April 24, 2009 (SASKATOON, SASK.) -- A $10,000 gift from the Equine Foundation of Canada to support vital horse health research at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine will double in value and impact through a unique matching gift program at the veterinary college.

“We’re extremely grateful to the hundreds of horse owners and enthusiasts across Canada who worked together through the Equine Foundation of Canada and raised this significant donation for the College’s horse health research program,” says WCVM Dean Dr. Charles Rhodes. “The EFC’s long-standing commitment to enhancing the health and welfare of all horses is an impressive example for the country’s entire horse industry.” 

The $10,000 gift is the largest that the EFC has ever presented to the WCVM since the national charity was created in 1983. The donation meets the requirements for the college’s matching gift program that was developed by the Heather Ryan and L. David Dubé Foundation. The Saskatoon foundation has pledged to match any new or increased donations to the WCVM’s equine research programs between 2006 and 2011. In its first two years, the program helped to raise more than $300,000 in increased funding for the WCVM’s horse health activities.

“We think the matching gift program is just wonderful news, and we’re very pleased that our donation will bring additional money to the WCVM’s horse health research projects. It makes all of the hard work of organizing our fundraisers throughout the year even more worthwhile for our supporters,” says EFC president Eldon Bienert of Leduc, Alta.

Several fundraising trail rides in Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with a generous gift from the Alberta Trail Riding Association, were the sources for this year’s EFC contribution to the WCVM. The new funding will support the WCVM’s ongoing research investigations of equine sarcoids — the most commonly diagnosed skin tumours in horses around the world. Depending on their location, equine sarcoids can seriously impair a horse’s comfort and performance.

A multi-disciplinary team of WCVM scientists, led by veterinary pathologist Dr. Andrew Allen of the WCVM, will use molecular techniques to further explore the role of a common cattle virus called bovine papillomavirus in the growth of equine sarcoids. Based on their findings, the team hopes to develop more effective methods of diagnosing the skin tumours and to eventually find better strategies for treating the disease.

“We believe our donation and the matching money will be well spent in supporting this valuable research project whose goal is to develop better diagnostic techniques and treatments for a problem that affects horses of all breeds throughout the world,” says Bienert.

Supporters of the EFC include members of all types of equine breed organizations and sport groups across Canada. Dedicated to improving the health and welfare of horses, the organization has raised $190,000 in support for scholarships, research grants and the purchase of medical equipment over the past 25 years.

To ensure that its efforts enhance health care for horses across Canada, the foundation rotates its annual donation among the country’s regional veterinary colleges. Altogether, the EFC has contributed nearly $42,000 to the WCVM for equipment purchases and research grants, plus it has provided $20,000 worth of veterinary student scholarships. 

The WCVM is a Canadian centre for veterinary education, expertise and research that’s located on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, Sask. More than 400 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled at the college that annually attracts more than $10 million in research funding from public and private sources.

Equine health care has been a priority at the WCVM for more than 30 years. With the support of Western Canada’s horse industry, the veterinary college’s Equine Health Research Fund annually invests nearly $200,000 in equine health research grants, equine fellowships and a summer research program for undergraduate veterinary students at the WCVM.

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