Grass sickness remains one of the most devastating and frustrating diseases in the equine world, but now there's a new push on to find some answers about how it works

And it has some Royal backing. The Moredun Foundation (TMF) and the Equine Grass Sickness Fund (EGSF) have joined forces to launch an innovative three-year research Fellowship to take a fresh look at equine grass sickness and adopt a collaborative multi-disciplinary approach bringing together horse owners and researchers, with HRH The Princess Royal is patron for both charities.

The Princess Royal said: “I think that for Moredun to launch a Research Fellowship as part of its centenary and to choose to do so on equine grass sickness is pretty significant given their history, background and success in so many areas with livestock and diseases and I am delighted to launch this new Fellowship for equine grass sickness at Moredun.”

Equine grass sickness (EGS) is a devastating disease of horses and research started in the 1920s when the disease was causing the deaths of many working horses on farms. One hundred years later and the causes remains elusive, but the consensus is that it is likely to be multi-factorial. There are no treatments or vaccines to prevent disease and around 80% of horses contracting the disease do not survive.

Anne Logan, chair of the Equine Grass Sickness Fund, said: “It is a very exciting time for the Equine Grass Sickness Fund and we are delighted to be working with Moredun to take a fresh look at the disease through the work of the new Fellow and to develop a new database and biobank of samples as a valuable research resource going forward.”

The new research Fellow will be based at the Moredun Research Institute and will spearhead the development of a new database and sample biobank to enable research to progress and encourage new thinking and inter-disciplinary collaborations.

Horse owners are being encouraged to take part in the project by becoming 'EGS detectives' to raise awareness about the disease in their area, helping to report cases and submit samples for the research biobank.

Professor Lee Innes, of Moredun, added: “We are delighted to be launching this new research initiative bringing together horse owners and researchers to progress our knowledge and understanding of this devastating disease. Moredun has a long and proud history of working in close collaboration with livestock farmers to help develop solutions to combat disease and we are keen to apply this model of collaboration to help tackle equine grass sickness."

A new push is on to find out the source and cure for equine grass sickness

A new push is on to find out the source and cure for equine grass sickness

Listen to what's happening with grass sickness

HRHs The Princess Royal took part in a special podcast as part of the On Farm series ( to launch this new research drive to shed new light on equine grass sickness, more often than not a fatal disease of horses.

Ross Montague, presenter of the On Farm podcast commented: “I am delighted we have been able to work with Moredun and the Equine Grass Sickness Fund to raise awareness of grass sickness and hopefully raise funds to help with the new research fellowship."

He sees a collaborative approach as the way forward for equine grass sickness research, with the idea to get all the scientists together and really thrash this out, using information from horse owners and the experience of expert scientists in every field.

"Equine grass sickness is a scourge which strikes fear into the hearts of every horse and pony owner. Despite many years of research, and much more now being known about the disease, the cause remains elusive. Once a horse or pony develops the disease there are few options for treatment and in 75% of cases the prognosis is hopeless," he told Scottish Horse.

"Our On Farm podcast ( or features horse owners, who all have had experience of the disease, discussing their experiences from different angles – the stud farm manager, the fundraiser and the scientist. Listen to them explain why they are so passionate about turning this story around, and are taking up the fight against the disease, each in their own way.

Sylvia Ormiston, of HM The Queen's Balmoral Highland Pony Stud, who lost five valuable breeding ponies within a 12-month period, commented: "I’m so excited to be actually involved with this and be a part of it."

Yvonne Maclean, who nursed her 17.2hh home-bred Hanovarian through the disease, encouraged everyone to take part: ‘Grass sickness takes away everyone’s control. As horse owners we can take back control by fighting it as best we can."

Beth Wells, a scientist at The Moredun Foundation, and herself a Highland pony enthusiast, explained: "We will be listening to horse owners and gathering that gold dust information in the run up to cases, and it will be our job to collect that data and analyse it in the hope we will see common risks and potential causes coming out."

The Moredun Foundation and the Equine Grass Sickness Fund's ambitious five-year plan to crack open the mysteries of this deadly disease, means that pressure will be kept up on the existing suspects, including mycotoxins and clostridium botulinum, but also be reviewing all the research done to date, to see what might have been missed.

For the first time, several research projects will be ongoing simultaneously, bringing scientists, vets and horse owners together in an unprecedented collaboration to discover the cause.

Anne Logan added: “As an equine vet I am all too familiar with the devastating consequences of the disease. Over the next five years, we are driving the research along different paths, in order to break new ground.

"We hope that we can bring scientists and horse owners together in a mission to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw."