Horse price 'linked to front legs'
The higher a show-jumping horse can tuck up its front legs the higher its price on the international market, scientists have revealed.
Leading bioengineer Dr Sian Lawson has shown that the sale price of a horse is directly linked to how high the animal can tuck its front hoof into its shoulder when it leaps over a fence.
This contradicts previous assumptions that the back leg is the most important feature in a prime show-jumper.
Dubbed the "forelimb tuck", the tuck-up distance can be measured in a three-year-old horse and used to determine how much it is worth.
In the UK, horses are a £3.8 billion industry and with champion horses carrying a price tag of several million pounds, Dr Lawson said the results could have major implications for the world of show-jumping.
"This is not the result I was expecting at all," said Dr Lawson, herself a former professional show-jumper.
"It has always been assumed that the back leg is the most important feature in a show-jumper. The height at which a horse can raise its back leg is innate - that is, it's something the horse is born with.
"Just like some people can do the splits and others can't, so some horses are very flexible and can bring their back legs up much higher than others.
"Conversely, the front leg is not thought to be genetically linked and is very trainable. This means most horses can be trained to develop a good 'forelimb tuck'. What this research has shown is that the trainer is as important as the horse," she said.
The horses used in the study, which was presented at the Sixth International Conference on Equine Locomotion in Cabourg, were all aged between three and five years old and had sold for between 5,000 euro (£3,969) and 60,000 euro (£47,633).