Horse Joint Angles and Genetics: What’s the Link?

Researchers recently identified the genetics behind some equine joint angles, which, they say, can impair equine performance, health, and welfare. Here’s how.
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Gmel said a horse that has a naturally wider head and neck angle will have more difficulty workng in a closed frame. Being aware of that can help avoid the welfare consequences of forced positions, she added. | Photo: iStock
Science is bringing a new angle to equine morphology evaluations.

Recent study results highlight the importance of specific angles in a horse’s conformation that can affect not only his looks but also his performance, health, and welfare.

“We need to be viewing these angles, in part, as insight into a horse’s physical limitations and respect those, because they’re just part of his genetics and can’t be modified through training,” said Annik Gmel, PhD, of the Agroscrope national agricultural research center and Swiss National Stud, in Avenches, Switzerland.

Gmel and her fellow researchers identified two conformation angles that link to a specific gene, affecting the size of the angle. One was the natural angle of the head and neck (at the poll), and the other was the natural angle of the elbow

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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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