” she said.
The website is still being developed and will launch next year, she said.