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21 January 2007
 

WHAT IS A "BLOOD" HORSE?

by Tom Reed

For me there are three dimensions of "blood": genotype, phenotype, and athletic expression.

The necessary but not sufficient condition is that there MUST be a large percentage of thoroughbred blood in a relation in a forward position in the horse's pedigree. (A large percentage of Arab or Anglo Arab blood is also acceptable, and in my view sometimes more desireable than pure thoroughbred blood, if the Arab is of the sport horse type or the AA has a TB relation in a forward position in his or her pedigree.) A horse that has 50% TB blood by pedigree analysis, where the TB blood is dispersed far back in the pedigree, is not the same as a horse that is 50% TB by virtue of having a TB sire or dam (or a horse that is 50% TB by virtue of two of his grandparents being thoroughbred).

If a horse meets the necessary condition above, the next question I ask in determining if he or she is a "blood" horse is: Does the horse in his phenotype express the TB blood found in his pedigree? Consider this example: the old Irish formula for breeding showjumpers is to cross a TB sire with an Irish Draught mare to produce an Irish Sport Horse (ISH). Such a cross is at least 50% TB and meets the necessary condition because the TB blood is in a forward position in the pedigree (i.e., the sire). But in many cases the resulting ISH is not a "blood" horse because the horse's phenotype reflects more his ID ancestry than his TB ancestry. So genotype is important but phenotype is also very important: Are the TB genes clearly expressed in the flesh and bones of the animal we are examining?

If a horse meets the genotype and phenotype conditions, the next question I ask is: Does the horse express "blood" in his athleticism? I do not equate "heat" (a "hot" horse) with "blood", as I have seen hundreds of "hot" sport horses of all breeds that are not "blood" horses according to any conventional definition: they are just difficult horses to ride (and/or manage). What I expect in a "blood" horse's athletic expression is energy, stamina, toughness, courage, and quick reflexes.

In summary, for me a "blood" horse has three attributes:

He possesses a high percentage of TB/AA/Arab in the pedigree contributed by a parent (or grand-parents);

He looks like a horse with a high percentage of TB/AA/Arab blood;

He works like a horse with a high percentage of TB/AA/Arab blood.

For me, unless these three conditions are met, we have an ersatz "blood" horse. This is what we are seeing in many studbooks: highly elegant, refined horses with decreasing percentages of TB/AA/Arab blood in in the pedigree with each passing generation that do not express themselves athletically like a true "blood" horse does.

Finally, mares and stallions that meet the three criteria should be considered a "blood" horse for breeding purposes only if they pass on to their progeny in a pronounced fashion the "blood" phenotype and way of working.