What is the Icelandic Horse Standard Blood Profile Project?

For many years the USIHC has received questions both from horse owners and from veterinarians caring for Icelandic horses wondering if some of the odd values they were seeing in blood tests results were due to illness, or were simply breed specific anomalies. Unfortunately, we've never had any good answers to give them as no standard blood profile for the Icelandic breed exists. But based on the number of inquires over the years, plus experiences with our own horses, we speculated that there were indeed some breed specific differences in normal blood values which should not be interpreted as anomalies – but without a study we couldn't be certain.

Several times in the past the idea came up to try to get a standard blood profile for the breed to deal with this problem. Unfortunately, cost and logistics always made the project impossible to complete.

However, USIHC Board Member Andrea Barber thought Dr. Bettina Wagner of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine (and USIHC member) might be able to help. Dr. Wagner's primary research interest is equine immunology and she is currently studying summer eczema in Icelandic horses through her Wagner Laboratory at Cornell. The lab is home to a large herd of registered Icelandic horses owned by Cornell University that participate in the study. The USIHC was thrilled to learn that Dr. Wagner was willing to assist, and so began the journey to finally make a standard blood profile for Icelandic horses a reality.

Although the USIHC is committed to completing this daunting project, we could use additional support. Please see below to find out how you can help.

Why would a standard blood profile for the Icelandic breed be beneficial?

Currently, no standard blood profile for Icelandic horses exists in the US. Thus, when any lab runs tests on blood from Icelandic horses the resulting values are compared to a standard that has been set by other breed – most often Thoroughbreds. This can make it difficult for veterinarians to interpret whether a deviation from normal is a symptomatic for illness or, simply a breed specific normal blood value that just differs from the respective value in Thoroughbreds.

Having a standard blood profile would allow veterinarians to compare blood test results they are getting with those that are specific for the Icelandic breed. This in turn should allow for more accurate diagnoses and treatment of Icelandic horses.

Who are the researchers at Cornell University that will be conducting the study?

How many horses will need to be tested?

A standard blood profile requires the testing of 120 horses that meet very specific criteria. Ideally, the horses that meet the criteria should also vary in age, sex, and location. 45 horses from the Wagner Lab have already been tested – which leaves us to have 75 tested to complete the data collection portion of the project.

What tests will be included in the panel?

How will the results be shared?

It really depends on the outcome of the data analysis. If the researchers do find that there are Icelandic breed specific anomalies (and preliminary results look very promising) they will first pursue a peer-reviewed academic publication. Such a publication would become available to veterinarians all over the world and would give them detailed explanation of the researchers' findings.

However, such a publication, while extremely valuable to veterinarians, probably won't be easily read by the average "lay" person. So the researchers have also agreed to provide a more "natural language" article that will appear in The Icelandic Horse Quarterly. If they do decide to pursue an academic article the "lay" article will appear after the professional article is published. However, if they decide to forgo the academic article the "lay" article will be a priority.

We of course hope to provide updates on the USIHC website and in The Icelandic Horse Quarterly as the project progresses.

What's the timeline?

Good, sound research takes time and things in the academic world can tend to move rather slowly. However, we of course would like to get the project completed as quickly as possible. We hope to get all the testing done during the calendar year 2016 with the analysis completed shortly thereafter. Crafting the article(s) then will take some time.

I want to help! Should I send the USIHC blood test results I have on my horse(s)?

No – in order to provide valid results for the study the samples have to be collected from horses that meet very specific criteria, have to be handled under a set protocol, and the tests need to be performed only at the Cornell University lab in a certain timeframe.

If we need your horse to be tested we will contact you directly with more information.

How can I help?

The biggest help to further this project is to donate funds. Although the USIHC has committed to Cornell to fund the entire project ($14,000+) the USIHC is really hoping that members will help offset this high cost to help the breed. Plus, since donations go directly to Cornell, which is a not-for-profit entity, they can be considered tax deductible!

You can make a donation by:

Online Donation Step 1


Online Donation Step 2


Online Donation Step 3


Who can I contact with additional questions?

Please contact USIHC Director Andrea Barber at bpproject@icelandics.org.

Thank you for your support for this important project!