Apr 02, 2023

Equine Medical Research Final Report: Working Toward a Genetic Test for Heart Arrhythmias

RESULTS: Researchers record higher than reported incidence of atrial fibrillation in Standardbred racehorses.

Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers from the University of Minnesota are investigating if genetic variants can help identify horses at high risk of developing potentially fatal cardiac arrhythmias. Cardiac arrhythmias are thought to be an important cause of sudden death in horses during exercise. Most horses that develop arrhythmias have no underlying structural heart disease, making it challenging to detect animals that may succumb to the condition.

Studies in human athletes with arrhythmias, but with no underlying structural heart disease, show the condition is almost exclusively caused by genetic variants. Building on this knowledge, researchers identified 36 variants in a small number of Standardbred racehorses with atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm). These variants are in genes known to cause arrhythmias in people. The team is testing if these variants are associated with arrhythmias in a larger group of Standardbred racehorses.

Early data showed that 2% of Standardbred racehorses in the study had an arrhythmia (second degree atrioventricular block or intermittent sinoatrial arrest) at rest that is considered normal in fit and healthy horses. About 5% of racehorses also had a history of or were in atrial fibrillation, which is the most common arrhythmia known to negatively affect performance. This is higher than the previously reported frequency of atrial fibrillation (0.14%) in racing Standardbreds.

DNA analysis of samples is ongoing to determine which variants are associated with cardiac arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation. If successful, the team will use this information to develop genetic tests that will become part of screening protocols to help with early identification of horses at increased risk of developing arrhythmias, with the goal of reducing sudden cardiac death in horses. Increased monitoring of horses at high risk of sudden cardiac death will improve our understanding about why certain horses die unexpectedly during and after exercise and may lead to strategies to prevent sudden cardiac death in racehorses.

Thank you, United States Eventing Association, for your generous sponsorship of this study!

May 23, 2024 Eventing News

Weekend Quick Links: May 25-26

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

May 23, 2024 News

Christina Gray Shares How ShowConnect is Shaping the Future of Event Management

Christina Gray has been working in the horse show office since the mid-90’s. What started out as her lending a helping hand at her local horse trial turned into a full-blown career after Gray graduated from college and founded her own Gray Area Events, LLC.

May 22, 2024 Eventing News

In Memoriam: Trish Gilbert (1941-2024)

The USEA is saddened to share the news of the passing of USEA Hall of Fame member Trish Gilbert at the age of 83. Gilbert was one of the first women to break the barriers facing women competing in the sport of eventing. She had considerable success in the early years of eventing amongst non-military competitors. Gilbert held many titles throughout her years of involvement in the sport; team selector, young rider chairman, event director, licensed eventing official, and more.

May 22, 2024 Instructors

The Importance of Foot Work for Eventing Horses

Why do some horses and riders always seem to find their balance and their feet when the unexpected happens? The answer may lie in the time-tested practice of gymnastic exercises. Every rider, every horse, at every level can benefit from the use of ground poles, cavalletti, and gymnastic exercises over small fences. This article is aimed at improving the balance and stability of both horse and rider. Improved balance and stability not only contribute to better show jumping and cross-country jumping, but are the foundations of more secure and safer riding.

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