An investigation into the usefulness of the British Equestrian Federation Futurity programme
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Sport horse genetic evaluations are used throughout Europe to inform breeding practices. In England specifically, British Equestrian Federation Futurity evaluations are used to assess horse potential and to inform British breeding. Futurity premium scores are allocated to represent performance potential based on horse’s component traits (primarily conformation and locomotion). This study demonstrated that over half (61/106) questionnaire respondents believe that Futurity premium scores influence horse training decisions and monetary value. This is highly relevant to the industry as premium scores can therefore have economic and welfare implications. Therefore horse premiums must be reliable and indicative of future competition performance. Retrospective Futurity premiums (n=566) were investigated for reliability using the MiniTab™ v17 statistical package. Regression analysis of premium scores versus test variables demonstrated that whilst horse age and colour significantly correlated with Futurity premiums (P=0.017 and P=0.027 respectively); sex and test location did not (P >0.05). Regression analysis of components of horse competition records (lifetime points, placings, winnings, percentage scores and penalty points) versus Futurity premiums demonstrated limited correlations. British Eventing penalty point scores correlated with the majority of Futurity scores, BD percentage scores correlated with one and British Showjumping, none. British Eventing penalty point scores appear the most appropriate measure of performance as this method evaluates each phase of the individual’s competition, unlike points/placings. Futurity component scores demonstrated mixed results. A high Futurity score did not necessarily predict a high performance score. A key issue with the data was the fact that the horses examined were relatively young. Average horse age was 7 years and therefore these horses may not have been old enough to have developed their abilities towards their mature potential, limiting competition results therefore their records and consequently affecting analysis outcomes. Furthermore, industry practitioners have highlighted judge subjectivity as a limitation, however results suggest that test location (representing the judging panel) is not influential in scoring. As the Futurity develops, a larger dataset of older horses will become available which will provide further insight into the tests usefulness.
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