Founding Researchers:

Prof. Michael "Mick" Peterson, Ph.D.

Michael “Mick” Peterson, Ph.D. is the Director of the Racetrack Safety Program and Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Kentucky. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory. Dr. Peterson’s research links traditional understanding of engineering mechanics and materials to the biomechanics of animals. His research emphasis is on the manner in which dynamic response can be used to characterize materials. He has worked on a range of equine and animal biomechanics topics including: the impact of exercise on bone density, the development of biomechanical models, durability of cetacean epidermis, the measurement of inertial properties of the equine forelimb, biomechanics of whale interaction with fishing gear, cetacean acoustic response, marine hydroacoustics and the kinematics of equine gait on treadmills and tracks. Dr. Peterson greatest passion is for increasing our understanding and the consistency of racing and equestrian sport surfaces. Originating in ultrasonic imaging work more than 20 years ago this research has gradually grown to encompass a wide range of data collection and testing work. This data is the basis for applying concepts from manufacturing quality control to improved racing surface consistency for the protection of horses and riders. He has published more than 85 journal articles, 3 book chapters, more than 150 conference proceedings and has received 6 patents.

Prof. C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc (DVM), PhD, FRCVS, DSc, Dr. med vet (hc), Diplomate ACVS

C. Wayne McIlwraith is a founding researcher of the racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and a board member. Dr. McIlwraith’s research has been devoted to equine joint disease.  He is a pioneer in the use of arthroscopy in the investigation of equine joint injuries and has investigated the use of medications and biological therapies in treating bone disease in healing, the use of biomarkers to diagnose cartilage and bone damage, as well as developing the use of gene therapy and novel methods of articular cartilage repair.  Dr. McIlwraith is internationally renowned for the significance of his contributions to the field of equine orthopedics. Included among the many awards he has received are the Tierklinik Hochmoor Prize, the Winners Circle Award for Outstanding Achievements in American Quarter Horse Racing, and the John Hickman Award for Equine Orthopaedics.  A diplomate in the American and European colleges of Veterinary Surgeons, Dr. McIlwraith is a member of the International Society of Arthroscopy and Knee Surgery, Phi Zeta Veterinary Honor Society, and Veterinary Orthopedic Society.  He has authored or co-authored 10 textbooks  and numerous scientific publications.  He is on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Veterinary Surgery and the Equine Veterinary Journal. 

Staff Biographies:

Kaleb Dempsey

Kaleb Dempsey is the Laboratory Manager of Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL). Kaleb began equine surface research and testing in 2014 under Dr. John Bridge with a primary focus on synthetic racing surfaces. In 2017 he received his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington Bothell and began working full time at RSTL upon graduation. His work has increased the efficiency of lab testing and data quality through use of automating data processing, improved test methods, and development of new data collection and measurement devices.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson is a Testing Engineer at the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL). Andrew joined the lab in summer of 2018 and received his undergraduate degree in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering from the University of Kentucky in the spring of 2019. Since starting at the lab, he has worked primarily in testing which has also included in-situ testing on race tracks and equestrian surfaces across the country. He is currently helping to validate new in-lab testing methods and has worked on design of surface testing equipment. His research interests are in biomechanics, design and materials.

Affiliated Researchers:

Peter Schmitt
Peter Schmitt is a PhD candidate in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Kentucky. His research emphasis is on the design, construction, and maintenance of turfgrass horse racing surfaces with the intent of making them as safe as possible for both the horses and jockeys. This research focus is a fascinating combination of his background and interests, merging a turfgrass focus which is a natural extension of his love of golf with his engineering background to the examine the hoof-surface interaction. He is passionate about solving problems, building relationships, and making a positive impact on the horse racing industry both here in Kentucky and around the world. Peter has BS and MS degrees from Purdue University in Agricultural and Biological Engineering as well as 11 years of industry experience in the design and application engineering of Diesel engine powertrains.



Daniel Schmidt
Daniel Schmidt is the Research Farrier at Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory. He received his BS in Animal Science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2016. Daniel held various positions on Thoroughbred farms throughout Lexington before attending Kentucky Horse Shoeing School’s three-month training program. While working towards his PhD in Agricultural Engineering and Biomechanics Daniel will bring valuable practical and physiological insight to RSTL. Daniel currently splits his time between his PhD program, RSTL, his business ventures and caring for his personal riding horses. Daniel currently runs his own farrier practice, BTE Farriery, and a Thoroughbred sales venture, BTE Stables.




María Alejandra Blanco
María Alejandra Blanco is a research assistant at Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, with base in Argentina. She is agricultural engineer with a Magister Scientiae in Vegetal Production from University of Buenos Aires. She is currently working on her PhD in sand and turfgrass while she is working on building equestrian surfaces.