Equine Body Type’s Effect on Endurance Performance Studied

If you think there’s a perfect body type for a successful endurance horse, think again. French researchers recently concluded that the precise morphology (form and structure) of typical endurance horses has little to do with their racing success.
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If you think there’s a perfect body type for a successful endurance horse, think again. French researchers recently concluded that the precise morphology (form and structure) of typical endurance horses has little to do with their racing success.

“There are few morphological criteria that are associated with performance, and the correlations with that performance are weak,” said Céline Robert, PhD, DVM, lecturer and researcher at the National Veterinary School of Maisons-Alfort, and researcher at the French National Agricultural Research Institute in Jouy-en-Josas. Robert presented her research during the 2014 French Research Day held March 18 in Paris.

As part of their larger “GenEndurance” project, Robert and colleagues measured 54 conformational traits—body lengths, angles, slopes, thicknesses—on 367 endurance horses. All the horses were at least seven years old, had at least one Arabian parent, and were qualified for 90-kilometer (60-mile) races.

“The qualification status itself did narrow down the kinds of morphology we were comparing,” Robert said. “The basic morphology of the standard endurance horse is better adapted to long-distance racing than that of the standard show jumper, for example. Our goal was to fine-tune the morphological comparisons within the select group of endurance horses itself

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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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