DNA Parentage Testing


In 2022 Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) announced the Microsatellite (MS) to Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) DNA transition scheme.

Phase I of the transition saw an invitation to all Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine (DAFM) sport horse studbooks to participate in the scheme, funded under National Breeding Services operated by Horse Sport Ireland (HSI). Participating sport horse studbooks were allocated several SNP tests to generate a ‘reference library’ of their active breeding herd.

To date, The Connemara Pony Breeders Society, Kerry Bog Pony Co-operative, Irish Harness Racing Association, Leisure Horse Ireland and HSI studbooks (Irish Sport Horse, Irish Sport Pony, Irish Draught, Irish Cob, and Irish Part bred Cob studbooks) have re-analysed almost 10,000 mares and stallions on the SNP technology. This re-sampled population provides the basis for phase II of the project, implementing SNP parentage verification for the 2023 sport horse foal crop.

This is a hugely significant move for the sport horse sector in Ireland; ovine and bovine parentage testing moved from MS to SNP testing in 2009. Equines are the only remaining species using MS for parentage verification. This transition provides Irish breeders with the opportunity to become world leaders in equine genetics, joining the KWPN and German Studbooks.

There are significant advantages to using the SNP technology in horses such as improved accuracy of pedigree, preservation of rare lines, monitoring health related genes and potential abnormalities, predicting coat colour and, in time, research on other breeding and performance related traits.

What does this change look like for Irish breeders?

Breeders may receive multiple hair sample bags for submission to their studbook during foal registration – this is normal!

You will still need your vet to mark, and hair sample your foals.

To generate a reliable SNP profile for the foal, it is essential to have the SNP genetic profiles of both parents of the animal.  In some cases, only one parent will be SNP technology. This will require sire/dam AND foal hair samples for SNP typing. See our graphic below outlining when an MS test is required.

ALL HAIR SAMPLES MUST BE RETURNED TO THE PASSPORT ISSUING ORGANISATION (PIO) AND NOT THE LABORATORY. Please ensure to submit all hair samples as directed in your foal kit.

The Veterinary Council of Ireland and Irish Equine Veterinary Association have been notified of this transition, the potential for multiple sample bags and to return hair sample bags to the PIO.


What kind of sample is required?

Good hair sampling is imperative for a successful transition. A minimum of 50 clean, intact hairs pulled from the root must be submitted to the PIO for SNP sampling. These hairs must have the follicle/hair blub intact. Please ensure there is no soap or other residue on these hairs.

What is the cost?

There is no cost to the breeder for SNP testing of the sire, dam or foal. Dam/Sire SNP testing is supported by the DAFM-HSI National Breeding Services at 100%.

Foal SNP typing is supported by the DAFM Equine Technical Support fund at 70%, the other 30% is included in the studbook registration fee.

MS technology is no longer supported by the DAFM and participating sport horse studbooks. If a breeder requires a MS test, they will be required to cover the laboratory cost of €31.50 to the registering studbook. It is important that stallion SNP samples are submitted if requested to prevent this cost to the breeder. If you have already received a request for your stallion hair sample, please return this to the registering studbook as soon as possible.

How do I know if my mare/stallion was included in the reference library?

It is not possible for any PIO to predict all potential breeding stallions and mares in the reference library. If you are breeding this year and would like to ensure your stallion/mare is on the SNP technology, please fill out the contact form via the Breeder ‘G’ Checker button below. If they are not included in the reference library, the studbook will issue the required sample bags.

Many PIOs are working to upgrade their websites to offer an online ‘G’ (SNP genotype) checker function. This will remove the need to request information as you will be able to check this online.

I am breeding from a non-pregnant OR maiden mare; will she be on SNP?

She may be on the platform if she has foaled in the previous three years OR engaged in previous National Breeding Service schemes. Please fill out our contact form via the Breeder ‘G’ Checker button below to make a request. If they are not included in the reference library, the studbook will issue the required sample bags.

I am a stallion owner/agent, what do I do?

If you are a stallion owner or agent, you are obliged to ensure that your stallion meets the DNA testing requirements of the studbooks for which the progeny is to be entered. DAFM has declared that SNP is the DNA platform to be applied by the sport horse sector in Ireland. Please use our contact form via the Breeder ‘G’ Checker button below code to determine if a sample is required for the standing stallion(s).

This is particularly important for stallions standing abroad, where a hair or semen sample may be required to prevent the additional MS testing cost to breeders who are expecting 2023 foals.

If you would like to ensure that your stallion or mare is included in the SNP reference library, please click on the button below:


Horse Sport Ireland is proud to be at the forefront of this technology, providing breeders with the most accurate and efficient equine DNA analysis possible.

This scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under National Breeding Services and Equine Technical Support funding.