Using DNA to Predict a Horse’s Athletic Potential

Learn about DNA profiling, a practice designed to predict a horse’s athletic potential by evaluating that individual’s genetic markers.

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Running might be in a Thoroughbred's genes, but did you know those genes also contain information scientists are using to predict how far, how fast, and how well that horse will run? And DNA assessment of these traits is gaining momentum. So much so that a group of horse racing officials and scientists recently met in Paris, France, for a round-table conference to discuss policy and best practices for this so-called DNA profiling and issued a statement on the topic.

DNA profiling is a relatively new practice designed to predict a horse's athletic potential by evaluating that individual's genetic markers.

"This is happening in the Thoroughbred world, but it's going to happen in the Standardbreds, it's going to happen in the Quarter Horses, it's going to happen in the competition horses," said Des Leadon, MA, MVB, MSc, FRCVS, Dipl. ECEIM, an equine medicine specialist and consultant at the Irish Equine Centre in Naas and the chairman of the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation and European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders Associations Veterinary Committees. "So maybe the Thoroughbred industry is at the cutting edge on this."

"There needs to be much more industry awareness and policy and best practice development than there has been to date about DNA performance profiling because it's here," Leadon said. "It's becoming part of the infrastructure of the industry very quickly, and the industry needs to come to terms with it

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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