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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • Thoroughbred;
  • genetics;
  • application;
  • breeders

Summary

The understanding and application of genetics have grown extremely quickly since it has become possible to sequence the whole genome of an organism. The human genome sequence was completed in 2001 and that of the horse in 2007. The significance of this is that it makes it more feasible to explain how both genetically simple and complex traits are transmitted from one generation to the next and, therefore, to make informed breeding decisions, modify how horses are managed and trained to minimise the risk of disease and injury, and improve methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of many conditions. The science of genetics/genomics will continue to grow internationally, limited only by the funds available. The application of the science to man, horses and other species raises very complex moral and commercial issues. Thoroughbred breeders are perceived by some as resistant to change, but their apparent intransigence is often based on a genuine concern for the integrity of the breed. By taking control of the application of the advances in genetics, the Thoroughbred industry potentially has the opportunity to improve both the health and performance of Thoroughbreds. If, however, the science is applied in an uncoordinated manner, driven by commercial interests with no underlying concern for the horses themselves, there is a very real risk that breeders, the Thoroughbred breed and individual horses will all suffer as a consequence.