a1 Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-75007 Uppsala, Sweden
For many years, the breeding value estimation for Swedish riding horses has been based on results from Riding Horse Quality Tests (RHQTs) of 4-year-olds only. Traits tested are conformation, gaits and jumping ability. An integrated index including competition results is under development to both get as reliable proofs as possible and increases the credibility of the indexes among breeders, trainers and riders. The objectives of this study were to investigate the suitability of competition data for use in genetic evaluations of horses and to examine how well young horse performance agrees with performance later in life. Competition results in dressage and show jumping for almost 40 000 horses from the beginning of the 1960s until 2006 were available. For RHQT data of 14 000 horses judged between 1988 and 2007 were used. Genetic parameters were estimated for accumulated competition results defined for different age groups (4 to 6 years of age, 4 to 9 years of age and lifetime), and for different birth year groups. Genetic correlations were estimated between results at RHQT and competitions with a multi-trait animal model. Heritabilities were higher for show jumping than dressage and increased with increasing age of the horse and amount of information. For dressage, heritabilities increased from 0.11 for the youngest group to 0.16 for lifetime results. For show jumping corresponding values increased from 0.24 to 0.28. Genetic correlations between competition results for the different age groups were highly positive (0.84 to 1.00), as were those between jumping traits at RHQT and competition results in show jumping (0.87 to 0.89). For dressage-related traits as 4-year-old and dressage competition results the estimated genetic correlations were between 0.47 and 0.77. We suggest that lifetime results from competitions should be integrated into the genetic evaluation system. However, genetic parameters showed that traits had changed during the over 35-year period covered due to the development of the sport, which needs to be considered in future genetic evaluations.
(Received December 16 2008)
(Accepted November 30 2009)
(Online publication January 19 2010)