• Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

Kennesaw State student’s research helps tackle deadly horse disease

ByMary M. Ward

Jun 2, 2022

KENNESAW, Georgia (June 1, 2022) — Lauren Christian of Kennesaw State University knows the importance of the phrase “healthy as a horse.” As an equestrian, she has been around horses all her life and used her undergraduate research to help horses and their owners.

Lauren Christian

Growing up in Marietta, Christian has been riding horses since childhood. Several years ago, his horse, Jagger, a mustang, had severe colic and ended up in hospital.

“Horses that have colic experience abdominal pain caused by problems in the digestive tract,” said Christian, who graduated last month. “It may sound harmless, but colic is the No. 1 killer of horses.”

Fortunately, Jagger survived and thrived with Christian in mounted archery competitions. The sport incorporates several skills – riders shoot arrows at targets while using their legs to guide the horse down a track or across a field.

While completing her undergraduate degree in Computational Applied Mathematics, Christian met Statistics Lecturer Susan Mathews Hardy.

“She wanted me to find a data set that I really liked and enjoyed,” Christian said. “I’m passionate about horses and I know how scary it is when your horse has colic. I knew I wanted to help other horse owners and save more lives.

Christian knew that all cases of colic could lead to dehydration. So she took variables from a dataset used by veterinarians to classify a horse as dehydrated: pulse rate, capillary refill time, hematocrit, total protein and color of mucous membranes. She then studied the relationship between dehydration and whether the horse was in pain, had surgery, and whether the horse lived, died, or was euthanized due to colic.

“As the dehydration gets worse, the horse is more likely to suffer and is also more likely to have surgery or die,” Christian said of his findings. “I have also found that owners euthanize their horses when they are in pain but not dehydrated. Care must also be taken not to choose surgery too soon because surgery, according to my research, predisposes the horse to colic at the ‘coming.

Hardy said Christian not only taught him the importance of this data, but also enjoyed seeing his student shine.

“As an equestrian competitor, Lauren sets the bar high and she does the same in her studies,” Hardy said. “Her research poster and the corresponding notebook she made explaining her variables, code and analyzes will be my example for future students for years to come.”

Photo of Lauren Christian walking alongside a horse through a field

In December 2021, Christian presented his research at Analytics Day, a special event hosted by KSU’s School of Data Science and Analytics for undergraduate and graduate students to showcase their analytical research. His research poster and presentation won first place in the undergraduate research category.

“Watching her present her research inspired me,” Hardy said. “You can tell she’s passionate about this issue and wants to spread the word. I always encourage my students to make a handout that benefits others and serves the community, and Lauren’s handout will be invaluable to horse owners.

Christian has been accepted into an online graduate school, where she plans to continue her studies in statistics. The online program will allow him to continue training and competing in mounted archery.

– O’Brien Barrows Abbey
Photos by Judith Pishnery and Jason Getz

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global connections, and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the country and around the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated (R2) doctoral research institution, placing it among an elite group of only 6% of US colleges and universities with R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.