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And while veterinarians are well-versed in how to help keep these performance horses going
Photo: Erica Larson
Do you have any races or competitions coming up? Then it’s time to get your horse’s genes in training. That’s right, the genes. According to Italian researchers, the horse’s genes themselves need proper training in order to prepare for the stress of high performance.
"It’s through targeted and planned training that genes are ‘trained’ and can reach more adequate—meaning more appropriate to race conditions—gene expression levels," said Katia Cappelli, PhD, of the center for sport horse study in the department of pathology, diagnostics, and veterinary clinic at the University of Perugia.
Genes aren’t just chromosomes transmitting biological traits from parent to foal, Cappelli said. They also serve a working purpose, functioning in the bones, blood, muscles, organs, and brain to make the horse move, breathe, think, feel, fight infections and inflammation, and recover. In order to do that, the genes have to ‘express,’ or produce, biological messages that stimulate certain activities in the body.
Genes have to be conditioned through training programs in order to express at an optimum level, Cappelli said. Just because a horse has good bloodlines doesn’t mean it’s going to perform as well as its sire or dam, and part of that has to do with whether those inherited "good genes" get the performance training they need.
"A son of a champion, selected for being a champion as well, might not obtain good performances if his genes are not well prepared," she said.
So how does one go about "training" genes? No need to hire a gene coach, Cappelli said. Physical conditioning programs that prepare horses for races train the genes at the same time. The trick, though, is in determining just what kind of con
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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master's degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.
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