Heritable Heart Traits Can Help Endurance Horses Succeed

An “athletic” heart is a heritable characteristic linked to good endurance performance, researchers confirmed.
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Heritable Heart Traits Can Help Endurance Horses Succeed
An 'athletic' heart is a heritable characteristic linked to good endurance performance, researchers confirmed. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
When it comes to breeding good endurance horses, many traits aren’t heritable or have little to do with performance. But French researchers said one feature does matter: the heart.

“An ‘athletic’ heart is a heritable characteristic that’s favorable for performance in endurance,” said Céline Robert, PhD, DVM, professor and researcher at the National Veterinary School of Maisons-Alfort and researcher at the French National Agricultural Research Institute in Jouy-en-Josas, France.

Unlike Thoroughbred racehorses, Arabian and Arabian-cross endurance horses start training at around age 4 or 5 and reach high-level (160-kilometer) races starting at about 8 years old. “If you have to invest eight years of training and maintenance into a horse before you know if you’ve got a champion, you want to be sure you’re starting off with the right horse,” Robert said.

But success doesn’t always pass down through the genes. That’s why Roberts and her fellow researchers set out to determine what genetic factors affect performance and how heritable they are

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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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