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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Consequences of specialized breeding in the Swedish Warmblood horse population

Bonow, Sandra; Eriksson, Susanne; Hellsten, Emma Thoren; Viklund, Asa Gelinder


In many European warmblood studbooks, clear specialization toward either jumping or dressage horses is evident. The Swedish Warmblood (SWB) is also undergoing such specialization, creating a possible need for separate breeding programs and a discipline-specific Young Horse Test (YHT). This study investigated how far specialization of the SWB breed has proceeded and the potential consequences. Individuals in a population of 122,054 SWB horses born between 1980 and 2020 were categorized according to pedigree as jumping (J), dressage (D), allround (AR), or thoroughbred (Th). Data on 8,713 J horses and 6,477 D horses assessed for eight traits in YHT 1999-2020 were used to estimate genetic parameters within and between J and D horses and between different periods. Future scenarios in which young horses are assessed for either jumping or dressage traits at YHT were also analyzed. More than 80% of horses born in 1980-1985 were found to be AR horses, while 92% of horses born in 2016-2020 belonged to a specialized category. The average relationship within J or D category was found to increase during the past decade, whereas the relationship between these categories decreased. Heritability estimates for gait traits were 0.42-0.56 for D horses and 0.25-0.38 for J horses. For jumping traits, heritability estimates were 0.17-0.26 for J horses and 0.10-0.18 for D horses. Genetic correlations between corresponding traits assessed in J and D horses were within the range 0.48-0.81, with a tendency to be lower in the late study period. In the future scenarios, heritability and genetic variance both decreased for traits that were not assessed in all horses, indicating that estimation of breeding value and genetic progress for these traits could be affected by a specialized YHT. However, ranking of sires based on estimated breeding values (EBVs) and accuracy of EBVs was only slightly altered for discipline-specific traits. With continued specialization in SWB, specialization of the YHT should thus be considered.


breeding value; dressage; genetic parameters; jumping; sport horses; Young Horse Test

Published in

Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics
2023, Volume: 140, number: 1, pages: 79-91
Publisher: WILEY