As Registered Equine Reproduction Specialist Dr John Chopin explains, the single most limiting factor affecting a horse’s athletic potential might be the 11 months spent in utero. Did you choose the best bloodlines? Are you feeding your equine athlete all the recommended feeds and micronutrients? Have you got the best trainer? Do you get them regularly massaged or acupunctured? Are you looking for something else to maximise the potential of a horse that, genetically, should be a superstar, but is not quite living up to expectations?
Scientists have identified a genetic mutation that should help identify horses at risk for squamous cell carcinoma of the eye. A genetic DNA test is now available to help horse owners to make informed breeding decisions. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a very common skin tumour, which is locally aggressive and can progress rapidly. It is the most common cancer found in equine eyes and the second most common tumour of the horse overall.
Nomad Scythian herders roamed vast areas spanning the Central Asian steppes during the Iron Age, approximately from the 9th to the 1st Century BCE (Before Common Era). These livestock pastoralists, who lived on wagons covered by tents, left their mark in the history of warfare for their exceptional equestrian skills. They were among the first to master mounted riding and to make use of composite bows while riding.
Human preferences for horse coat colours have changed greatly over time and across cultures. Spotted and diluted horses were more frequent from the beginning of domestication until the end of the Roman Empire, whereas solid colours (bay, black and chestnut) were predominant in the Middle Ages. These are the findings of an international research team under the direction of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW).
A specimen of the ancient horse Eurohippus messelensis has been discovered in Germany with a preserved foetus, as well as parts of the uterus and associated tissues. This find demonstrates that reproduction in early horses was very similar to that of the modern horse, despite the differences in size and structure.
A new study, led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with researchers from 11 international universities, has revealed a significant part of the genetic variation in modern domesticated horses may be attributed to interbreeding with the descendants of a now extinct wild horse population.
Researchers at the University of London’s Department of Veterinary Embryology have successfully created viable fibroblasts using genetic material from history’s greatest racehorse, Eclipse - an 18th Century Thoroughbred who won 18 races. Using the genetic material in tail hair, which had been woven into the tassel of ‘The Whip’, the prize of the self-named race, marks the first successful step towards a live clone.
Researchers at Uppsala University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and their international collaborators discovered a mutation in a single gene in horses that is critical for the ability to perform ambling gaits, like pacing. Experiments on this gene in mice have led to fundamental new knowledge about the neural circuits that control leg movements. This explains why some horse breeds are able to move their legs only in diagonal pairs, while others, like Standardbreds, Icelandic horses and Paso Fino horses, can also perform lateral gaits.
Many animal breeders, horse breeders, service dog trainers, race industry breeders, domestic breeders and farmers have an ‘ideal’ animal in mind. Without the knowledge, the science and the techniques required to set up and maintain a successful breeding program, reaching that goal can be a long, slow process. Great success in the field of animal breeding is the culmination of attention to detail. A strong foundation in theory and practice will assist a breeder in maximising the potential of their animals.
For some, pedigrees and the research required to utilise the information contained within them, may be incredibly boring. I believe them to be the most important link to solving many breeding mysteries. Why is my eye drawn to that animal? What line does it carry? Why does the ‘type’ seem so familiar to me? What can this animal offer the breed if I decide to include it in a breeding program?