RAU equine science student to work on racehorse research in Mongolia

Lucy Allen, who studies Applied Equine Science and Business at the Royal Agricultural University shares her journey from borrowing ponies to being selected for a novel Mongolian racing research project.

When I used to cycle up the road to borrow a pony for a hack, I never dreamed I’d be travelling to East Asia to take part in a study into the genetics of speed in Mongolian racing ponies.

It was when I got a job at TB Equestrian (in Bodmin) that I became serious about my career. After my A-levels I was lucky enough to get work experience with one of the top event riders in Cornwall, Trilby Crewes. I then went on to work for her full time and learnt a huge amount about the sport horse industry and practical horsemanship.

After two years on the yard I felt that I needed to go back in to education in order to progress into a managerial job within the industry.

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU), in Cirencester, have a strong research team and my chosen degree (Applied Equine Science and Business) has a blend of both science and management related modules. This is why I felt the RAU was the best choice for me as I already had practical experience.

I am about to go into my third year studying and I have fantastic memories of summer balls, trips to racing yards and an amazing group of friends that will remain with me for the rest of my life. 

Second year students complete an industry placement. I was lucky enough, with the help of the RAU, to get a placement with Plusvital, who launched the first nutrigenomic equine supplement in December 2017.  The CSO of Plusvital is Professor Emmeline Hill who discovered the Speed Gene which can be used to determine the optimum racing distance of thoroughbred racehorses. You can imagine how excited I was to get to meet her.

It feels like you spend your whole first and second year at university building up to the infamous dissertation project. Having seen first-hand both the joy and utter hysteria this project can induce it's no wonder I wanted to get it right. 

​Prof Hill and her team had been approached by a fellow researcher asking if Plusvital would be interested in looking into whether there is a relationship between the Speed Gene and racing success in Mongolian racing ponies.

As they explained this story to me my grin was getting bigger and bigger. I was asked if this would interest me as a potential project. At this point I couldn't believe it and said yes. After a Skype call I was ecstatic be invited out to Mongolia to collect the samples and the racing records we would require to complete the research. I swear I didn't sleep for a week I was buzzing with excitement. 

My experience at the RAU has been more than just a degree it has been the beginning of my possible future career in research and the thoroughbred industry from quelling first year jitters to placement planning and finally dissertation guidance!

Although the research trip is unbelievably exciting. I also can't wait to get stuck in to the lab and analysis afterwards.

Hopefully, after some blood sweat and tears, our trip will result in some published research; you will just have to keep following to find out.  Please follow my blog The Mongolian Racing Project which I will be posting to regularly.