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Because of Horses

Jul 19, 2019

Humans love horses. We all know this. And just one expression of this passion is to breed horses for particular jobs — a skill that has historically been based upon horsemanship, knowledge of bloodlines, and a significant amount of instinct. We also know that each foal brings with it a genetic legacy with the potential for qualities that make for a talented jumper, or a superb cutting horse, or a blazing fast racehorse.


In this week’s episode, Elise is joined by geneticist Dr. Emmeline Hill, all the way from Ireland, to discuss the genetics that can determine Thoroughbred racing potential. Dr. Emmeline Hill’s breakthrough discovery of the “speed gene” means that we can predict a horse’s optimal race distance by examining its DNA to determine whether it possesses genes that are more suited to sprints, to middle distance, or to longer races! This gene could also have the added benefit of helping racehorses who might otherwise get labeled “too slow” when, in fact, they may actually be fast enough if they are entered in the correct distance races.


Join Elise and Dr. Emmeline Hill in this episode to hear all about her incredible findings, the studies that have been conducted around this research, and much, much more!


Topics of Discussion:

[:25] About today’s episode with Dr. Emmeline Hill!

[1:30] What is the “speed gene” and how does it correlate to performance in racehorses?

[3:06] How have Dr. Hill’s findings matched up with actual performance on the track?

[7:35] Beyond racing: how genetic studies might someday maximize the potential of each individual horse, highlighting the discipline they are most suited for.

[13:05] Have Dr. Hill’s studies extended through the generations of horses to determine the degree to which parents pass on this gene to their offspring? And what other factors play a role in determining a horse’s potential?

[18:47] Is the gene only found in blood? Or is it possible to isolate it in tissue or hair -- even in ancient horses’ remains?

[22:30] How fast can we expect Thoroughbreds to realistically run? Is there an evolutionary or anatomical speed ceiling?

[29:10] How does Dr. Hill see breeders addressing negative components in a limited gene pool (whether it’s Thoroughbreds or any other breed with a closed stud book)?

[32:12] The importance of genetic diversity.

[33:35] How Dr. Hill’s findings can be applied to humans as well!

[36:22] Could we identify the horse-loving gene in people someday?

[36:52] About next week’s episode of the Because of Horses Podcast!

[38:08] About Dr. Hill’s legendary equestrian roots and why she originally became so captivated by horse breeding.

[40:05] How Dr. Hill applied her education in human genetics to horses and breeding.

[44:00] Where to discover more of Dr. Hill’s work.


Know Someone Inspirational, Whose Life Has Been Forever Changed Because of Horses? Because of Horses would love to get to share their story!

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Mentioned in this Episode:

Dr. Emmeline Hill



A Parent’s Guide to Riding Lessons: Everything You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive with a Horse-Loving Kid, by Elise Gaston Chand

EquestFile (Use coupon code: BOH10 to receive a 10% discount for two months off your subscription)

Next week’s episode of Because of Horses


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