Reasons for performing study: Warmblood horse studbooks aim to breed horses with a conformation that will enable elite future sports performance, but reduce the risk of early retirement due to lameness. Negative conformational traits, such as asymmetrical or 'uneven' forefeet may possibly shorten the career of sporthorses. Objectives: To investigate the significance of foot conformation at young age to duration of the career of sporthorses. Methods: Databases of the Royal Dutch Warmblood Studbook (KWPN) and of the Royal Dutch Equestrian Sports Federation (KNHS) were matched and resulted in a dataset comprising 23,116 records of horses for which their conformation scores and duration of their sports career were available. Survival analysis was used to determine which of the conformation traits had a significant effect on duration of sports career in dressage and jumping at basic and elite level.Results: Duration of competitive life was shorter for jumping than for dressage. A different set of risk factors was found for each level and discipline. The trait 'uneven feet' tended to shorten the competitive life in dressage, but was a significant risk factor at the elite level of jumping. Conclusions: Limb conformation and, in particular, the conformation of the distal limb, are important for duration of competitive life. From the prevalence of uneven feet in sports disciplines, it may be concluded that this is an undesirable trait, particularly at the elite level of jumping, since uneven feet have a detrimental effect on the duration of competitive life in a sporthorse population. Potential relevance: This study provided evidence that the conformation trait uneven feet has a negative effect on Warmblood jumping performance and, therefore, breeders should be encouraged to avoid this phenomenon at foal age.
- swedish warmblood