By Emma Thorén Hellsten, Kathrin F. Stock
How can we better predict sport performance of horses at an early age? How can we create more precise and objective selection tools for sport horse breeders? How can the latest advances in technology benefit the assessment of horses?
Those were key issues and the theme for the much-anticipated International Workshop on Linear Profiling in the Warmblood Horse (IWSLP). After an involuntary break of three years, finally, a group of 63 studbook representatives, judges, and scientists from 16 countries met in the very North of Germany, referred to as ‘Holsteinische Schweiz’. To strengthen the exchange and collaboration of science and practice across countries and studbooks, a series of meetings on linear profiling in Warmblood horses and related topics has been arranged since 2013. The 2023 meeting was the 7th IWSLP, superbly arranged by the international working group on Linear Profiling, which is linked to the Horse Commission of the European Federation of Animal Science and its permanent working group Interstallion.
Linear scoring (or: linear profiling)
Instead of expressing how bad or good some phenotype is relative to a theoretical optimum (valuating score), the linear value reflects the proximity of the phenotype to the most extreme expressions. For example, the length of the neck of a horse can be described between extremely short and extremely long – without any consideration of which neck length would probably best fit the breeding goal. Linear descriptions of traits relative to biological extremes have the clear advantage of independence from breeding goals. There are many examples of successful use of linear traits in animal breeding. More recently the importance of linear systems for horses have increased, too. They are referred to as linear scoring or – in order to avoid confusion and misinterpretation with the valuating scoring – linear profiling.
Another beneficial attribute of linear systems is the refinement of trait definitions. The more objective and more detailed information of linear profiles provides transparency of the assessments of horses that cannot be achieved in the traditional system of valuating scoring, where many traits are usually clustered into trait groups like ‘legs’, ‘type’, etc.
Further information linear profiling and the linear systems used by different studbooks can be found at https://www.equinephenotypes.org/Texte/recording_ENG.html (section phenotype recording)
All participants were highly motivated to exchange experiences, learn from each other, and get some impulses for own future activities in the field of linear profiling (LP) and beyond. It was delightful to experience the pleasant atmosphere and openness with which the exchange on technical and practical topics took place, and to see how uncomplicated knowledge transfer between science and practice can happen. Thanks to the team of Gut Schön-weide, the participants had ideal conditions for the practical part on horse assessment and were delighted to see as a bonus how horse keeping in perfection may look like.
Several studbooks have adopted LP as part of their breeding programs, and many more are in the process of implementing it. Kathrin Stock from VIT (IT Solutions for Animal Production), Germany, in charge of organizing the workshops on LP from the very beginning, started this year’s event by giving a resumé of lessons learned from the studbooks that have implemented LP and the experiences of using the data it has generated.
Her first advice when creating a studbook-specific linear scheme was to check available systems in other studbooks, but in the end define a linear scheme which fits your own studbook and your breeders’ needs. A system that doesn’t correspond to the breeder’s needs won’t be accepted, used, and understood. Still, Kathrin Stock emphasized, it’s very important to avoid the pitfall of ‘valuating linear profiling’ but make the difference between the LP and the traditional valuating scoring very clear from the start. She further explained that although it may look like there are many different schemes used among studbooks, the main traits and trait groups are still very much the same... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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