Walton Family Gives $2.5 M to Colorado State Equine Programs

A $2.5 million gift from the Walton Family Foundation Inc. to Colorado State University will build two new facilities for the university in support of equine reproduction and orthopedic research and fund several special research positions during the duration of the five-year grant.

One million dollars of the gift will build a teaching facility at the university Equine Reproductive Center as well as new laboratories in existing buildings. In addition, the new building will include overnight amenities so that students and caretakers can provide round-the-clock care to mares as they foal and provide security to valuable horses housed at the laboratory. The Equine Reproductive Research program has made great strides in improving equine pregnancy rates and fertility of stallions by pioneering fertility techniques.

"This generous gift allows us to augment the care we currently give horses in the reproductive program while providing better facilities for our students to study equine reproduction," said Dr. Ed Squires, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and equine reproduction expert.

Half a million dollars will be used to construct a MRI space for the Colorado State Equine Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, establishing the first equine MRI center in the world. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is the gold standard for producing images of human joints and is the best technique for non-invasively assessing a joint.

"This gift not only establishes the first equine MRI center in the world, it will further our abilities in musculoskeletal research that will forever improve the lives of horses and humans," said Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, professor and director of the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, a renowned program focused on improving and saving the lives of horses with orthopaedic disease and injuries. "A human patient rarely has joint surgery without an MRI scan because these scans allow clinicians to see soft tissues and cartilage in the joints so they can better plan surgery. This technology will now allow Colorado State veterinarians to better investigate joint diseases and injuries in horses." The MRI itself was previously purchased with a gift from Kenneth and Virginia Atkinson.

The remainder of the gift has been allotted to fund several positions that will support key faculty in each program.

Since its start in 1967, the Equine Reproduction Research program at Colorado State has obtained national and international recognition. Research at the university has resulted in development of a large number of technical procedures and management schemes, such as semen freezing, embryo transfer, egg transfer and frozen embryos that currently are used in the equine industry.

Over the past 17 years, research done by the orthopaedic research team at Colorado State University has not only benefited horses but also has advanced human orthopaedic treatments. The Orthopaedic Research Center is dedicated to conducting research into the treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal problems occurring in equines and humans. Current projects include using gene therapy to treat arthritis, defining fluid markers that predict orthopaedic disease and the use of computer joint modeling to research fractures and methods of preventing them.

Colorado State is the only land-grant university that offers a four-year degree program in equine sciences.

The mission of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is to educate veterinary and biomedical professionals, sustain excellence in research, provide total animal health care and protect public health.