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For the Best Polo Ponies

Researchers in Argentina are kicking off a project to analyze the genomes of about 80,000 horses bred for playing polo, AFP reports. It adds that they aim to figure out which balance of gene variants makes an ideal polo pony.

Argentine polo horses have been bred over years by crossing a Criollo line that is descended from Andalusian and Arab horse that arrived with Spanish conquistadores and English thoroughbreds that arrived with British immigrants, AFP says. It notes that polo — and stud farms — is big business in Argentina.

Cloning is increasingly common among polo ponies, according to AFP, which notes that a clone of a prize mare sold for $800,000. But Sebastian Demyda, one of the project leaders, tells AFP that that narrows the horses' gene pool and with a cost of $30,000 is only available to the wealthy. With this project, they aim to then launch a genetic breeding program to then develop horses with the desired physical and temperamental attributes.

Argentina "is absolutely at the cutting-edge of applied research into polo ponies," Demyda tells AFP.