THE DARK

EQUUS - - Eq Perspectiv­e -

spec­trum: One stood six hands, three inches (27 inches) at the withers and the other mea­sured 10 hands, one inch (41 inches).

Af­ter re­view­ing the com­bined data, the re­searchers con­cluded that a spe­cific vari­ant in a gene known as HMGA2 is an im­por­tant reg­u­la­tor of height in Shet­land Ponies. One copy of the mu­tant al­lele0 leads to height re­duc­tion of al­most four inches. Ponies that carry two copies of the mu­tant al­lele on av­er­age are al­most eight inches shorter than ponies that do not have the mu­tant al­lele.

The re­searchers found the mu­tant al­lele in Shet­land Ponies and, less fre­quently, two other pony breeds, the Ger­man Rid­ing Pony and the New For­est Pony. It has not been found in full­sized horses.

Ref­er­ence:

PLoS One,

A slight but sig­nif­i­cant hu­man ten­dency to prize ex­tremes in equine head or neck shapes may have neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions for horses, ac­cord­ing to Aus­tralian re­searchers.

“The wel­fare is­sues sur­round­ing the po­si­tion of horses’ heads and necks in some dis­ci­plines such as dres­sage and rein­ing are well known,” says Ge­orgina Cas­par, a PhD can­di­date at the Univer­sity of Sydney. “Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is the prac­tice of hy­per­flex­ion, also called rol­lkur, which forces the horse’s neck into an ex­tremely arched po­si­tion, some­times for ex­tended pe­ri­ods.”

The is­sue ex­tends be­yond train­ing, Cas­par con­tin­ues. “There is also a con­cern that breed­ing choices that pro­duce foals which have a cer­tain ‘look’ or ‘type’ might neg­a­tively af­fect a horse’s ath­letic abil­ity and gen­eral health.”

With those con­cerns in mind, Cas­par and her col­leagues de­cided to sur­vey Aus­tralians about their pref­er­ences for par­tic­u­lar equine head and neck shapes and po­si­tions. Re­spon­dents were asked to choose their ideal shape from a se­ries of sil­hou­ettes rep­re­sent­ing var­i­ous

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