Hand Rearing a Foal

Hand Rearing a Foal

By Nadia Aslam

Thankfully these babies did not need to be hand raised. But every breeder should know what to do if the unthinkable happens. Strutin On The Range foals. Photo by Kelly Barnes at Pine Meadow Quarter Horses.

Thankfully these babies did not need to be hand raised. But every breeder should know what to do if the unthinkable happens. Strutin On The Range foals. Photo by Kelly Barnes at Pine Meadow Quarter Horses.

There are a number of reasons why you may be forced to hand rear a foal, from illness or death of the mare, a lack of mothering instinct, or a sickly foal. Either way, this is a very big challenge to deal with.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

The first foal that I ever had the pleasure of breeding was out of my amazing QH mare, Rosa. This was the mare that taught me everything from my first lope, to my first national championship title.

From early on in her pregnancy it was quite clear that this was going to be a BIG foal. And a big foal he was. So big in fact, that he hadn’t had enough room to develop properly in the womb, and was born with a severe case of contracted tendons. Luckily for us, we managed to save this little guy, after a lot of hours and a lot of vet’s bills!

This is the kind of unexpected thing that really can happen to anyone, so let’s run through a few of the most important considerations when preparing to hand rear a foal.


Colostrum / First feed –

The first milk that your mare produces has extra antibodies to help develop the foal’s immune system.  This is more important than you’d think, as unlike humans, foals are not born with bacteria in their gut to help protect them from infection. The foal’s own immune system is able to protect itself from around eight – ten weeks old.

The best time to feed your foal colostrum is within the first 12 hours, but anytime up to 36 hours is also acceptable.

Here are a few ways that you can make sure your foal receives this imperative feed:


  1. Milk your mare if she is still producing colostrum.


  1. Contact neighboring barns and ask if they have any. Many larger barns will freeze colostrum for use in emergencies just like this.


  1. Your veterinarian may have some on hand; alternatively they can give the foal a plasma transfusion or a colostrum replacer to help get antibodies into their system.

Remember, if you get frozen colostrum, avoid the temptation of microwaving or heating as this could kill much-needed bacteria.

Teaching the Foal to Suckle


If at all possible, teach your foal to nurse from a bucket.  This will save you many hours of sitting in a stable. To teach your foal to feed from a bucket, wet your fingers with milk from the bucket and let the foal suckle your fingers. Over a few minutes, you can gradually decrease the distance between your fingers and the milk in the bucket. Don’t worry if it takes a little bit of time, once he’s good and hungry, he’ll be glad to drink straight from the bucket.


Because our foal was unable to stand, we were forced to go the bottle feeding route.  Make sure to hold the bottle in a natural position, at the same approximate height and angle as the mare’s teat, if possible.

You can pick up bottles from your local agricultural store; we bought bottles and teats designed for calves and they worked a treat.

When to Feed

The first week is the most tiring, your new foal will need to be fed every one to two hours during this week. If you have friends and family that can take shifts it is very manageable.

What to Feed

Mare’s Milk

We were incredibly lucky that Rosa was producing a good amount of milk. I was able to take my kitchen stool out to the stable every two hours, set my bucket down, and milk my horse – a very strange sight for anyone visiting, I’m sure!

If this isn’t an option, there are a number of alternatives.

Cow’s and Goat’s Milk

These have been used as horse milk replacer with success. However, cow’s milk isn’t the ideal option as it is known to cause upset foal tummies. If this is your only option, then it’s OK, just don’t forget the colostrum first!  If goat’s milk is available, then that would be my first choice.


Mare Milk Replacer

A healthier and often more cost effective long term solution is a mare milk replacement powder. Much like baby formula, this comes in powder form.  But, be wary when it comes to the powder versus water ratio.  Studies have shown that a lot of the time, directions on these packages exceed the nutrition that you would expect to find in normal mare milk. The general rule is somewhere between 110 – 190 grams per liter of water. If you’re unsure, consult your veterinarian.


Solid Feed

After the first few days, you can offer your foal hay, grain, and milk replacer pellets. He’s not necessarily going to eat very much of it in his first month, but it should be available to him. In fact, experts agree that the sooner you can have a foal eating some solid feed, the better.

Once he’s eating a couple of pounds of milk replacer pellets each day, you can start supplementing with small amounts of creep. Remember to take things slowly when changing his diet to avoid any colic episodes.

Orphan or hand-reared foals are often weaned off of milk earlier than their “on the mare” counterparts; you can expect a hand reared foal to be weaned off milk by four months old. Sometimes people mistake this for the foal being neglected or underfed.  This is in fact not detrimental to their nutrition. If they are still receiving milk replacer pellets, this provides them with the same nutrition in pellet form.


It’s important to keep your foal warm and dry. Young orphaned or sickly foals may require extra warmth such as a fleece blanket or heat lamp. If you don’t have access to stabling at your current facility, consider leasing a stall in a barn close to your home, or ask a friend if they have space in their barn in the beginning at least.

Buddy System

As soon as possible, your foal should be around other horses. Whether they are in adjoining stalls or turned out nearby.  This interaction is important for the foal to see normal horse behavior.

When your foal is healthy enough, you should always use the buddy system.  This involves turning your horse out into a pen with another horse for them to learn the social etiquette that is expected in their “horsey culture.”

Ground Manners

Hand reared horses can have some severe behavioral problems due to being hand-reared. This can be due to them being handled by humans more than they interact with other equines.

Ways to counteract this include allowing your foal to grow up with horses as soon as possible, not directly feeding, and being prepared to discipline your foal immediately when bad behavior occurs.

After all, wouldn’t you rather be strict now and have a lovely horse for the next thirty or so years?


Post-Foaling Checklist


Health Check

As soon as the foal is born, you want to check that they are breathing and check for any limb deformities.


Dab iodine onto the umbilical cord area to prevent infection.


Ensure that your foal is fed a generous amount of colostrum as soon as possible after birth.


When your foal is born it is important that he passes his first stool.  This is made up of amniotic fluids and material ingested while within the uterus. He should pass this within a few hours, but if your foal reaches 24 hours without doing so, an enema may need to be performed.

Consult Your Veterinarian

If your foal seems especially healthy and is nursing well, it is not always necessary to call out your veterinarian. However, with foals that require hand-rearing, there are usually complications that will require veterinary attention.

For first time breeders, hand rearing a foal can seem like a daunting challenge.  Once you’re in this kind of situation, however, instinct just takes over.  After going through the initial checklist, the general day to day becomes routine and easy to manage.

When we had our foal, the first few days were the most challenging; he was given a 25% chance of survival, and we spent most of our time trying to make sure he would survive. As time went on, we set shifts for “foal duty” which made everything much easier.

The first time he trotted along at three weeks old, it made the sleepless nights and long days worth it.

It’s A Match: How to Choose the Right Stallion for Your Mare

It’s A Match:

Strutin On The Range Foal. Photo by Kelly Barnes at Pine Meadow Quarter Horses

Disposition and trainability are the key deciding factors for Mary Kay when deciding on a stallion . Strutin On The Range Foal. Photo by Kelly Barnes at Pine Meadow Quarter Horses

How to Choose the Right Stallion for Your Mare

By Melinda Davison

So, you’re breeding your mare?  While the planning is fun, it is still a very big and important task.  There are many questions to ask.  When do you want to breed her?  What do you want to do with the resulting foal? Will you be retiring her to become a permanent broodmare or will she still have a show career a few years down the road?  And certainly not the least of these questions is, WHO should you breed your mare to?


In the age of the Internet and shipped and frozen semen, the possibilities are nearly endless, compared to 20 years ago.  Gone are the days when people selecting a stallion chose based on the stallion’s location and if they had seen him in person or not.  Gone are the days of requesting VHS tapes of various stallions in order to get a glimpse at a great stallion.  Everything now is at the touch of your fingertips, from researching websites, to emailing stallion managers, to viewing multiple YouTube videos on both the stallions and their offspring.


However, does all this access to information override the basics of selecting the right stallion for your mare?  Absolutely not!  While we may have more options than ever before, it is still just as important to make the right selection.  This is not a decision to be made lightly and goes far beyond just picking the flashiest stallion or the “hottest” name of the year.  Whether you’re a rookie breeder or have been in the business for decades, it is something that everyone should spend an adequate amount of time considering.  Even then, breeding is never an exact science, and there could be surprises along the way.


With so many important factors to look at, where do you even begin?  We’ve enlisted the help of AQHA Top 5 Leading Breeder, Mary Kay Steyskal, to give us a few pointers on what she thinks about when looking at a group of mares to breed and what she takes into consideration.


“There is a big difference between breeding horses and a true horse breeder,” she explains.  “A horse breeder makes breeding selections based on time-tested and proven knowledge.”


So, what is that time-tested and proven knowledge?  According to Mary Kay, one of the most important factors to consider is form to function.  The majority of soundness issues that are seen in today’s horses can be attributed directly to poor conformation.  Be a “student” of correct conformation and the breed to know what to steer clear of in order to get a horse that is physically best suited to their job.


“You should be aware that when you breed to an individual, you are actually breeding to the entire family,” says Mary Kay.  “Also, when considering a stallion, ask yourself if you would be happy with ten mares that will look, move, and act just like he does.  We have raised most of our own broodmares, and I feel more comfortable doing this because in knowing so many generations so well, there are very few surprises.  I truly feel if I can’t raise a filly that is at least as good as, or better than, her dam, I am not doing it right to start with!”


Mary Kay looks at four factors when evaluating mares and which stallions to breed them to:


  1. Conformation and overall balance.
  2. Athleticism and movement according to discipline.
  3. Pedigree.  Use the pedigree as as guide for breeding selections.  Study the statistics of the family history of both the sire and the dam.  Look for consistency in type and longevity of performance in families where several individuals have excelled in their discipline.
  4. Disposition and trainability.  Although Mary Kay lists this last on her list, she considers them the key deciding factors in her selection of the horse.  Without these two elements, none of the others are worth anything.


Breeding horses can be a wonderful experience, but one has to remember that a lot of work goes into the planning and preparation to make the right decisions and increase your odds for a successful cross and healthy foal.  With so many options to choose from, it can be easy to be lead down the rabbit hole of just looking at the trendy sires and not taking into consideration the big picture.


As Mary Kay says, “You have to have a vision and breed the horse that satisfies you first, and then hope it will satisfy others.”


With these tips in mind, you’ll find yourself with a strong match, and with the foal you really want.


About Steyskal Quarter Horses


Mary Kay and Stan Steyskal are no strangers to the breeding business.  For over 30 years, they have successfully bred numerous champions, putting them on AQHA’s All Time Leading Breeders List since 1987.


The Steyskals’ breeding program includes stallion legends like Tiger Leo and Iron Rebel, along with broodmares that over the years have produced numerous winners like Good Version, Natural Iron, Son Of A Rebel, Crimson Iron, Lonsum Tiger, Good Miss Molly, Mr Gold Invested, Investment Stinger, and Trace Of Goodbar, just to name a few.



They Are What They Eat

They Are What They Eat

Determining the Nutritional Needs of Broodmares and Foals

by Melinda Davison with Dr. Josie Coverdale, Texas A&M University


Feeding your mare properly can increase the odds of a healthy foal, like this gorgeous colt by Allocate Your Assets

Knowing what to feed a broodmare and her developing foal can be a bit overwhelming with all of the options currently out there. Most people know that they have vastly different nutritional requirements from active adult horses, but where do you start from there? You might have questions like “Do they need to be on additional supplements?” “What supplements do they need to be on?” “Can they have too much or too little of a particular mineral or vitamin?” or “What should be my foal’s first solid food?”

The world of equine nutrition can be very confusing, but fortunately a lot of research has been done in the field over the years and both veterinarians and scientist understand nutritional needs better than they ever have before.

Show Horse Today sat down with Dr. Josie Coverdale of Texas A&M University to get answers to some of our biggest questions about properly feeding broodmares and foals. Dr. Coverdale teaches courses in equine nutrition in Texas A&M’s highly acclaimed Equine Science department and focuses much of her research on this topic.

How do the nutritional needs of a mare in foal differ from a mare that isn’t pregnant? Do they change throughout the pregnancy?

The nutrition needs of a mare change as pregnancy progresses.  During the first two trimesters of pregnancy (first seven months) there is minimal foal growth and the mare can be fed a diet based off good quality forage and the minimal incorporation of grain.  While the amount of grain fed during pregnancy should not be high, the balance of nutrients is important.

Resist the temptation during this time to mix feeds and create your own diets.  Choose a high quality feed formulated for the needs of a pregnant mare.  When approaching the beginning of the third trimester, it is important to gradually start increasing the amount of grain in your mare’s diet.  This is in preparation for the majority of fetal growth that takes place in the third trimester.


Choosing a commercial ration designed for pregnant mares ensures you are meeting nutrient requirements of both the mare and foal

The best way to monitor the success of your mare’s nutritional program is to determine her body condition score.  Broodmares should ideally be a body condition score (BCS) of 6, and maintain this score throughout pregnancy.  This is relatively easy during the first two trimesters when fetal growth in minimal, but once the third trimester starts, the mare will begin to pull nutrients from her own body if her diet is not ideal.

What is an ideal feeding program for a mare in foal to make sure the foal develops properly and the mare has adequate nutrition throughout gestation? What deficiencies are most common and what are their signs, and how can they affect the mare and her developing foal?

The most important aspects of a mare’s feeding program are quality forage and a well-formulated grain.  Mare owners should consider testing their hay and/or pasture for nutrient content.  This information can then be discussed with a local veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies.  The most common problems are low protein and mineral imbalances.

Many problems with mineral content in forage can be due to geographical location.  Testing your hay and pasture gives you an idea of whether the forage can meet the needs of your mare during early pregnancy, and if not, how much grain you should supplement to meet her needs.  Choosing a commercial ration designed for pregnant mares ensures you are meeting nutrient requirements of both the mare and foal.  These formulations contain high quality protein and careful mineral balance.  Once again, the ideal way to monitor the success of your diet is through the mare’s BCS.  If your mare has less than a score of 6, your program is not meeting her energy needs.  If greater than 6, you are over feeding.

Before breeding a mare (either a broodmare or maiden mare), are there any changes that should be made to their current feeding program?

Prior to breeding, a mare should ideally be a BCS of 6.  If not, the owner should be increasing her nutrition to help her reach this desired score.  Research is clear that mares at a BCS of 6 or greater have improved reproductive efficiency.

What are some of the most common mistakes or misconceptions about feeding broodmares?

In the industry I see two common problems; mares that are over fed and those that are underfed.  Many well-meaning owners think at the time of conception that the mare “is eating for two” and needs lots of supplemental nutrition.  We are still fully researching the effects of over feeding mares during pregnancy, but early work suggests it is not beneficial, and it is expensive.
When do foals usually begin to eat solid food in addition to their mother’s milk, and what is the best feed to provide?

432059_339556296090829_465137895_nMost foals begin to investigate and consume solid feed in the first week of life.  After two months of age, milk production in the mare begins to decline, and foals must start to consume solid feed to meet their nutritional needs.

Ideally, foals should have access to solid feed in the first month of life in order to adapt to it before mare milk production starts to decline.  This first diet of solid feed should consist of a commercial diet formulated for foals (often called creep feed) and quality forage.  The most important aspect of creep feeding is management.  Ideally, creep feed should be provided free choice to foals in an area where mares cannot reach it.

How do the nutritional needs of foals change from the time they are weanlings to when they begin training and go on to begin their performance careers? What is the adequate protein/fat/calorie intake range, and what vitamins/minerals do growing horses need?

Yes, young horses do require a change in diet as they progress from foal to weanling to yearling.  In general, nutrient requirements decrease as horses age because the rate of growth is slower.  However, this does not necessarily mean you need to change diets.  Choosing a commercial diet formulated for growth is key to success!


Providing consistent nutrition and monitoring growth rate are important steps not to be overlooked. Foal sired by Allocate Your Assets

Typically, weanlings receive diets high in grain and low in forage, while older horses can better utilize forage and require less grain in their diet.  Commercial diets formulated for growth contain a balance of carbohydrate and fat for energy and a careful mix of minerals to support bone and joint development.  Minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and manganese are all important for proper growth and must be provided in adequate amounts and ratios.

What are some common growth complications and developmental disorders associated with inadequate nutrition and deficiencies? Can any of these be corrected by adjusting the feeding program, or is the damage already done?

The incidence of developmental disorders in our industry is high, and nutrition can certainly play a role in these issues.  The important thing to strive for during the development of young horses is consistent growth.  Many owners pay little attention to the nutritional programs of their weanlings, and then, attempt to make up the difference by feeding high grain diets to long yearlings in training.

There is no stage of growth that is more important than the others, and special attention must be paid to young horses while they are rapidly growing.  Providing consistent nutrition and monitoring growth rate (weight, BCS, height) are important.  Early signs of joint disorders may not be able to be “fixed” by nutritional changes, but certainly we can help adjusting the diet to the needs of the horse.

11989_528712657175191_193250156_nHow has nutritional knowledge for broodmares and developing young horses changed over the years?

I do not think we have made any large changes, but rather the research has more accurately defined requirements for pregnancy and growth.  Diets now have a mixture of calories from fat and carbohydrate, reducing dietary starch while still maintaining growth rates.  This helps keep meal sizes small for mares and colts.  In the growing horse, we have learned more about amino acid needs, mineral requirements, and the potential impact of nutrition during pregnancy on the resulting foal.  Our formulations are now geared towards optimal performance of the mare and foal, not simply meeting nutrient requirements.



aya foalWhile there is never a one-size-fits-all feeding program for any horse, knowledge of the key basics and nutritional needs gives breeders a good place to start. If you have additional questions and concerns, contact your veterinarian to develop a diet that suits the specific needs of your mare and your foal.

About Dr. Coverdale

Dr. Josie Coverdale is an assistant professor at Texas A&M in the Equine Science department. She has focused much of her career teaching both graduate and undergraduate equine nutrition courses, and has made it a focus of her research. Some of her research projects have included forage utilization and hindgut fermentation, use of by-product feeds, probiotic effectiveness, passive immunity in foals, as well as nutritional influences on equine exercise physiology. Future research plans include investigating nutritional requirements for optimal growth and development, energy metabolism during exercise, and nutritional influences on reproduction.


Put to the Test
5-panel Testing Offers Insight to Genetic Diseases


Foals afflicted by GBED don’t live beyond a few weeks at most

HYPP. GBED. HERDA. MH. PSSM. It may sound like alphabet soup, but these are actually acronyms for some of the most debilitating equine genetic diseases. It was only a few years ago that these diseases were relatively unknown, and breeders were inadvertently playing Russian roulette with their breeding stock. However, the years of research and lab hours paid off as scientists and veterinarians have been able not only to understand more about the diseases but actually develop tests to determine if a particular horse is a carrier of one of these diseases. This not only prepares the owner for necessary treatment if the horse tests positive, but also helps breeders make educated decisions about passing on that particular horse’s genetics and lineage

Let’s take a look at these diseases that are much more than a jumbled board of Scrabble.

HYPP links back to halter stallion, Impressive

HYPP links back to halter stallion, Impressive

Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis

Most quarter horse and stock horse enthusiasts are familiar with what is commonly called HYPP, but many don’t know much about it beyond its origins back to halter stallion, Impressive, and this disease’s seizure-causing reputation.

For starters, there are three results that a horse can receive when tested for HYPP: N/N, N/H, and H/H.

  • An N/N test results means the horse is negative for the disease, is not a carrier, and may possibly prevent the offspring of the horse from requiring testing.
  • An N/H results signifies a horse carries the HYPP gene, but when bred to an N/N horse, has only a 50% chance of passing it along to its offspring.
  • H/H means the horse is not only a carrier of the disease who will pass it on 100% of the time, but is also afflicted with the disease itself. These horses are not eligible for AQHA registration, beginning with 2007 foals.

HYPP is characterized by involuntary and uncontrolled muscle spasms, extreme muscle weakness, and collapse. This disease can even be fatal. These symptoms are caused by a genetic mutation that causes a particular sodium ion channel to be dysfunctional. In layman’s terms, these channels control the electrical impulses that manage muscle contractions. When these channels can’t do their job to properly control those electrical impulses, muscle control is compromised. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty biological science of it all, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis has pulled together a great wealth of information.

The good news is that HYPP can usually be managed through diet and medication. Tips include:

  • Watch your horse’s potassium intake and levels by steering clear of foods like alfalfa, molasses, soybean and canola oils. Certain electrolyte supplements can also be high in potassium.
  • Feed multiple times a day.
  • Provide regular exercise and adequate turnout
  • Check with your veterinarian about the use of preventative drugs.
HERDA is a genetic disease that is found in Quarter Horses (photo by Dannika Bannasch, UC Davis)

HERDA is a genetic disease that is found in Quarter Horses (photo by Dannika Bannasch, UC Davis)

Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia

Like HYPP, “HERDA” is found primarily in stock breeds and is classified as a genetic skin disease. While on the surface, “skin disease” may not sound that detrimental, but due to the “missing codes” for a particular protein essential to collagen production. The lack of collagen causes hyperextensible skin, numerous lesions, and scarring, particularly where the saddle and girth sit.

Sadly, there is no cure or treatment for HERDA, and the majority of horses afflicted with the disease are euthanized. This makes genetic testing essential for those looking to use their horses as breeding stock.

Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency

Glycogen is a multibranched polysaccharide of glucose that is essential for energy storage in animals. Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency occurs in newborn foals, and is always fatal. GBED is also known to be a cause of aborted and stillborn foals. Due to the inability to store energy, the foal’s brain and muscles, including the heart, are unable to function. Rarely, a foal makes it to 4 months of age; most die or are euthanized before the 8-week mark.

While 8-10% of Quarter Horses can be affected by this devastating condition, there is a chance for any breed descended from Quarter Horses to be a potential carrier. This test is now offered as part of the 5-panel genetic testing to learn if a horse is a carrier of the genetic defect, and breeders are able to avoid passing on this gene.

Malignant Hyperthermia

Another genetic defect found in Quarter Horses and related breeds, Malignant Hyperthermia (MH), can cause increased temperature and heart rate, acidosis (excessive blood acidity), high blood pressure, excessive sweating, and tying up. The gene mutation causes extra calcium to build up in the muscles, which quickly accelerates the horse’s metabolic rate. According to the University of Minnesota, the scientific explanation of this is when “a gene mutation in the calcium release channel causes a dysfunction in skeletal muscles resulting in excessive release of calcium inside the muscle cell.” Either way, it’s a huge problem. Horses with the MH gene mutation appear normal until experiencing extreme exercise or stress, or undergoing anesthesia. Symptoms rapidly appear and, if not quickly controlled, can result in death.

Fortunately, if a horse is known to have the MH mutation, there is medication that can be given prior to being anesthetized. Since this genetic defect is a dominant gene, a horse does not need to have both defective genes present to be affected. To make matters worse, the same gene is often found in horses with PSSM making it a mutation double-whammy for breeders and veterinarians. Knowing if your horse is positive for the MH genetic defect is not only useful for breeding purposes, but also for regular management to avoid any negative reactions.

The genetic test will require a mane or tail hair sample

The genetic test will require a mane or tail hair sample

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy

With similar symptoms to Malignant Hyperthermia, the genetic defect that causes Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) is caused by excess glycogen being stored in the muscles, as well polysaccharides (an abnormal form of sugar) to build up in the muscle tissue. To complicate matters, there are actually two forms of PSSM: Type 1 and Type 2. Both cause abnormal levels of glycogen and polysaccharides to build up in the muscles, but each is caused by a different mutated gene. Due to the gene mutation that causes MH influencing the PSSM genes, it is not uncommon for a horse to be afflicted with both defects.

Tying-up is one of the most common symptoms of PSSM, followed closely by sweating, muscle stiffness, and refusing to move, particularly after exercise. Contrary to common belief, typing-up is not actually caused by too much lactic acid, but that is definitely not the case in horses with PSSM. With PSSM, sugar is moved rapidly from the bloodstream to the muscles, causing the excessive accumulation.

The good news? Aside from a test for this genetic disease, this can also be managed with proactive treatment and many horses have gone on to successful show careers. Under the guidance of a veterinarian, owners of PSSM horses can:

  • Ration foods high in starch like sweet feed, corn, oats, and molasses
  • Limit the horse’s time on pasture
  • Provide regular exercise
  • Take adequate time for both warm up and cool down during exercise

When breeding your mare, consider selecting a stallion who has a negative 5-Panel test, like Invitation Only

How the 5-Panel Test Works

Now that you know what the 5-Panel Test is looking for, let’s take a quick look at how it works.

If you’re testing a Quarter Horse, your first stop will be AQHA.com where you’ll find an online form to request your DNA kit. You’ll fill out your horse’s information, your information, payment information, and which genetic kit you’re choosing (DNA kit for a registered horse, DNA kit for an unregistered horse, HYPP kit done separate from the panel, the 5-panel test, or the 5-panel test and DNA).

Kits are normally shipped out in 7-10 business days and should arrive at your door shortly thereafter. Once you receive the kit, you’ll pull a sample of hair from your horse’s mane or tail, and ship that to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis. Once results are in, AQHA will update the horse’s record and notify the owner.

If you have any questions about the testing process, reach out to AQHA’s Customer Service at (806) 376-4811.

If you’re an APHA member, their process is a little different. They actually offer a 6-panel genetic testing for HERDA, MH, GBED, PSSM, HYPP, OLWS (Lethal White Syndrome found in the Paint Horse Breed). You can find the DNA kit request form along with the other registration forms, but unlike AQHA, this form has to be printed, filled out, and mailed back to APHA. From there, the process is pretty much the same as AQHA. You’ll receive your genetic testing kit in the mail, send back a sample of your horse’s mane and tail hair, and await the results.

For any questions or concerns, give APHA’s MemberCare a call at (817) 222-6423.

Other breeds can check with their breed association to see if genetic testing is offered. If it is not offered through the respective breed association, individual testing can be requested from facilities like the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

Yes, genetic diseases can be intimidating and devastating, but with genetic testing, the industry is making strides in eliminating the risk of passing these mutations on to the next generation. 5 panel testing can not only save money and heartbreak in the breeding industry, but also provide you valuable knowledge to work with your vet to create the best treatment plan for those manageable conditions (HYPP, MH, and PSSM).

[Sources: American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association, UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Lab, University of Minnesota Equine Center]