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Horse Hair Analysis
 By Winniefield Park   •   26th Sep 2017   •   929 views   •   0 comments


Since the 1980s hair analysis has been easily available to horse owners although it has been around since the mid-1800s. Taking a hair sample is pretty straightforward compared to taking a blood, tissue or urine sample. The only thing easier might be collecting a manure sample for parasite testing. But what is to be learned through analyzing a horseís hair sample? Well, it depends on who you talk to and what you read. Hair testing may be an effective way to test for some things, but for others, it may be pure quackery.

The procedure is to simply pull 30 to 40 strands of mane or tail hair, root and all, and placing the hair in an envelope before mailing it off to a company that will do the analysis. Alternatively, coat hair is shaved close to the skin and packaged The various companies have specific instructions as to how the hair should be packaged and most seem to have video to help you get it right. From there, the lab will test the hair sample and return a report of their findings to you, usually within a week or two.

So, what can a hair sample reveal? Hair samples wonít tell you much about the current well-being of the horse. However, there are a few useful things that the sample will tell you about a horseís past.

DNA Testing
DNA can be extracted from almost any tissue, but it is a simple procedure to take a hair sample. Laboratories specializing in DNA analysis can compare your horseís DNA to othersí to determine if the horse is related. Some companies store the information they collect so that owners have their own database of results. So through a hair sample, you can confirm your horseís pedigree. DNA can also reveal horses that are genetically predisposed to various inheritable diseases. Coat color is another thing that can be determined through DNA anaysis, For breeders looking to produce foals with a certain coat pattern or color, hair analysis is an easy way to collect tissue from a sire and dam and determine if their mating has a good chance of producing the desired coat.

Drug Analysis
Keeping in mind that hair analysis gives you a picture of what happened in a horseís past, it is useful to learn about drugs or toxins a horse may have had in its system long term. This use of DNA may be particularly useful for racehorse drug testing. Anabolic steroids are sometimes used to enhance the muscle and endurance of a horse. The effect of the steroids continues long after it is no longer administered, and canít be detected through urine or blood sampling. Hair, however, holds traces of the long-term use of steroids. The British Horseracing Authority has considered using hair analysis as a means to test horses for signs of illegal doping.

Other toxic substances can be detected too. Hair samples taken from the taxidermied coat of the famous racehorse Pharlap were found to contain arsenic. Testing done at the time of the horseís death ruled out arsenic poisoning. But in light of the hair samples, experts feel the testing confirmed that the horse was most certainly poisoned, either intentionally or accidentally.

Mineral and Nutritional Analysis
While it would be very useful to be able to determine your horseís nutritional needs through a hair sample, many experts believe this isnít possible. Again, the main reason that itís not an accurate way to judge what is happening right now. Hair taken from different parts of the body, from different colors on the body, taken during different seasons and in different environments can return very different results. Throughout the year, the hair grows at different rates. Tests have been done to compare hair sampling done by various laboratories and it was discovered that not one laboratory sent back results that were even close to the result of the others. So while hair analysis has its place, using it to enhance your feeding program and determine your horseís overall health isnít a great idea.
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