Rutgers Young Horse Teaching & Research Program
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RU Rosie, RU Pardner with RU Glinda, RU Casanova, RU Brisa and RU Genesis

Samantha Vitale
For the past ten years, the Rutgers Young Horse Teaching and Research Program promoted draft-cross yearlings registered with The North American Ranching Information Council (NAERIC).  This organization is charged with overseeing and registering horses of the Pregnant Mare Urine (PMU) industry.  In addition to producing a menopausal-relief drug for women, this industry simultaneously produces draft-cross foals; horses once—erroneously—thought to be useless byproducts of pharmaceutical manufacturing. Contrary to this opinion, these foals are the results of quality breeding between draft mares and high-end stallions. Due in part to Dr. Ralston’s involvement, these animals are no longer categorized as “unwanted,” and have proven themselves in a variety of disciplines, from dressage to western pleasure. Prices for NAERIC horses have soared in recent years—so much, in fact, that they now outweigh the program’s budget.

Overpopulation on the western ranges is a significant problem that can only be realistically solved by removing excess horses from the public lands. However, The American mustang, though revered as a national heritahe, still evokes a major public misconception. They are thought to be high-spirited and difficult—if not impossible—to train, making them harder to place after capture.  Collectively, they are considered a federal charity case; feral animals in need of “rescue” after being gathered from the range. Having already successfully influenced public opinion regarding the PMU horses, Dr. Ralston found a new misconception to correct this year.  With the help and extraordinary support of the Bureau of Land Management, she purchased four “3 strike” mustangs for the program in August.  As defined by the BLM, these are the horses who had not been adopted at previous events and who, otherwise, would have been transferred to long-term holding facilities.

By purchasing these horses—RU Ramblin’ Rose, RU Casanova, RU Marley, and RU Canella—Dr. Ralston hopes to show the public that these feral equines are just as valuable and desirable as the PMU yearlings of previous years.  With the help of Robin Rivello, President of the US Wild Horse and Burro Association and her husband, Mike Yodice, Dr. Ralston’s research students will be training the mustangs to lead, free-lunge, tie, and undergo routine procedures (e.g. grooming, bathing, and clipping). In addition, Dr. Ralston will be conducting various behavioral and nutritional studies, comparing the mustangs to the program’s current draft crosses. The horses will be auctioned off this spring to good homes—as bellwethers for the thousands of wild mustangs that still are waiting to find homes and purpose after being gathered from the range.
  For information on the Bureau of Land Management Mustangs go to:
           BLM website
           US Wild Horse and Burro Association website
Why and how the Young Horse Research and Teaching Program was started originally-by Sarah Ralston.

In the mid-1990’s, associate professor, Dr. Sarah Ralston was a member of a consultants’ group advising Wyeth on better management practices for the controversial pregnant mare urine (PMU) industry. Through this association Dr. Ralston got an idea for a program in which she could combine her research interests in transportation stress and young horse nutrition, with her Equine Science teaching program at Rutgers University. The program also had the added benefit of being able to debunk some of the common myths and erroneous information about the PMU industry that was being disseminated and to provide valuable information on the nutrition and management of draft cross horses, which we have found to be significantly different from the well studied hot blooded breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

For 10 years Dr. Ralston, with the help of students participating in the program, selected 12 foals from PMU farms in North Dakota, and, since 2004, Canada, After weaning in September of each year, the young horses were transported to Rutgers University. While the previously unhandled weanlings were halter trained and gentled by the students for the first 10 to 14 days after arrival, their recovery from the stress of the 36+ hour drive to New Jersey was the subject of at least 4 student honor’s theses. The young horses then were used in nutrition and growth studies, and the Rutgers teaching program from September to April. In April they were shown “in hand” in the Annual Ag Field Day Horse Show then sold the next day at a private auction in the Round House on the Cook Campus. The proceeds from the auction went back into the program to support the costs for the following year.


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For questions about the program or the website, please contact Dr. Sarah Ralson at

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