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Genetic correlations between conformation traits and radiographic findings in the limbs of German Warmblood riding horses


Studbook inspection (SBI) data of 20 768 German Warmblood mares and radiography results (RR) data of 5102 Hanoverian Warmblood horses were used for genetic correlation analyses. The scores on a scale from 0 to 10 were given for conformation and basic quality of gaits, resulting in 14 SBI traits which were used for the correlation analyses. The radiographic findings considered included osseous fragments in fetlock (OFF) and hock joints (OFH), deforming arthropathy in hock joints (DAH) and distinct radiographic findings in the navicular bones (DNB) which were analyzed as binary traits, and radiographic appearance of the navicular bones (RNB) which was analyzed as a quasi-linear trait. Genetic parameters were estimated multivariately in linear animal models with REML using information on 24 448 horses with SBI and/or RR records. The ranges of heritability estimates were h2 = 0.14–0.34 for the RR traits and h2 = 0.09–0.50 for the SBI traits. Negative additive genetic correlations of rg = -0.19 to -0.56 were estimated between OFF and conformation of front and hind limbs and walk at hand, and between DNB and hind limb conformation. There were indications of negative additive genetic correlations between DAH and all SBI traits, but because of low prevalence and low heritability of DAH, these results require further scrutiny. Positive additive genetic correlations of rg = 0.37–0.52 were estimated between OFF and withers height and between OFH and withers height, indicating that selection for taller horses will increase disposition to develop OFF and OFH. Selection of broodmares with regards to functional conformation will assist, but cannot replace possible selection against radiographic findings in the limbs of young Warmblood riding horses, particularly with regards to OFF.

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Correspondence to Kathrin Friederike Stock.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Stock, K.F., Distl, O. Genetic correlations between conformation traits and radiographic findings in the limbs of German Warmblood riding horses. Genet Sel Evol 38, 657 (2006).

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  • riding horse
  • conformation
  • studbook inspection
  • radiographic finding
  • additive genetic correlation