Genetic technologies in showjumping
There were a couple of interesting articles in the show jumping arena (no pun intended) that caught my eye in relevance to performance in thoroughbreds.
The first was an article about the breeder of Romulus, a world class British show jumper whose owner has elected to clone him as he reaches old-age, with the resultant foal aged 18 months old, yet to step foot into the show jumping world. Like thoroughbreds however, not all show jumping bodies will allow cloned horses to be registered. Tom Reed, breeding director of the Warmblood Studbook of Ireland, said: “We will never accept clones and their descendants, irrespective of what the FEI and other stud books do. We should be breeding horses and not manufacturing them in laboratories. Do we really want to see a World Championship where the entrants are half a dozen clones of an Olympic gold-medallist and a couple of clones of a previous world champion?”
The latter is an interesting question. Would we all be disinterested in racing if it came to pass that there was a G1 race that had a field of 6 clones of Frankel and 6 clones of Ghostzapper in it?
The other was a scientific paper that used a genome wide association study (GWAS) and found several candidate genes associated with performance in show jumpers. One of the most promising variants associated with elite performance was found near the nebulin-related anchoring protein gene (N-RAP). Like a lot of the variants that are important with equine performance (no matter the field), the N-RAP gene is associated with myofibril assembly and muscle structure. As the horse is a muscular beast (60% of its body weight is muscle), it is unsurprising that like the thoroughbred, performance in show jumpers looks to be determined by muscular function.