Peter Rossdale's scientific contribution to equine perinatology
Article first published online: 7 FEB 2012
© 2012 EVJ Ltd
Equine Veterinary Journal
Special Issue: Equine Perinatology
Volume 44, Issue Supplement s41, pages 1–2, February 2012
How to Cite
Ousey, J. C. and Fowden, A. L. (2012), Peter Rossdale's scientific contribution to equine perinatology. Equine Veterinary Journal, 44: 1–2. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.2011.00521.x
- Issue published online: 7 FEB 2012
- Article first published online: 7 FEB 2012
Peter Rossdale has been involved in research from the start of his veterinary career in 1953 right up to the present day. His undergraduate education as a natural scientist at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1945 to 1948, set the scientific tone for much of his future research and established close collaborative links with Marian Silver, a fellow undergraduate, that lasted for over 40 years. After graduating from the Royal Veterinary College in 1952, Peter went into clinical practice where the long hours spent attending to pregnant mares and sick foals stimulated his lifelong interest in equine perinatology. His inquisitive and incisive mind meant he was not happy just treating the clinical problems that he encountered in Thoroughbred mares at parturition. Rather, he wanted to understand the causes of the problems and the scientific rationale for the recommended treatments. However, at that time, there was little published on equine reproduction, even on the normal behaviour and physiology of parturient mares and their newborn foals.
After starting his own practice in 1959, Peter had more freedom to pursue his developing research interests. He started simply by documenting the clinical cases that he treated. He began publishing the accumulated data in a series of 3 papers in the British Veterinary Journal entitled ‘Clinical Studies on the Newborn Thoroughbred Foal’ (Rossdale 1967a,b, 1968). The data also formed the basis of his fellowship thesis to the Royal Veterinary College, entitled ‘A Clinical and Laboratory Assessment of the Health Status of the Newborn Thoroughbred Foal’, which was awarded in 1967. These first papers on normal foals were rapidly followed by publications on the abnormal behaviours and other clinical problems in newborn foals, with particular emphasis on foals that failed to stand and nurse, developed respiratory problems or showed seizure activity. He was particularly interested in the neurological cases and later termed this condition ‘neonatal maladjustment syndrome’ or NMS (Rossdale 1972). Since then, this condition has had many other descriptive synonyms (neonatal encephalopathy, perinatal asphyxia syndrome, hypoxic–ischaemic encephalopathy) but NMS is now back in vogue, although its aetiology still remains obscure, despite all the research. During the early phase of his research career Peter also differentiated between foals with infection and those sick from noninfectious causes. In particular, he was interested in the distinctions between prematurity, dysmaturity and intrauterine growth retardation in newborn foals, analogous to the human clinical classifications. So began his passion for documenting and systemising the physiology and pathophysiology of the equine perinatal period, which this special issue celebrates.
By the 1970s, not only was Peter busy building Rossdale and Partners into a successful veterinary practice, he was also immersed in several research projects in collaboration with clinical and scientific colleagues at Newmarket and Cambridge. He was publishing on a regular basis in scientific and clinical journals and also writing textbooks. One of his first textbooks, Equine Studfarm Medicine published in 1980 with Sidney Ricketts, was the major veterinary reference book of the day. Furthermore, in 1980, he took over as Editor of the Equine Veterinary Journal, a position that he held for 31 years (Blikslager et al. 2011). With the support and expertise of many collaborators, Peter initiated a series of detailed studies on fetal maturation and health in late gestation, foal prematurity, and progestagen metabolism in the mare and foal. He soon realised that relying on clinical material was inadequate to meet his research goals, so, in 1980, he applied successfully to the Wellcome Trust for funds to support a herd of research ponies to study prematurity and other aspects of equine perinatology. Most impressively, he managed to maintain competitive funding for the research herd and related projects for over 20 years from the Wellcome Trust, the Horserace Betting Levy Board and Darley Studfarm Management.
The seminal paper arising from that initial Wellcome Trust funding was ‘The Concept of Readiness for Birth’ (Rossdale and Silver 1982), in which he described the mismatch between fetal development and gestation length and the importance of the fetal hypothalamopituitary–adrenal axis in stimulating fetal maturation. This led to broadening of the clinical and scientific aspects of his research and to the publication of the first special perinatology issue of the Equine Veterinary Journal in 1984 (Vol. 16, Issue 4), which contains some of Peter's most highly cited scientific papers.
In 1985, Peter obtained his doctorate from the University of Cambridge based on his extensive bibliography and has since received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Bern, Edinburgh and Sydney, and in 2010 he became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Veterinary College. To date, Peter's publications exceed 150 full scientific or clinical research papers in peer-reviewed journals spanning 1958–2005. He has published many textbooks on equine reproduction and the horse, and provided numerous editorials and commentaries for the Equine Veterinary Journal. His enthusiasm to share information on equine reproduction has led to many invitations to give keynote lectures at veterinary and non-veterinary meetings and to the organisation of international conferences and symposia. The most successful and well known of these is the International Symposium on Equine Reproduction (ISER), held every 4 years since its inaugural event in Cambridge in 1974 under the direction of Peter Rossdale, Twink Allen and Doug Mitchell. This symposium is the major forum for the equine reproductive community and its proceedings are a key resource for scientists and vets alike (supplements to Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 1974, 1979, 1982, 1987, 1991, 2000, Biology of Reproduction 1995, Theriogenology 2002 and Animal Reproduction Science 2006, 2010).
Owing to these many commitments, Peter had limited time to achieve his numerous research ambitions personally. However, 2 of his greatest non-veterinary skills, his ability to collaborate and his ability to delegate, ensured that his research output increased exponentially to keep pace with his aspirations. Peter has great skill in analysing a problem and, then, in recruiting people with the necessary expertise, to help answer the questions that he alone could not solve. His major collaborators were Dr Des Leadon, Professor Twink Allen, Dr Marian Silver, Dr Abby Fowden, Dr Jenny Ousey and Professor Leo Jeffcott. However, Peter's enthusiasm attracted many other people to assist in the research work. All new veterinarians at the practice, students who arrived for work experience, laboratory staff and even secretaries, were immediately recruited to join in any aspect of the research that interested them! Many scientific and veterinary careers were launched as a result of these early encounters. Peter's sphere of research influence therefore reaches around the world with over 100 collaborators, too numerous to mention individually here, but listed as co-authors on his publications.
This supplementary issue of the Equine Veterinary Journal, with 5 reviews and 20 original papers on an equine perinatology theme, is a testament to Peter's impact on the field and to his lifelong quest to combine cutting-edge research with the best evidence-based clinical practice. In his own words, ‘Research is a means of acquiring new knowledge and involves collaborating with those trained and committed to this end. Clinical research is new knowledge that contributes to clinical science, and verifies or confirms previous knowledge about clinical practice. Clinicians therefore have the greatest motivation for participating in research’ (Rossdale 2005). There can be no doubt that Peter is one of those motivated clinicians!
Conflicts of interest
The authors did not declare any conflict of interest.
- 2011 ) Peter Rossdale, OBE, Editor Equine Veterinary Journal 1980-2010. Equine vet. J., 43, 2 . , , , and (
- 1967a ) Clinical studies on the newborn Thoroughbred foal. I. Perinatal behaviour . Br. vet. J. 123 , 470 - 481 . (
- 1967b ) Clinical studies on the newborn Thoroughbred foal. II. Heart rate, auscultation and electrocardiogram . Br. vet. J. 123 , 521 - 532 . (
- 1968 ) Clinical studies on the newborn Thoroughbred foal. III. Thermal stability . Br. vet. J. 124 , 18 - 22 . (
- 1972 ) Modern concepts of neonatal disease in foals . Equine vet. J. 4 , 117 - 128 . (
- 2005 ) Clinical perspective of the biological pathway from conception to the maturity of performance in the horse: Physiology and pathology . Equine vet. J., Suppl. 35 , 7 - 88 . (
- 1982 ) The concept of readiness for birth . J. Reprod. Fertil., Suppl. 32 , 507 - 510 . and (