Genetic Basis for Performance StudiedBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 30, 2012
“Breed the best to the best and hope for the best” is the policy that has been followed for centuries as horse owners sought to produce superior equine athletes. In recent years, this simple statement has morphed into complex genetic research that tries to uncover heritable traits that may allow a particular animal to outperform its peers.
A research team at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research looked at more than 900 French sport horses of various breeds and tried to identify genetic performance links by using a DNA analysis chip. The group of horses included several generations of parents, offspring, and half-siblings. The researchers developed a mathematical formula that compared various genetic analysis values and performance data to come up with a performance indicator. Records from related horses were given more or less weight depending on degree of separation.
Anne Ricard, a genetics researcher who led the project, said that results of the study showed some reliability, but was most accurate at identifying differences between breeds rather than variations in performance. Because horse performance is heavily influenced by management, training, and environment as well as by genetic profile, isolating the role of genetics remains a challenge.