Horse puzzle

12 Feb 2024

Angelika Schoster is an expert in equine internal medicine. Director of the Equine Clinic at LMU, she combines research, clinical work, and teaching.

Unlike human patients, horses cannot articulate what is ailing them. For Angelika Schoster, this makes veterinary medicine all the more compelling: “You have to correctly read the symptoms the horse is exhibiting and solve a detective puzzle of sorts.” Since April 2023, the Austrian has been Chair of Equine Medicine and Director of the Equine Clinic at LMU.

It had always been Prof. Schoster’s wish to become a vet, and she knew from an early stage that she wanted to specialize in horses and internal medicine. At the same time, she had the urge to look beyond Europe and acquire experiences in the wider world. And so she seized the opportunity to go to the University of Guelph in Canada while still working on her dissertation at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, where she had also studied as an undergraduate. In 2007, she undertook an internationally recognized course in veterinary internal medicine at the Canadian university, which she completed in 2011 (Dipl. ACVIM). In the meantime, she had finished her doctorate at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna in 2008.

The new head of the Horse Clinic at LMU, Professor Angelika Schoster, in the clinic´s wintry outdoor area. Next to her is a horse with a blonde mane.

Professor Angelika Schoster

© LC Productions

Combining practice, research, and teaching

On top of her clinical training, Schoster researched infectious diseases in horses while doing her dissertation in Vienna. In Canada, Prof. Schoster completed a further 3-year doctoral program (DVSc) in the field of gastrointestinal infections and microbiota alongside her clinical training. Having completed her training, she returned to Europe and started a PhD at the University of Copenhagen. “After a year, however, I realized that a pure research position wasn’t quite right for me,” recalls Schoster. Because she wanted to combine practice, teaching, and research, she took up a role as senior physician at the Animal Hospital at the University of Zurich in 2012. She completed her PhD there and launched straight into a habilitation degree. “I’ve always worked hard for my professional goals, but I was also fortunate in the opportunities I got,” she emphasizes.

Probiotics for horses

In the field of internal medicine for horses, gastrointestinal diseases play an important role alongside lung diseases and infections. Prof. Schoster’s research is focused on the gut flora of horses. The animals are susceptible to gastrointestinal diseases and often have problems with abdominal pain, colics, and diarrhea. “The horse is just a bit badly designed,” says Schoster, “and housing and husbandry conditions exacerbate the situation compared to wild horses. One theory is that the microbiome is part of the reason for the instability of the gut flora.” Schoster investigates what gut flora is normal in the first place, which stressors knock the flora out of kilter, and whether probiotics might help. We now know that the probiotic bacterial strains that are important for horses are completely different than the strains that are important in humans. Consequently, current research is tending toward approaches that use bacterial communities instead of individual bacterial strains.

Schoster herself does not own a horse, and she does not ride anymore. Although she loves horses and her work and put a lots of energy into her job, she enjoys getting away from the equine world in her spare time. Hiking in the mountains is a favorite pastime of hers. At LMU, Schoster likes the stimulating environment in the Greater Munich area and relishes the opportunity to shape the Equine Clinic and position it in this environment. She is also enthusiastic about the opportunities for research collaborations at LMU. In addition, education is very close to her heart: “Despite all the challenges, I love my profession and want to pass on this love to the generation of students coming up.”

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