The 18th edition of the Belgian Warmblood Foal Auction has once again selected an outstanding collection of foals. All the foals were bred from renowned and proven dam lines matched to sires with an excellent track record in jumping.
Selection based on a horse’s performance in sport is linked to health-based selection. More than ever before, horses that are expected to perform successfully at the relevant level in sport have to be intrinsically healthy, especially if they are going to compete for any length of time at elite level. This now has even more relevance as radiographic screening of young horses has become standard practice before they start a jumping career. Horses assessed to have an increased risk of lameness are often not even given the opportunity to prove themselves in the ring. Today’s riders and owners are only prepared to invest their time and money in healthy horses with the ability to pass a veterinary inspection without too many difficulties when they are older and that can therefore be used for commercial purposes.
There is no sense in radiographically screening the foals presented at the auction. Their skeletons are still developing and no firm findings can be stated regarding the quality of the navicular bone, presence or absence of osteochondral defects, prevalence of fetlock fragments, etc. Blood samples taken from foals with a DNA analysis performed for genomic selection by the KWPN do not provide sufficient certainty either. The reliability of the results of this DNA analysis, the so-called genomic breeding value, is low – the figure for various stallions registered with the KWPN in 2016 was reported to be around 40%. It is also important to bear in mind that this only refers to osteochondrosis. Genomic selection for the quality of the navicular bone, fetlock fragments, osteoarthritis, etc. has not been developed, not to mention the classic soft tissue disorders that can affect sport horses.
In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so the BWFA resolutely stands behind it decision to select based on practical experience and proven results. Sport and health are linked and the growing list of references in the sport demonstrates the success of this approach.
BWFA and contributor Prof. Dr. F. Pille (University of Gent)