DNA Testing the "Breeding Unknown" Horse

The first time I saw Liath, she was in an isolation field far away from other horses as she had a really bad case of equine flu. I did 3 years of vet school and had seen a lot of sick horses but never saw one as bad as her. But I just knew when I saw her that she was the one for me. I told myself that I wasn't going to buy a sick horse, especially not one that looked like it was at death's door. I asked the seller to contact me if she perked up and got better. Two weeks later she was mine.

She was the first mare that I owned so it was a bit of a learning curve. She didn't really show any signs of being in season so I presumed she was the quiet, non-tarty type. She gained weight and muscle and was in great shape. While grooming her one day I noticed milk on her teats. Feck! The next day she was confirmed as being in foal.

Just over a month later Setanta was born and he was the best surprise ever! He introduced me to the world of foal and in-hand showing and he also taught me how to break in a horse. I never found out much about his sire from the seller other than he was "a 3-year-old showjumping colt that was sold to England". Setanta is now a (possibly a little biased) handsome 4-year-old but I've always wondered about his sire's side. What breed was he? Is he still out competing? Does he have other progeny?

I learnt about the Weatherbys Ireland DNA Database Testing over a year ago. Setanta is registered with Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and has "dam only" breeding recorded in his passport. When he was getting passported, HSI told me I could only test him against 5 horses in the database. I had no idea who his sire was so that option was ruled out. Weatherbys Ireland now offers a service of DNA testing against the entire database so if his sire has been DNA tested he will be found.

Setanta has "dam only" breeding on his passport

As he was previously been DNA tested (for his "dam only" breeding on his passport) his information is already on file. Otherwise, I would have had to request a DNA kit from the HSI, get a vet to remove tail hairs, with the roots, and sign off on it. This would then be sent to Weatherbys who would then test it against the DNA database.

The service costs €80, which isn't too bad. There is the chance his sire was only issued with an identification passport thus they would not have his DNA on file, so we wouldn't get a match, but I figure it's worth trying. One potential drawback to this is that if a sire is found I may be required to pay a covering fee in order to get the breeding added to the passport. Fair enough, stallions owners should be paid for any coverings. 

I'm really hoping we get a match, I'm just so curious about who and what Laith was covered by. I'll keep you updated with our results.


  1. I find this so interesting! I love when owners trace the history of their horses. Good luck and keep us informed!

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