Scientists have recently identified genetic variants that are responsible for determining whether a horse trots or paces. An algorithm has been created that is 99.4 percent accurate at determining which way a horse will move.
Prior to this discovery, it was known that a “gait-keeper gene” existed; mutations on the DMTR3 gene resulted in a horse's gaitedness, but it didn't explain the variability within the gaits. Drs. Samantha K. Beeson, Carl-Johan Rubin, Leif Andersson, Paul Caputo, Sigrid Lykkjen, Alison Moore, Richard J. Piercy, James R. Mickelson and Molly E. McCue identified several specific variants in the regions on the genome in Standardbreds that were associated with pacing.
The ended up using a pool of 659 Standardbreds from Sweden, Norway and the United States; there were 231 pacers and 428 trotters in the study. From these, the team developed a model that is 99 percent accurate in predicting if a horse will trot or pace.
Though more research is needed to determine if the algorithm is applicable across all breeds, the researchers feel that the model can be used by Standardbred owners to make breeding and training decisions. Additional work would determine the algorithm's potential usefulness with other gaited breeds.
The researchers stress that a mutation on a gene that may not be recognized for its neural development or locomotion role may prove functional in the development of equine gaits.
Read the study here.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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