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he DuMonts view their support of equine research as a means of helping more performance horses in the future. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

DuMonts double equine research dollars

Scientists' exciting progress toward solving two common equine health issues has inspired Pat and Mark DuMont to contribute another $300,000 toward equine research at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) over the next three years.

Their passion for horses and an interest in equine orthopedic research compelled the DuMonts to make their initial donation of $300,000 in 2013. Now, having seen the work accomplished by the researchers with their funding, the couple decided to commit to a second round.

"The studies seemed to be going really, really well. It would have been a shame to stop them," says Pat, who lives with her husband on their farm in Langley, B.C.

Pat has been involved in the Equine Health Research Fund – now known as the Townsend Equine Health Research Fund (TEHRF) – since 1982. In addition to supporting the fund, she was a member of its advisory board for many years. In 2013, the DuMonts decided to create the Mark and Pat DuMont Equine Orthopedics Research Fund that focuses on musculoskeletal health — a key interest for the couple.

"I've always liked the orthopedic work — I think it's kind of cool how the surgeons use screws in legs [to help with recovery] and that sort of thing," says Pat. "Orthopedic research in horses is huge. There's just a million and one things they can work on."

Having owned performance horses for most of her life, Pat believes that more research should be done in orthopedics and other areas that specifically affect sport horses. She sees their support of equine research as a proactive way of helping more and more horses in the future.

Since the initial funding was donated in 2013, WCVM researchers have undertaken two large-scale research projects. One research team, led by Dr. Spencer Barber, aims to understand how stem cells can help with the healing of equine wounds. The second research group, whose principal investigator is Dr. Joe Bracamonte, is searching for a biomarker that will detect the bacteria found in septic joint arthritis — a common issue that can derail a performance horse's competitive career.

In October 2015, Pat and Mark visited the WCVM to meet the researchers and to view presentations on the projects that they had funded. Seeing the tangible signs of their donation was an important moment for both of them.

"It was quite a thrill to sit back and say, ‘You've been involved in this, you enabled this to happen.' There is a certain pride in that. It was amazing to see all of these people that were using [the funds]," says Pat. "They all seemed to be having a great time with it and doing wonderful things."

Pat feels a sense of connection with the WCVM because she often works with many of the college's graduates who now practise in B.C.

"The veterinarians I see out here are mostly from the WCVM — it is our local university here. If I'm going to support a research fund, it's the only logical choice," says Pat.

While the couple looks forward to seeing how the next $300,000 will benefit orthopedic research, they also hope their contribution will gain attention in the horse industry and inspire others to contribute to equine research.

"What I really hope is that it will get more interest from the general [horse owning] public," she says. "That the general public who has performance horses will see the value in research and be more involved in funding as well."
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