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Horse Industry survives Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome of 2001

In 2001, more than a thousand foals were lost because mares ate caterpillars infected with arsenic from cherry trees.

Mare reproductive loss syndrome sent shock waves through the horse racing industry. But panic was replaced by planning.

Officials figured out how to better protect the horses--- and the industry. Government loans were set up not only for breeders who lost foals, but for all horsemen suffering from a number of disasters.

Dr. Bob Lawrence, U of L Equine Industry Program

"We now have legislation for all horses, all breeds in every part of the country for disaster relief, which means low cost, guaranteed loans." Bob Lawrence of the Equine Industry Program at the University of Louisville also says breeders will be better prepared if and when the caterpillars return.

Lawrence continues

"Next time we're in a high cycle for caterpillars you can bet all horsemen will be very conscious of that. They developed a management policy based on these caterpillars."

The short term effect of MRLS hasn't stopped owners and trainers from shelling out big bucks at the yearling sales.

Lawrence adds

"The sales were successful and remain successful in part because they bid up on the good horses because there were fewer there."

Lawrence says the horse industry is in the tail end of the disaster from 2001. He also says research is still being done to determine what caused the mare's reaction to the caterpillars.

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