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Conference abstract, 2016

Genetic analysis of temperament traits assessed by riders and judges at Icelandic horse field tests

Sigurðardóttir, Heiðrún; Eriksson, Susanne; Albertsdóttir, Elsa


Temperament is an important trait in the breeding goal for Icelandic horses. The aim is a very willing, even fiery, horse that is easy to handle and tries to please the rider. In breeding field tests judges assess conformation and riding ability including the trait ‘spirit'. The aim of this study was to give more insight in how well the trait spirit describes different aspects of the temperament that riders seek in Icelandic horses. A questionnaire about temperament of the horse was distributed to judges and riders at breeding field tests in Iceland in 2014 and 2015. A seven-point scale was used and the trait spirit was included together with total suppleness of the horse derived from the sub-traits rein contact, nerve strength, top line, head carriage and cooperation. In 2015 the total suppleness was based on rein contact and nerve strength only. In total judges answered the questionnaire for 2,088 horses, whereas the response from riders was lower with answers for only 451 of the horses. Genetic parameters were estimated using REML animal model in the DMU package. Estimated heritabilities for temperament traits were low to moderate and differed depending on whether assessments by judges or riders were used. Higher heritabilities were estimated for nerve strength and suppleness when assessed by riders (0.4) compared with by judges (0.1-0.2). Estimated genetic correlations with spirit were 0.8-1.0 for all temperament traits assessed by riders. When assessed by judges, the genetic correlations with spirit were in the range 0.5-1.0, with the lowest correlations estimated between spirit and nerve strength, and between spirit and rein contact. Genetic correlations between judge and rider assessments of the same traits were high except for spirit (0.6) and rein contact (0.5), but estimated with high standard errors. We conclude that the current assessment of temperament work rather well but could be further improved. Future studies of behavior of Icelandic horses in their daily environment and of temperament faults as reason for culling are planned.

Published in

Annual meeting of the European Association for Animal Production
2016, number: 22, pages: 574-574
Book title: Book of Abstracts of the 67th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science
ISBN: 978-90-8686-284-9, eISBN: 978-90-8686-830-8
Publisher: Wageningen Academic Publishers


67th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science