Equine Research Unit Thrives With Addition of Two New Foals

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

July 25, 2014

The Equine Research Unit in Clarksville Maryland just welcomed the addition of two new residents. Foals Pax and Forest were born on campus over the winter and have moved into their new homes at Equine Research Unit (ERU). Dr. Amy Burk, director of the unit, is ecstatic to have them.

The ERU is part of University of Maryland’s Clarksville Research Facilities that includes a dairy farm and totals 900 acres. With 16 stalls, a rotational grazing site, and a grid of pastures for the horses to graze on, the unit is well equipped for the raising of horses and the educations of students. “I created this site specifically for the purpose of on-site teaching,” said Dr. Burk. At the ERU, students can learn about raising and caring for horses as well as the specific medical needs of horses in all stages of life.

The two horses are both born from racing sires and Dr. Burk expects them to be racehorses themselves someday. Pax, a bay colt, born on February 12, by Rock Slide out of The Best Sister, will be racing under the name Maryland's Best. Forest, the chestnut colt, born on March 29, by Friesan Fire out of Daylight Lassie, will be racing under the name Fear the Fire. Both of their sires were successful racehorses with Friesan Fires Racing in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Currently, the foals are nursing with their dams but will soon be old enough to be on their own. Their hardworking mothers on the other hand are both pregnant again and the campus will once againwelcome another two foals in the spring.

Dr. Burk, who founded the ERU, earned her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech after studying equine nutrition of throughbred mares and foals at the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center, commonly known as the Mare Center. “I like to think of this place as my own mini-Mare Center. I want it to have the same inspirational effect."

The unit is fairly small and doesn’t always have a full stable of horses, leaving Dr. Burk with just enough time to handle the hardest part of the job: staying funded. “A big part of my job is writing grant proposals. Even when one is finished, it’s not long before you have to write another. I’m always looking ahead,” she said.

“It’s a balancing act. We’ve got horses to take care of, funds to secure, but above all our most important goal is inspiring a new generation of animal scientists who are passionate about their work,” said an impassioned Dr. Burk. “That’s always been our goal.”

Just as Dr. Burk sees her Clarksville Research Center as a new Middleburg, she hopes that the students who study with her will one day go off and create their own new Clarksvilles and foster another generation of animal scientists.