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Thursday January 27, 2022

Gait Fault in Horses: Genetic Influence

Written by J. Scott Simpson
Category: Essays For Horse Owners
Hits: 3658

As the majority of gait faults are directly related to conformation defects, breeders could be the long-ranged key to the elimination of most undesirable types of locomotion. Where does the greatest genetic progress lie in selectively choosing breeding animals? Consider this: A mare should only produce one foal a year, while a stallion could realistically sire in excess of 40 progeny in a season.

Because horses are a tangible commodity, realism is seldom a consideration when the owner of a mare decides to choose a mate for her with hopes of a new baby wonderhorse in mind. Certainly, a mare with less than desirable conformation or way of going provides one-half of the genetic potential for producing a perfect offspring. Put a poor-moving or badly conformed stallion into the picture and the outlook becomes an even greater potential for producing a disappointing foal.

To believe that selectivity of how a horse moves or is conformed, will ever influence the decisions of the majority of equine matchmakers is sheer folly. What is reality, though, is the fact that individual horses which lack perfection of form or function are not products of incompetent farriers, veterinarians, or careless owners. They are products of breeding for bloodlines with no consideration of the individual animal's conformation or way of going. Commercial as well as hobby producers should make an effort to improve the situation.

A great deal of the problem stems from the fact that registered horses are generally more valuable than nonregistered horses. Papered mares just about always end up in the broodmare band regardless of their conformation or ability. There wouldn't be any geldings if everyone could manage a stallion. In most cases, stallions have superior qualities or no one would be bothered with the difficulty of managing them. It only takes one stallion though, with poor conformation, to offset the desirable features of 40 nice mares in the foal-producing game. A badly conformed mare can't wreak nearly as much havoc on the outcome of the shape of the future generations of a particular breed, but, -- there are so many more of them.

Breed registry associations could offer incentives for owners to sterilize fillies and mares which do not display good breeding characteristics. A good record as a performance animal and correct conformation should be the criteria for selecting a mare as a potential for the procreation pool. Spayed mares would receive papers which would allow them to perform within the particular breed shows, just the same as the geldings.

Spaying a mare can be done by a trained veterinary surgeon with little or no more discomfort than a male castration causes. Spayed mares are usually as easy to manage as the average gelding.

All breed associations could learn from the Australian Stock Horse Association. Animals accepted into this registry must pass rigid standards of conformation and display their ability to perform satisfactorily as mature horses. The standards of this registry are so strict that should a horse fail to meet the criteria the first time it is examined, it is never eligible again.

Posted here with the permission of the author.

First posted on the Internet in The Horseman's Advisor.

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