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Concept: Horse gait


Many genes are known to have an influence on conformation and performance traits; however, the role of one gene, Myostatin (MSTN), has been highlighted in recent studies on horses. Myostatin acts as a repressor in the development and regulation of differentiation and proliferative growth of skeletal muscle. Several studies have examined the link between MSTN, conformation and performance in racing breeds, but no studies have investigated the relationship in Icelandic horses. Icelandic horses, a highly unique breed, are known both for their robust and compact conformation as well as their additional gaits tölt and pace. Three SNPs (g.65868604G>T [PR8604], g.66493737C>T [PR3737] and g.66495826A>G [PR5826]) flanking or within equine MSTN were genotyped in 195 Icelandic horses. The SNPs and haplotypes were analyzed for association with official estimated breeding values (EBV) for conformation traits (n=11) and gaits (n=5). The EBV for neck, withers and shoulders was significantly associated with both PR8604 and PR3737 (p<0.05). PR8604 was also associated with EBV for total conformation (p=0.05). These associations were all supported by the haplotype analysis. However, while SNP PR5826 showed a significant association with EBVs for leg stance and hooves (p<0.05), haplotype analyses for these traits failed to fully support these associations. This study demonstrates the possible role of MSTN on both the form and function of horses from non-racing breeds. Further analysis of Icelandic horses as well as other non-racing breeds would be beneficial and likely help to completely understand the influence of MSTN on conformation and performance in horses.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Horse, Haplotype, Icelandic horse, Ambling, Horse gait


Significant proportions of horses leave the Australian Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing industries, which has ramifications for both the economic sustainability and the public perception of racing. The aim of this study was to quantify potential horse wastage, describe the destinations of exiting horses and identify risk factors for horses going to these destinations.

Concepts: Sustainability, Purebred, Horse racing, Standardbred horse, Arabian horse, Breed registry, Horse gait, Patti Smith


Horseback riding is the most fundamental use of domestic horses and has had a huge influence on the development of human societies for millennia. Over time, riding techniques and the style of riding improved. Therefore, horses with the ability to perform comfortable gaits (e.g. ambling or pacing), so-called ‘gaited’ horses, have been highly valued by humans, especially for long distance travel. Recently, the causative mutation for gaitedness in horses has been linked to a substitution causing a premature stop codon in the DMRT3 gene (DMRT3_Ser301STOP) [1]. In mice, Dmrt3 is expressed in spinal cord interneurons and plays an important role in the development of limb movement coordination [1]. Genotyping the position in 4396 modern horses from 141 breeds revealed that nowadays the mutated allele is distributed worldwide with an especially high frequency in gaited horses and breeds used for harness racing [2]. Here, we examine historic horse remains for the DMRT3 SNP, tracking the origin of gaitedness to Medieval England between 850 and 900 AD. The presence of the corresponding allele in Icelandic horses (9(th)-11(th) century) strongly suggests that ambling horses were brought from the British Isles to Iceland by Norse people. Considering the high frequency of the ambling allele in early Icelandic horses, we believe that Norse settlers selected for this comfortable mode of horse riding soon after arrival. The absence of the allele in samples from continental Europe (including Scandinavia) at this time implies that ambling horses may have spread from Iceland and maybe also the British Isles across the continent at a later date.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Europe, Horse, Icelandic horse, Iceland, Ambling, Trot, Horse gait


For centuries, domestic horses have represented an important means of transport and served as working and companion animals. Although their role in transportation is less important today, many horse breeds are still subject to intense selection based on their pattern of locomotion. A striking example of such a selected trait is the ability of a horse to perform additional gaits other than the common walk, trot and gallop. Those could be four-beat ambling gaits, which are particularly smooth and comfortable for the rider, or pace, used mainly in racing. Gaited horse breeds occur around the globe, suggesting that gaitedness is an old trait, selected for in many breeds. A recent study discovered that a nonsense mutation in DMRT3 has a major impact on gaitedness in horses and is present at a high frequency in gaited breeds and in horses bred for harness racing. Here, we report a study of the worldwide distribution of this mutation. We genotyped 4396 horses representing 141 horse breeds for the DMRT3 stop mutation. More than half (2749) of these horses also were genotyped for a SNP situated 32 kb upstream of the DMRT3 nonsense mutation because these two SNPs are in very strong linkage disequilibrium. We show that the DMRT3 mutation is present in 68 of the 141 genotyped horse breeds at a frequency ranging from 1% to 100%. We also show that the mutation is not limited to a geographical area, but is found worldwide. The breeds with a high frequency of the stop mutation (>50%) are either classified as gaited or bred for harness racing.

Concepts: Horse, Nonsense mutation, Purebred, Domestication of the horse, Ambling, Trot, Horse gait, Peruvian Paso


The Icelandic horse is a breed known mainly for its ability to perform the ambling four-beat gait ‘tölt’ and the lateral two-beat gait pace. The natural ability of the breed to perform these alternative gaits is highly desired by breeders. Therefore, the discovery that a nonsense mutation (C>A) in the DMRT3 gene was the main genetic factor for horses' ability to perform gaits in addition to walk, trot and canter was of great interest. Although several studies have demonstrated that homozygosity for the DMRT3 mutation is important for the ability to pace, only about 70% of the homozygous mutant (AA) Icelandic horses are reported to pace. The aim of the study was to genetically compare four- and five-gaited (i.e. horses with and without the ability to pace) AA Icelandic horses by performing a genome-wide association (GWA) analysis. All horses (n = 55) were genotyped on the 670K Axiom Equine Genotyping Array, and a GWA analysis was performed using the genabel package in r. No SNP demonstrated genome-wide significance, implying that the ability to pace goes beyond the presence of a single gene variant. Despite its limitations, the current study provides additional information regarding the genetic complexity of pacing ability in horses. However, to fully understand the genetic differences between four- and five-gaited AA horses, additional studies with larger sample materials and consistent phenotyping are needed.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Mutation, Evolution, Horse, Icelandic horse, Ambling, Horse gait


This study investigated the effects of rider weight in the BW ratio (BWR) range common for Icelandic horses (20% to 35%), on stride parameters in tölt in Icelandic horses. The kinematics of eight experienced Icelandic school horses were measured during an incremental exercise test using a high-speed camera (300 frames/s). Each horse performed five phases (642 m each) in tölt at a BWR between rider (including saddle) and horse starting at 20% (BWR20) and increasing to 25% (BWR25), 30% (BWR30), 35% (BWR35) and finally 20% (BWR20b) was repeated. One professional rider rode all horses and weight (lead) was added to saddle and rider as needed. For each phase, eight strides at speed of 5.5 m/s were analyzed for stride duration, stride frequency, stride length, duty factor (DF), lateral advanced placement, lateral advanced liftoff, unipedal support (UPS), bipedal support (BPS) and height of front leg action. Stride length became shorter (Y=2.73-0.004x; P0.05). In conclusion, increased BWR decreased stride length and increased DF proportionally to the same extent in all limbs, whereas BPS increased at the expense of decreased UPS. These changes can be expected to decrease tölt quality when subjectively evaluated according to the breeding goals for the Icelandic horse. However, beat, symmetry and height of front leg lifting were not affected by BWR.

Concepts: Effect, Horse, Height, Icelandic horse, Back, Horse racing, Ambling, Horse gait


Horse owners choose whether or not to train American Saddlebred horses (ASHs) to perform the 4-beat gaits called rack and slow gait. The rack and slow gait are similar to ambling gaits shown to be associated with variation in the DMRT3 gene in other breeds but are trained rather than naturally occurring gaits. A premature stop codon in the DMRT3 gene (DMRT3_Ser301STOP) caused by the Ch23:g.22999655C>A SNP has an effect on the pattern of locomotion in horses and allows for the pacing gait and strong association with performance of ambling gaits in diverse breeds. We used horse show records to identify ASHs trained to perform as 5-gaited horses and compared them to other Saddlebreds for the prevalence of the A allele of the Ch23:g.22999655C>A SNP of DMRT3. Genomic DNA was typed using a PCR-RFLP technique for 5-gaited ASHs (n = 55), 3-gaited or harness ASHs (n = 64) and ASHs not shown (n = 128). We did not observe differences in the frequencies of the Ch23:g.22999655C>A SNP of DMRT3 when comparing 5-gaited ASHs to other ASHs (P > 0.22). These results suggest that DMRT3 alleles do not affect the choice of breeders to train and show ASHs as 5-gaited horses.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Genotype, Allele, Ambling, Horse gait, American Saddlebred


In this study, we classify four horse gaits (walk, sitting trot, rising trot, canter) of three breeds of horse (Jeju, Warmblood, and Thoroughbred) using a neuro-fuzzy classifier (NFC) of the Takagi-Sugeno-Kang (TSK) type from data information transformed by a wavelet packet (WP). The design of the NFC is accomplished by using a fuzzy c-means (FCM) clustering algorithm that can solve the problem of dimensionality increase due to the flexible scatter partitioning. For this purpose, we use the rider’s hip motion from the sensor information collected by inertial sensors as feature data for the classification of a horse’s gaits. Furthermore, we develop a coaching system under both real horse riding and simulator environments and propose a method for analyzing the rider’s motion. Using the results of the analysis, the rider can be coached in the correct motion corresponding to the classified gait. To construct a motion database, the data collected from 16 inertial sensors attached to a motion capture suit worn by one of the country’s top-level horse riding experts were used. Experiments using the original motion data and the transformed motion data were conducted to evaluate the classification performance using various classifiers. The experimental results revealed that the presented FCM-NFC showed a better accuracy performance (97.5%) than a neural network classifier (NNC), naive Bayesian classifier (NBC), and radial basis function network classifier (RBFNC) for the transformed motion data.

Concepts: Artificial intelligence, Horse, Naive Bayes classifier, Radial basis function network, Radial basis function, Ambling, Horse gait, Reining


OBJECTIVE To compare gait mechanics and limb loading in Icelandic horses tölting and trotting at equal speeds and estimate their impact on orthopedic health. ANIMALS 12 orthopedically normal Icelandic horses. PROCEDURES Kinetic and kinematic gait variables were simultaneously recorded as each horse was ridden at a tölt and trot on an instrumented treadmill at 3.4 m/s and 3.9 m/s. Differences between gaits were tested via 1-factor repeated-measures ANOVA. RESULTS Horses had a higher stride rate and lower stride impulses at a tölt than at a trot. For forelimbs at a tölt, shorter relative stance duration resulted in higher peak vertical force (Fzpeak). Conversely, for hind limbs, longer relative stance duration resulted in lower Fzpeak. The higher head-neck position at a tölt versus trot caused no weight shift to the hind limbs, but a higher forehoof flight arc and lower proretraction movement were identified. Stance durations for forelimbs were briefer than for hind limbs at a tölt, and the inverse was observed at a trot. Minimal height of the horse’s trunk at the point of Fzpeak of the respective limb suggested a spring-like mechanism for all limbs at a tölt. Hind limb measurements revealed no evidence of increased collection. Stride-to-stride limb timing varied more at a tölt than at a trot. At a trot, horses had brief or no suspension phases and a slightly 4-beated footfall rhythm was common. Post hoc energetic estimations revealed that tölting at the measured speeds was less advantageous than trotting. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE High forelimb action in Icelandic horses and higher head-neck position at a tölt were associated with more restricted limb proretraction, higher Fzpeak, and faster force onset than at a trot. The impact of these differences on orthopedic health needs to be investigated more in detail.

Concepts: Horse, Classical mechanics, Velocity, Icelandic horse, Ambling, Trot, Combined driving, Horse gait


Measurements of respiratory exchanges in genuine exercise conditions are undoubtedly of interest to further define the energy needs of endurance horses. However, the equine K4b2, the gas exchanges portable device validated for equines, has not been used in Arabian endurance horses yet. Therefore, the objective of this study was to implement field cardio-respiratory measurements in such horses using the equine K4b2 in order to assess energy expenditure (EE). Measurements of heart rate (HR), oxygen uptake (VO2), carbon dioxide production (VCO2), respiratory frequency (RF), tidal volume (VT) and minute expired volume (VE) were carried out at rest and during a 20-min submaximal incremental field exercise in five trained Arabian endurance horses equipped with the K4b2 system. The relationship between HR and VO2 was determined for each horse. EE of the exercise session was calculated from direct VO2 measurements and individual HR-VO2 regression. Out of the five horses, four tolerated the equipment. Respiratory and metabolic variables at rest and during exercise, as well as EE measured at the different gaits, were consistent with reported values in exercising horses: VO2 ranged from 4.8 to 54.1 ml/min per kg from rest to canter, respectively, and EE from 82 to 1095 J/min per kg BW. The 20-min exercise session EE accounted for 6258 and 6332 J from direct VO2 measurements and individual HR-VO2 regression, respectively, which did not differ significantly. Providing an adaptation period and several technical adjustments, the present equine K4b2 could be used to assess EE in Arabian endurance horses in a controlled environment. The prediction of EE from the individual VO2-HR relationship might be an alternative method to evaluate EE when VO2 measurements are not possible.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Oxide, Horse, Physical fitness, Pony, Equestrianism, Horse gait