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My Horse is Not Who I Thought She Was!


Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997

My Horse is Not Who I Thought She Was!

Alayne Blickle

Some of you may have read my blog back in September about Stellar, the mustang who adopted me, and whom I in turn adopted permanently. In January, I mentioned I was going to send a hair sample from Stellar for DNA testing, and I did.

Well, I received a surprise - the cavalry has arrived!

For the most part, mustangs are thought to be descendants of horses brought to North America by early Spanish explorers. Stellar looks to me like a Quarter Horse, draft pony mix, but with her beautiful long mane and tail I figured she had some Spanish blood in there some place.

I recently learned about equine genetic testing for horses, where DNA testing is used to determine ancestry. I eagerly sent in my 30-50 mane hairs, complete with hair follicles, then sat back awaiting the results. How amazing a thing it is to have a peak into my calm and kind mare’s ancestry! Stellar's genetic debut revealed something far different than I expected: Selle Français, Hackney and Holsteiner.

When I spoke with the researcher at the Texas A&M Lab where I submitted the test, he explained a few things to me, since I wasn’t familiar with Selle Français and was quite curious about her Hackney and Holsteiner parts. He referred to Selle Français as "French Thoroughbred," and said they are the genetic backbone of a lot of working horse breeds, including many of today's Quarter Horses. He also made it clear that all three of Stellar’s breeds were imported from Europe to the New World as workhorses (he said Hackneys were used as carthorses). Furthermore, he told me the US Cavalry heavily used all three breeds.

Stellar grew up in Wyoming in the Adobe Town Horse Management Area, which in the 1800s had several military posts and forts nearby. I picture her great-great-great grand parents pulling heavy, military wagons, and helping to build forts or railroads.

Based on Stellar's DNA typing, my mustang has impressive bloodlines of hard-working relatives in her background, surprisingly Northern European, and not at all Spanish. I wonder if that means Stellar and I have a future in carthorse driving?

On another note, grazing season is almost here! I'm super excited for spring, and all of the great classes and farm tours coming up. Check out our blog on rotational grazing tips and join us at one of the upcoming events; see in person how you can enhance your place and help your horses thrive this year.