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Six-panel genetic testing for horses is a diagnostic tool used by horse owners, breeders, and veterinarians to assess the genetic predisposition of a horse to specific hereditary diseases or traits. This type of testing provides valuable information about a horse’s genetic makeup, allowing for informed breeding decisions and proactive management of potential health concerns. Here’s an explanation of what a six-panel genetic test typically includes:

  1. Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA): HERDA is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue in a horse’s skin. Horses with HERDA often have fragile skin that tears easily, leading to chronic wounds and skin issues. Genetic testing can identify whether a horse carries the HERDA mutation.
  2. Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP): HYPP is a genetic disorder in some horse breeds, particularly in descendants of the Quarter Horse stallion Impressive. Horses with HYPP can experience muscle tremors, paralysis, and even sudden death due to potassium imbalances. Genetic testing helps determine if a horse carries the HYPP gene.
  3. Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy Type 1 (PSSM1): PSSM1 is a muscle disorder that can cause exercise intolerance and muscle pain in affected horses. This condition is associated with the accumulation of abnormal glycogen in muscle tissue. Genetic testing identifies whether a horse carries the PSSM1 gene mutation.
  4. Malignant Hyperthermia (MH): Malignant hyperthermia is a rare condition where a horse’s body temperature rises dangerously high after exposure to certain anesthetics. It can be life-threatening. Genetic testing helps determine if a horse is susceptible to MH.
  5. Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED): GBED is a genetic disorder that affects the metabolism of glycogen in a horse’s body. Horses with GBED often do not thrive and may have severe health issues. Genetic testing can identify whether a horse carries the GBED gene mutation.
  6. Equine Hereditary Cataracts (HC): Equine cataracts are a hereditary condition that can cause visual impairment or blindness in affected horses. Genetic testing helps identify whether a horse carries the HC gene mutation.

The primary goal of six-panel genetic testing is to identify if a horse carries any of these genetic mutations, as this information can inform breeding decisions and help prevent the transmission of these hereditary conditions to future generations. Responsible breeders often use genetic testing to select mating pairs, reducing the risk of producing offspring with these disorders.

Keep in mind that the specific genetic tests available and the diseases they cover may vary depending on the laboratory or service providing the testing. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian or genetic testing provider for the most up-to-date information on available tests and their applications in horse breeding and management.

Once your mare is pregnant, consider her nutritional requirements in three stages. The first stage is the first two-thirds of her pregnancy. During this time, the fetal size does not increase significantly and your mare should still be on a maintenance diet. Her body condition should stay constant, again without losing or becoming obese. A mare that is losing weight will have a hard time re-breeding, and an obese mare will have more trouble foaling due to weak muscles and condition. If necessary, this stage of pregnancy is the best time to adjust body condition because they can increase energy stores while nutrient demands are relatively low.

The second stage of your mare’s pregnancy is the last three months. In this time, the fetus increases about one pound per day, accounting for two-thirds of fecal growth. Energy, protein, calcium, and phosphorous requirements increase. When your mare is on a maintenance diet, good hays and grasses or legumes will usually be enough. Once into her last three months, it is a good idea to consider supplementing with concentrated feed sources.

The third stage of pregnancy is lactation. This stage requires by far the most nutrients and is a time of great physiological stress. The only other time that any horse’s nutritional requirements would be as high as during lactation is if they are in very intensive training. During this time your mare has to recover from the stress of parturition, produce milk, and often re-breed. All of her nutritional requirements will increase. During lactation, a healthy mare will produce 3% of her body weight in milk per day for the first three months, then 2% of her body weight in milk per day towards the end of lactation. If her nutritional needs are not met during lactation, her body condition will be affected the most. In extreme nutrient deficiency, milk production can decrease as well. As your mare’s milk production decreases, her feed intake should be adjusted as needed. At weaning, feed intake should be gradually decreased, allowing the mare to “dry up” faster and will prevent obesity. You should allow 7-10 days for mares to adjust to intake changes.

It is important to consult your veterinarian before any nutritional changes in your mare’s diet, and your veterinarian should be actively involved in your mare’s pregnancy. You can also contact your local Cooperative Extension office with any questions.

Gibbs, Pete G., and Karen E. Davison. “Nutritional Management of Pregnant and Lactating Mares.” Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science Equine Sciences Program. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. http://animalscience.tamu.edu/images/pdf/nutrition/nutriton-nutr-mgmt-pregnant-mares.pdf

Nutrition of the Broodmare.” University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. http://www.uky.edu/Ag/AnimalSciences/pubs/asc112.pdf.