How does DNA technology help in horse care?

William Woods Equestrian

DNA technology has taken off in recent years, and this doesn’t exclude the equestrian world.  Testing horses for genetic diseases, for example, can help trainers, teachers, horse owners and riders of all kinds be proactive, take preventative measures and seek proper treatment.

The genetic mutation that affects the structures of a horse’s skin, known as Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA), for example, gives them a loose and fragile skin, as well as sores, that are slow and painful to heal. While HERDA diagnoses may sound obvious, it is possible to misdiagnose a HERDA horse. A HERDA diagnosis is often career-ending, and even deadly.

One study from Brazil, reported by Equus Magazine, took full dermatological examinations and biopsies at various body points, and found that these methods alone could produce false negative results. The researchers concluded that genetic testing can “complement clinical observations in HERDA diagnosis.”

In addition to HERDA testing, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) offers a five-panel genetic test for the following genetic diseases:

  • Equine Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis Disease (HYPP);
  • Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM);
  • Malignant Hyperthermia (MH);
  • Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED);
  • And HERDA

DNA profiling can not only be used to verify or exclude parentage, it can also help to identify your horse in the event it is stolen or runs away and is recovered by a third party.

Utilizing DNA technology is relatively inexpensive, simple, non-invasive and can save you money and heartache further down the line.

William Woods University Equestrian Studies students explore various conditions affecting horses’ musculoskeletal systems, function and quality of life, as well as the practical steps to take.

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