Kentucky Equine Industry Spurs Life Sciences Innovation
The Gluck Equine Research Center in Louisville, KY
Researchers Lauren Keith and Sydney Hughes examine cells at the Gluck Equine Research Center.
It’s with good reason that Kentucky is known as the Horse Capital of the World.
The Bluegrass State's $4 billion equine industry supports 80,000 to 100,000 jobs. Beyond its core strengths in breeding and racing, the industry is spurring major advancements in areas such as equine business development, drug surveillance and scientific research that has implications beyond horses.
Kentucky Businesses Focus on Equine Drug Research
The U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Equine Drug Testing and Research Lab relocated to Lexington from Ithaca, N.Y., in fall 2010. The lab, which located in 7,500 square feet in at the University of Kentucky's Coldstream Research Campus, tests more than 15,000 samples each year for USEF-licensed events as well as samples for the American Quarterhorse Association. The USEF invested $1.5 million in the lab, which joins the federations other operations and headquarters in Lexington.
Beyond its leading-edge testing programs, the USEF is taking the reins on a number of other research partnerships. One example is its work with the U.S. Eventing Association and University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering in efforts to develop new designs and materials for cross-country jumps that will greatly decrease the chance of severe injuries to rider and horse.
HFL Sports Science Moves to Lexington
In late 2010, HFL Sports Science opened a testing laboratory in Lexington, bringing with it more than 40 years experience in the science of sports drug testing. The state-of-the-art laboratory created 48 jobs providing drug surveillance, doping control and research to equine and other sports industries nationwide. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission selected HFL to provide drug testing for Kentucky race tracks beginning in 2011.
The lab project represented an investment of $4 million and was aided by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) which approved a forgivable loan of up to $425,000 to help HFL purchase lab equipment for the Lexington facility. KEDFA also gave approved a tax incentive plan that provides HFL up to $800,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investments over a 10-year period through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
More than two dozen of the jobs created by the lab are high-tech positions that carry an average annual salary of $47,000 exclusive of benefits. HFL also is collaborating with the University of Kentucky on research to improve basic understanding of issues related to doping control in equine, canine and human sports.
The University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center is known around the world for its pioneering work in areas such as immunology, infectious diseases, pharmacology, muscoskeletal physiology and genomics. In 2005, for example, Gluck researcher and veterinary science professor Ernie Bailey was the author of a white paper proposal that lead to full genome sequencing of the horse by the National Human Genome Research Institute, enabling not only a direct comparison of the horse and human genomes, but providing equine researchers access to critical new information and genetic tools.
Deepening the knowledge of equine nutrition and exercise physiology is Kentucky Equine Research, which is based at a 144-acre facility in Versailles, near Lexington. KER's research team includes nutritionists holding doctorate degrees in equine nutrition, board-certified veterinary specialists, students studying equine nutrition and experienced horse owners. The company, the official nutritionist to the USEF, works with feed manufacturers on six continents to formulate feeds that mesh with the local forage.
Lexington is not the only center of equine-related commerce in the state. A subsidiary of Louisville-based CreoSalus is making great strides in the equine drug industry. The Food and Drug Administration gave approval to CreoSalus' Thorn BioScience subsidiary to market its new drug, SucroMate Equine, to the horse industry. SucroMate Equine increases the likelihood of conception in mares during natural breeding and artificial insemination.
University of Louisville College of Business Equine Center Wing
While much of the recent developments surrounding Kentucky's equine industry revolve around heavy scientific research and drug testing, the University of Louisville has positioned itself as a major resource for equine business. The university's College of Business is expanding its equine industry program in 2011 to include a state-of-the-art educational wing. Faculty at University of Louisville aim to increase the opportunities for business management research.
“Our program is the only accredited business degree with an equine business major in the world,” says Richard Wilke, director of the Equine Program at the university.
The program aims to deliver research that will help solve management issues and other challenges often faced by those in the equine industry and make that applied research widely available.
“Over the past 25 years, our research has been esoteric – it has been made for scientific journals, not for business people," Wilke says. "Our new center will emphasize applied research that brings relevant value to the people who own and manage enterprises in the equine industry.”
Impact of the equine industry on Kentucky:
- Estimated economic impact: $4 billion
- 80,000 to 100,000 direct and indirect jobs are generated by the state's horse industry
- Horse industry is Kentucky's top agricultural cash crop (30 percent of the state's economic activity is agriculture-related)
- The horse industry is a signature component of the state's tourism industry, which has an economic impact of $8.8 billion
- 14,600 tourism-related jobs are attributed to the equine industry
- Estimated attendance at Kentucky thoroughbred and standardbred racetracks totals about 2.3 million
- There are 320,000 horses in Kentucky
- The economic impact of the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is estimated at $240 million and the economic impact of the Kentucky Derby is estimated at $217 million
- Kentucky horse industry exports earn an estimated $127 million