The Equine Science Center at Rutgers University partnered with the University of Minnesota in procuring blood samples from over 700 Standardbred horses in New Jersey and New York for a new group of studies aimed at identifying genetic factors underlying musculoskeletal diseases in horses.

The studies will also look at performance traits, such as gait and speed, and how a horse’s genetic makeup affects these traits.

Broken into four distinct studies, the researchers will examine the genetic risk factors for recurring exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER) and osteochondritis dissecans (OC/OCD), and will investigate modifying loci associated with trotting and pacing and those affecting performance in Standardbred horses.

“Identifying the genetics contributing to OCD and RER will allow us to design better treatments and management recommendations for these horses,” said Molly E. McCue, DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Veterinary Population Medicine. “In addition, we hope that identifying the genetics that contribute to traits such as gait, speed, and elite performance will allow trainers, breeders, and owners of Standardbred horses to breed for desirable traits, select the best racing prospects, and train these horses to their fullest genetic potential.”

The sampling done in New Jersey took place at Gaitway Farm in Manalapan Township, Joie de Vie Farms in Jobstown, Winner’s International Farm in Chesterfield, and White Birch Farm in Allentown. Sampling was also done in New York at Split Brook Farm in Hurleyville and Ray Schnittker Racing Stable in Goshen