Our knowledge of the equine genome is improving all the time. We now know many genes which are linked at traits we desire in our horses such as; colour, performance and desire. Not only this, but we are able to test horses to see which genes they carry. The racing industry, in particular trainers looking for the next Grand National winner, are already using gene testing to help select horses with the best genetics to be successful in this type of race.
This week I stumbled across a post by The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre on Facebook about their new research project with the animal health trust. In this post they explained that new research has discovered a gene in thoroughbreds which predisposes them to bone fractures. They also ask for any ex racehorse owners to get in contact and supply a DNA sample from your horse to see if they have this gene or not.
I thought this is a fantastic idea, while this knowledge is unlikely to change you and your horse’s life, it may make you more careful about your approach to training and competing your horse, such as avoiding hard ground. This could help you prevent injury to your horse, improve welfare and save you time and money.
However, this got me thinking. While this is still relatively new technology, in the future I can imagine it being used in a similar way to a vetting in both horse purchase and with horse insurance companies. Very few genes say a horse will definitely develop the problem. However, many genes predispose the horse to the problem. Which is similar to how certain conformations predispose a horse to certain issues.
In the future, DNA testing for specific genes will likely be an extra option in your vetting, alongside X-rays and may even be a necessity for insuring horses valued over a certain amount or for certain disciplines. But for now, it will make no difference to your horses insurance.
If you have an ex racehorse who has no history of fractures, please take a moment to email Debbie Guest to take part in this study. It will give you a FREE insight into your horses genetics and help improve the industries knowledge on horse genetics.