Genetic Testing for American Quarter Horses

Find out why the University of California at Davis handles all of AQHA's DNA, parentage verification and genetic testing lab work.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Editor's note: This article appeared under the title "Testing 1, 2, 3 ..." in the December 2013 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal

Long-term relationships are definitely not something to overlook. That’s how the AQHA Executive Committee and AQHA registration department staff feel about the Association’s relationship – and contract – with the University of California-Davis for all of the registry’s DNA, parentage verification and genetic testing lab work.

“We’ve worked with UC Davis since the 1960s,” says Tammy Canida, AQHA director of registration operations.

And as a result of that long-term relationship, UC Davis has been able to build a huge database of American Quarter Horse genetic data. That’s something you don’t walk away from and something other labs simply don’t have.

“That enables a new sample to be cross-matched with an older sample from the same horse to ensure that they are the same,” Tammy explains. Another benefit is UC Davis provides all tests results to AQHA electronically.

“That eliminates the need for us to hand-enter those results into AQHA’s system, thus eliminating the chance for error,” Tammy adds.

Tammy says there’s security in the relationship AQHA has with UC Davis.

“We know our people – breeders and owners – make a lot of very critical decisions based on the results of our DNA, parentage verification and genetic disease tests – they decide whether to geld or breed an animal based on these test results,” she adds.


The Five-Panel Test


Thanks to decades of research, we now know that defects in inheritable genes are responsible for some of the diseases that afflict some American Quarter Horses. The effects of these diseases are wide-ranging, from mild and manageable to severe and terminal. Passing these diseases on to successive generations often causes unnecessary suffering and also leads to financial losses for breeders.


Fortunately, genetic tests have been developed to help breeders identify affected horses, allowing them to make better decisions and avoid perpetuating these traits. AQHA offers a panel test for five genetic diseases – glycogen branching enzyme deficiency, heredity equine regional dermal asthenia, hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, malignant hyperthermia and polysaccharide storage myopathy.


Order a Genetic Test


When a horse owner orders an AQHA panel test, AQHA will send a DNA kit, and the owner will mail it to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California-Davis for testing. Once the tests are complete, AQHA will notify the owner with the results.


The tests cost $85 for members and $125 for nonmembers. For the panel test in conjunction with the DNA test required for most breeding stock, the cost is $105 for members.


The kit asks for mane hair, but tail hair works, too. Most important, however, is for the roots to be attached to the hair. AQHA offers a genetic test for equine coat color. The coat color panel test cost begins at $85. You can order a kit by calling customer service at 806-376-4811 or at