Home News flash Calling all breeders: Umbilical cord study

Calling all breeders: Umbilical cord study

Umbilical cord diagram

Dr. Madison Ricard, a research veterinarian and long-time member of the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association is conducting an equine umbilical cord study at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, SK, Canada, and needs your help.

Normally, equine umbilical cords measure 50 to 60 centimetres (20 to 24 inches) long and have four or five twists along its length. But excessively long or twisted cords can restrict blood supply to the fetus and cause significant health issues — often leading to death.

Human medical researchers have also found that too much twisting or excessively long umbilical cords can affect babies’ Apgar scores — the scoring system used to assess newborns’ well-being. Scientists have found links between these abnormal umbilical cords and issues such as still births, pulmonary hypertension and neurologic function deficits in babies.

According to Dr. Madison Ricard, “Although it’s human medicine, it suggests that there’s the potential for something to be there when it comes to umbilical cord morphology (form and structure) in these foals."

With the foaling data, Ricard hopes to identify common patterns in the cords’ traits. For each submission, she will also calculate an “umbilical cord index” — the number of twists in the cord divided by the cord’s length. Ricard will then compare those index numbers to established reference values. “Once it’s done, we’re going to take all of the information that we’ve gathered about umbilical cords and see if we can find any connections between the umbilical cord data and the foals’ health data,” she said.

Interested breeders will be able to participate remotely over the next two years by opening an online account using the link below. Please don't hesitate to sign up to this important study – the results may save a foal's life.