Sunday, 17 February 2013

New Update - some good, some sad.

Sadly another pony has had to be euthanased because of intractable hoof pain from HWSS.  This pony was bred in Connemara, purchased at Clifden and exported to Sweden.   All four legs from this much loved pony have been sent to the Farrier School in Sweden for research and teaching purposes.  She was one of the ponies whose blood sample was sent over for the part of the research which proved that HWSS is indeed genetic in origin.

It is coming up to the time of the Pony Inspections in Ireland, where in the past much purchasing of Connemara Ponies has been the norm. The genetic test for HWSS will not be available before the end of the northern summer, so any pony buyers will still need to use visual criteria to assess whether a pony is HWSS affected or not; there is no way of physically assessing carrier status.
So here are a few suggestions for onsite assessment:
  • Only consider young stock and/or breeding ponies presented without shoes and without hoof black. 
  • Be extremely wary of ponies which are shod and not in work.
  • Do not accept any reasons/excuses about the farrier 'trimming the feet too short the last time he/she was out'.  Feet that are too short is a 'red flag'.
  • Any chipping or peeling away of the outer hoof wall is a red flag.
  • Pick up the feet yourself and have a look at the structure of the hoof wall between the white line and the outer hoof wall (see photo below).
  • Look at the environment the ponies are living in. Boggy conditions masks the issue.
  • Hoof black can be used to hide the use of hoof fillers - shod and hoof blacked 'red flag'.
For those purchasing from a distance (ie not personal inspection or through an agent) ask for not only conformation photos and videos, but close up pictures of feet - unshod and not blacked, and taken with the pony standing on concrete.
Here is a picture which demonstrates that the splitting occurs within in the structures of the hoof wall and not at the white line.  This photograph comes from a Swedish HWSS site with many good quality photographs of HWSS feet.  Even with short and newly trimmed feet (a prime method used to attempt to disguise HWSS), any sign of fissures should be classed as a 'red flag'.  Normal feet do not do this.
Other news is that the final shipment of blood samples for HWSS research  has been dispatched from Germany.  A total of 184 ponies have contributed to the population study part of the research.  Well done Germany for have such pro-active breeders and pony owners.  In addition to the samples from the Connemara ponies, samples were included  from Highland ponies and Haflinger horses which demonstrate a similar hoof phenotype to that seen and known to be HWSS in Connemara ponies.  The farriers in Germany are to be commended for making the connection with the HWSS they are dealing with in Connemara ponies owned by their clients, and notifying the German research group representative about these other suspicious hooves.  Thanks must also go to the owners of these non Connemara ponies for being so willing to send samples to UC Davis.   
IF these breeds do show up as being HWSS affected it is the hope of the research group, that their relevant breed societies will be pro-active in dealing with the issues and not emulate the 'head in the sand' attitude which has been the predominant response from the Connemara breed 'authorities' with which the research group has to date met with.

One shipment of samples from Ulster has just safely  arrived at the laboratory for the population study.  30 ponies from a wide variety of bloodlines, one of which is a Scottish bred pony.  This shipment is the only one which has been sent from anywhere in Ireland.  Thank you to this pony owner for making the effort and shouldering the cost all on your own; this is appreciated by the researchers.