Genetics of Professionals’, Amateurs’ Show Jumpers Compared

A French genetics team determined a common breeding pool is not only realistic but also preferable.

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Can a sport horse that’s suitable for an amateur come from the same stock as an elite equine athlete finding success under a professional rider? A French genetics team recently looked into the matter with show jumping horses and found that a common breeding pool is not only realistic, but also preferable.

“The genetic correlations we found indicate that a common selection process for both amateur and elite jumping horses is indeed possible—and that’s doubly good news!” said Anne Ricard, PhD, a genetics researcher for the French Institute for Horses and Equitation at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Jouy-en-Josas. Ricard presented her work at the 2016 French Equine Research Day held in March in Paris.

That “good news” is breeders don’t have to try to satisfy two markets—one for elite and one for amateur—and that despite rumors to the contrary, elite stallions can produce excellent mounts for nonprofessional riders. “Many people believe that elite stallions ridden by pros will sire horses that are just too high-strung and unrideable by amateur riders,” Ricard said. “But our study shows that this concern is unfounded.”

In a business sense, this is important news because the market for elite jumping horses represents only about 15% of the total jumping horse market, she said. In France owners take on approximately 9,000 “new” show jumpers every year. But only 1,300 of those horses go toward professionals looking for elite mounts. Combining the markets into one would allow breeders to be more profitable

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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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