Horse Breed DNA Testing

I’ve had several people ask about the equine ancestry DNA testing that I had done on Ink, so I thought I’d share info here.

Ink came with no known history and only guesses at her breeding, but having had a Standardbred before I strongly suspected that Ink was one based on her movement, looks, and temperment. I heard about the equine ancestry DNA testing at Texas A&M.

I was skeptical, as the dog DNA tests are rather inaccurate and working in the veterinary field, we all kind of laugh at them. However, the Texas A&M equine DNA test is supposed to be much more accurate. I suspect this may be the case because there are less overall different horse breeds, and they have remained relatively pure over a long period of time, and there are significantly less mixed breed horses compared to dogs. After searching online, it seems that most results confirm the suspected breed of horse or aren’t surprising. It seems that the testing was originally done on mustangs as part of a project, but has since been offered to all breeds. I read that the more mixed a horse is, the less accurate the results may be, but that it seems to be pretty accurate if there are just one or two main breeds. I figured for such a low price that it would be fun to do just out of curiousity.

If you are interesting in equine ancestry DNA testing, you can write to Dr. Gus Cothran at gcothran@cvm.tamu.edu and he can e-mail you the form. Or, you can just send them your horse’s info. They ask for the horse’s name, age, breed or suspected breeds, sex and color. Plus your name, address and phone number. Attach 30-50 mane and/or tail hairs (pulled including the root) to the sheet of paper with all of this info, making sure to NOT tape over the follicles. Send to:

Animal Genetics Lab
CVM, VIBS
4458 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-4458

They ask that the $35 check be made payable to Texas Agri-Life Research-VTAN.

I emailed Dr. Cothran and recieved a reply very quickly with the form and instructions. Not wanting to sway the results at all, I just wrote “mixed” on the submission form where it asked for suspected breed. I recieved results a couple weeks later. It was like Christmas morning the day I got the letter. Sure enough, I was right, and Ink’s primary breed is Standardbred.

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I’m not really sure about the secondary breeds (Criollo and British Warmblood). I’m guessing that is farther back genetic ancestry, rather than a direct cross, as I’ve never seen a Criollo horse and actually had to google the breed. It turns out they are from South America and are a hardy rugged horse that is used for long multi day endurance rides without being provided any additional food beyond native grasses. Sounds like good genetics for what Ink and I do! I’m thinking she is mostly Standardbred, with some mixed breeding thrown in the family tree at some point.

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Standardbreds are my favorite breed, and this was no surprise, but was a welcome confirmation of my guess. If anyone is looking for a new horse for endurance or even sport horse disciplines (or really anything for that matter!), look into Standardbreds. They are really amazing athletes and have the most wonderful temperments. My first STB was Mocha, who I did dressage and lower level eventing with. She was very talented in dressage; she had a lovely free walk and big expressive trot. Her canter took some work to develop, but eventually was nice and received average scores with an amateur rider/trainer. She was mistaken more than once for a Trakehner at dressage shows. She wasn’t a fancy jumper, but was safe and easily jumped 2’9″ courses with a not very helpful rider… ;)

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my first STB, Mocha

Ink is my second STBx and has proven herself to be The Best Horse Ever. I absolutely love Ink. She is everything I could ever hope for: sensible yet very forward, great work ethic and wonderful personality. Ink has really taken to endurance and seems to love it, but she easily could’ve gone a different direction too. The dressage cross training we’ve done seems to come easily and naturally to her, and she enjoys it. We’ve jumped a couple times, and she figured that out right away as well, and of course seemed to have fun.

Basically, Standardbreds aim to please, have a great work ethic, and are happy doing almost any job.

Ink was recently featured in a series of blog posts about Standardbreds in endurance:
Check it out, and be sure to read about the other awesome Standies too!

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