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Fragility of the Modern Performance Horse - Breeding or Husbandry?

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  • Fragility of the Modern Performance Horse - Breeding or Husbandry?

    After a decade of waiting to pursue my dream of "restarting" a young thoroughbred mare I had the experience of having a perpetually unsound partner with mental problems to boot. Needless to say I have a lot of questions about soundness and how we got to this point with our performances horses. I will never forget growing up with backyard ponies that went out, everyday, rain or shine, knee-deep mud, ice, or not. I was elated when one of my mother's friends invited me to visit a very posh dressage barn with her one day but I recall being absolutely aghast at how many horses were inside on stall rest. After my experience I certainly have a better sense of why things are done the way they are at sport horse barns (individual turn out, no turnout in rain, bring horses in when they run, etc.) but I guess I do not know why these things are so detrimental to the modern horse.

    So, why can't our performance horses live like horses? How can it be possible to have a horse without any self-preservation? Now do not get me wrong, if you have a high-level horse and you choose to put it in a pasture by itself or with small buddies to prevent injury that is one thing, but how many of you would turn your sport horses out in the woods? Mud? How many can perform at least a basic level of sport barefoot? All serious questions and I swear I am not being snarky in the least. I am genuinely curious.

    Does anyone believe these qualities have to do with how a foal is raised and it's environment while learning to be a horse? Or is most of this (hoof quality, ability to stay sound in a herd) genetic?

    I apologize if this has been talked about before I could not find much in the way of this topic using the search terms that I choose. This truly is not meant to be inflammatory - I am genuinely interested in hearing people's opinions on this matter. The journey back into horse ownership is going to be a long road for me and I want to have an honest discussion with the experts (breeders and sport horse owners) to have a better understanding of what I am getting myself into. Thanks!

  • #2
    Dont think you are being snarky! I'm not a breeder but have focused on dressage for a number of years. I have a couple thoughts, with nothing more than anecdotal evidence.
    1. Dressage horses seem to be bred to be ever bigger and with more "expressive" movement. IMO this seems to lead to soundness issues. (Other trends in other breeds as well..)
    2. The level of work and training demands seem to be tougher than in the past, and that may be cause of more stress-related injuries.
    3. Cost of land has gone up, reducing the ability for farms to have big, open pastures. Boarding facilities limit turnout in inclement weather for a variety of reasons: Florida rain also comes with lightening; not great for the staff who have to bring horses in. Northern climates struggle with ice and again, part of the issue is staff safety as well as facilities not wanting to be responsible for injuries to client horses. Too much horse turnout in muddy seasons can ruin pastures if space is limited.
    Some years back I had a TB gelding who failed at the track and became a lovely dressage horse. Not a famous name in his pedigree. But he never took a lame step ex one case of cellulitis/lymphangitis; he went out with a group in some pretty iffy NE Ohio weather, and was incredibly smart about walking on ice. One.....step....at...a...time, lol. But he spent a lot of his early years with big Kentucky pastures and some buddies.

    Will be interesting to see other thoughts.

    Comment


    • #3
      It is husbandry. Turnout really, truly makes a difference.

      Their early years and how they are turned out, worked, and managed will shape their future soundness and longevity as well.

      Full turnout is good for horses, especially when they are young. Without that constant stimulation and conditioning that comes from constant movement, there's a likelihood that horse will never be as sound as a horse that had access to unlimited turnout or movement.

      Unfortunately, very few places can afford or house full turnout - it's hard on their property, and turnout is usually a limited resource that needs to be cycled through several horses a day.

      Stalling in general is industry standard, but it does no physical favors to the (sound, working) horse and as little as 6 hours in a stall can cause damage; there's been some very interesting studies about how the hoof and structures in the hoof & limb in particular are altered when a horse is stalled daily.

      A stalled horse will never have the same limb conditioning and strength as a horse in similar work that is kept outside.

      My performance horses are turned out in a herd, 24/7. They live in the NE, so mud is part of their life. They have trees in their paddock and pastures as well.

      Yes, there is an inherent risk to keeping your horses in a herd situation, but the trade off for me is that my horses are physically and mentally happier, which makes their jobs easier and their willingness to do the jobs I ask of them better. They rarely have the issues that seem to be common in boarding barns (such as ulcers, tendon and ligament issues, etc) - and I don't think that's because my program is superior - it's just because, in my honest observation, the constant exercise that comes from full turnout keeps a horse very sound and fit.. and keeping them outside, with a herd on a roundbale, makes them far less likely to develop ulcers.

      I don't believe that in many breeds the inherent soundness has decreased. Maybe what we ask of them, and how we keep them, plays a larger role in their soundness than their genetic proclivity for longevity.


      AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

      Comment


      • #4
        My coach puts her new OTTB on basic pasture sometimes for a few years before she gets around to restarting them. They do very well out there, the only difference from the ponies and stock horses and Iberians is the TB don't all hold weight as well in the winter.

        I agree with the reasons listed by 2tempe especially size. 14.2 is probably optimal size for horse longevity and over 16 hands tends to more height related injuries.

        I'd also say that many dressage WB are ridden in ways that damage tendons, plus there is the unknown of how much DSLD is really out there in WB as it tends to be very slowly progressive. And many TB just have poorly conformed feet. And with OTTB you are always taking a gamble on old track injuries or wear and tear.

        I also think that it's really good for a horse to have the chance to blast around full speed at liberty. The pasture OTTB organized wind sprints for themselves a couple times a day. I went for years never really letting my big Paint blast under saddle, but she always got attended turnout to really rip and roar and play. Now that I am doing happy hand gallops in the open and on trails she doesn't rip in turnout as much. But I feel she really benefited from all that play and it kept her fit. But many people will not let a high dollar horse run like that in turnout. So the horse never gets a chance to stretch out and really move and develop some canniness about fences and footing

        Comment


        • #5
          Like beowulf said, I think management plays a huge component in why horses seemingly used to be more sound. When I think back to the ponies we bombed around on as kids, it was a totally different world. The A show circuit started in early May (a few weeks before Devon) and ended in late October with the Royal Winter Fair. The other six months of each year were spent foxhunting, trail riding, or just fooling around. There was always plenty of turnout time.

          There were no year round competitions, horses didn't live 24/7 in stalls, and they didn't get the same-thing-every-day pounding that they do now. Obviously there's less open land available now--and that's one of the reasons that riding and owning a horse has become much more expensive. It seems like very few people ride for fun anymore. If they're going to go to the expense of owning a horse, they want to compete. And they want to win. Preferably today.

          All those things have to be contributing factors when it comes to current horses' physical and mental soundness.
          www.laurienberenson.com

          Comment


          • #6
            There are a lot of good points here, but I see some conflation of issues, or maybe over generalization, in the question.

            It sounds to me that you had very unfortunate luck with your OTTB project, OP. We’ve all been there, or seen it happen to family and friends. There are certainly stereotypes about bad TB feet, etc. However, when I think about the OTTBs in the barns I’ve been in over the years, I can also think of many who were among the soundest horses in the barn. Same with warmbloods; for every fancy import that goes lame when the rider tries to move up to 3’6”, there have been those who truck around year after year with only minor intervention.

            Separate from the above, I think there there is very little tolerance of risk to high-dollar horses and difficult logistics for horses with a busy competition schedule. Owners and trainers are unwilling to risk a turnout injury, and certainly not a herd injury, in the short term, even if there are long-term benefits.

            Comment


            • #7
              I know that I will never spend more than $15,000 or so on a horse in my future. I also grew up with my parents not spending more than $1,500. So my experience with the more high dollar horses are through friends.

              Sorry that your restarting experience is going poorly--so disappointing.

              As far as performance horses living more like horses--I think it would be so good for them. In my experience owning horses (17 years both boarding and keeping them at home) I find that they are generally happiest, and healthiest when kept out as much as possible WITH horse buddies. Of course, there are always exceptions, but the majority of horses I've encountered enjoy being horses. It's no secret that keeping them moving and grazing is healthier for them for a myriad of reasons. I've been able to majorly scale back on supplements and the amount of concentrated feed by keeping my horses in more "natural" ways.

              Now, I don't think it's a magic pill. We see in dog breeding that there are those who breed for looks, temperament, and soundness and we see the same thing in horse breeding. However, it's easier to breed for one thing and breeding is an art as much as a science so sometimes things don't go the way they "should". And breeders will breed what people buy. In general, young horses who have big movement and developed early get bigger dollars. We support them being produced quickly and at a young age which will most likely lead to soundness issues in the long run.

              Basically, I think it's a multi-faceted issue. Turn-out and care so the horse can learn common sense. Breeding issues that will never go away (as they haven't in the dog industry). And rewarding bringing young horses up too quickly.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thank you all so much for the discussion thus far. I have long been a believer in letting horses be horses for optimizing their health and happiness. It was my experience that perhaps by the time I had gotten my mare she missed a few crucial life lessons that can only be learned as a foal in a herd (or something else, maybe she was just special).

                To further facilitate - one problem I ran into was that as soon as I found a situation where this OTTB I mentioned above was allowed to live out in a herd (three years old at the time), I had about three maybe four weeks of a happy horse before I was rehabbing a serious tendon injury. Said mare also required four shoes to be sound for anything outside of living in the pasture. While I realize hoof health can often be due to dietary issues, I know plenty of horses that are perfectly sound despite getting a fraction of what this particular mare got for feed!

                The reason I thought this would be worth talking about is because the more I share her story (she ended up being PTS - the tendon injury came back around the 2 year mark, my vet and I could not solve behavioral issues, I spent everything I could afford to try to get this mare to a happy point but failed) the more I seem to be collecting other people's stories of this happening to them or their good friend, etc. After a few months of pondering I have to wonder if it is not because of how a foal is treated in its first year or two of life and what it gets exposed to. Once upon a time I boarded an Arabian mare at a Rocky Mountain Horse breeding farm and those babies were off and trail riding next to momma on imperfect footing within weeks of hitting the ground!

                Comment


                • #9
                  That's an interesting question.

                  If you take a range bred horse at age 4 and keep it in a stall, will it be sounder than a horse that spent it's baby years in a stall and paddock exurban farm?

                  It's hard to say of course because range bred horses tend more to stock breeds. Though certainly there are good WB and Iberian breeders up in our cowboy country because the land is cheaper and the climate healthier for horses. I myself have long thought that if I went looking for a good young horse I would like it to have grown up on the range.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by beowulf View Post
                    It is husbandry. Turnout really, truly makes a difference.

                    Their early years and how they are turned out, worked, and managed will shape their future soundness and longevity as well.

                    Full turnout is good for horses, especially when they are young. Without that constant stimulation and conditioning that comes from constant movement, there's a likelihood that horse will never be as sound as a horse that had access to unlimited turnout or movement.

                    Unfortunately, very few places can afford or house full turnout - it's hard on their property, and turnout is usually a limited resource that needs to be cycled through several horses a day.

                    Stalling in general is industry standard, but it does no physical favors to the (sound, working) horse and as little as 6 hours in a stall can cause damage; there's been some very interesting studies about how the hoof and structures in the hoof & limb in particular are altered when a horse is stalled daily.

                    A stalled horse will never have the same limb conditioning and strength as a horse in similar work that is kept outside.

                    My performance horses are turned out in a herd, 24/7. They live in the NE, so mud is part of their life. They have trees in their paddock and pastures as well.

                    Yes, there is an inherent risk to keeping your horses in a herd situation, but the trade off for me is that my horses are physically and mentally happier, which makes their jobs easier and their willingness to do the jobs I ask of them better. They rarely have the issues that seem to be common in boarding barns (such as ulcers, tendon and ligament issues, etc) - and I don't think that's because my program is superior - it's just because, in my honest observation, the constant exercise that comes from full turnout keeps a horse very sound and fit.. and keeping them outside, with a herd on a roundbale, makes them far less likely to develop ulcers.

                    I don't believe that in many breeds the inherent soundness has decreased. Maybe what we ask of them, and how we keep them, plays a larger role in their soundness than their genetic proclivity for longevity.

                    I 100% with this. Just to give example of the Arabian breed, I live in the Middle East, there is no 'turn out' as you would think, there is sand paddocks that are very deep sand. Most of the 'breeders' here are backyard types, and they usually do keep their babies in small sand paddocks where the babies can not move around like they should, the sand is so deep a lot of the babies already have issues with their legs before their first bday. Hence why most people import Arabs from France, Australia and USA. The couple of decent Arabian stud farms here have large paddocks but once again deep sand, people dont seem to understand what deep sand does to a babies legs. They are usually stabled most of the time and maybe have 2/3 hours in the paddocks. So when it comes to the horses soundness its nonexistent. There is no formal breeding for any breeds here, and the couple of warmblood cross or thoroughbred cross horses bred here are usually not sound for very long. The big Arabian breeders do import quarter and paint horse mares to be used in embryo transfer, they spend millions on this but very few places spend the money to put in grass paddocks or any turn out larger than 2 stables put together. Due to this 'local' bred horses are looked down upon and are treated inferior due to the fact that they have not only bred subpar to subpar but on the occasion that they do breed fantastic stock they end up being a conformational issue knees down. Ive seen some really wonderful Arabs who's legs are a mess because as foals and yearlings was not given 1. proper nutrition 2. proper turnout on decent ground or both those together. We have one breeder here who breeds Arabian racing horses and he is the only one I know who has any grass paddocks and turns out his babies for more than a couple of hours a day if at all.

                    To live in the Middle East, where the majority of what they do is endurance and use the Arabian yet spend millions (not exaggerating ) to import instead of use their own horses just shows you how a horses soundness is affected by not having proper turn out and decent ground. Most of the horses bred here end up with tendon and suspensory issues due to not only them being bred to horses with leg issues but also due to no turn out or turn out in insanely deep sand and living in stalls where they can not walk and get their tendons and ligaments strong.
                    So of course breeding horses here will result in a more fragile horse, who's riding career will not be that long ( of course there are exemptions to this but those are not the norm)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by nu5ha View Post

                      I 100% with this. Just to give example of the Arabian breed, I live in the Middle East, there is no 'turn out' as you would think, there is sand paddocks that are very deep sand. Most of the 'breeders' here are backyard types, and they usually do keep their babies in small sand paddocks where the babies can not move around like they should, the sand is so deep a lot of the babies already have issues with their legs before their first bday. Hence why most people import Arabs from France, Australia and USA. The couple of decent Arabian stud farms here have large paddocks but once again deep sand, people dont seem to understand what deep sand does to a babies legs. They are usually stabled most of the time and maybe have 2/3 hours in the paddocks. So when it comes to the horses soundness its nonexistent. There is no formal breeding for any breeds here, and the couple of warmblood cross or thoroughbred cross horses bred here are usually not sound for very long. The big Arabian breeders do import quarter and paint horse mares to be used in embryo transfer, they spend millions on this but very few places spend the money to put in grass paddocks or any turn out larger than 2 stables put together. Due to this 'local' bred horses are looked down upon and are treated inferior due to the fact that they have not only bred subpar to subpar but on the occasion that they do breed fantastic stock they end up being a conformational issue knees down. Ive seen some really wonderful Arabs who's legs are a mess because as foals and yearlings was not given 1. proper nutrition 2. proper turnout on decent ground or both those together. We have one breeder here who breeds Arabian racing horses and he is the only one I know who has any grass paddocks and turns out his babies for more than a couple of hours a day if at all.

                      To live in the Middle East, where the majority of what they do is endurance and use the Arabian yet spend millions (not exaggerating ) to import instead of use their own horses just shows you how a horses soundness is affected by not having proper turn out and decent ground. Most of the horses bred here end up with tendon and suspensory issues due to not only them being bred to horses with leg issues but also due to no turn out or turn out in insanely deep sand and living in stalls where they can not walk and get their tendons and ligaments strong.
                      So of course breeding horses here will result in a more fragile horse, who's riding career will not be that long ( of course there are exemptions to this but those are not the norm)
                      That's really interesting. With all the Arabians used in endurance in North America, I tend to think of them as tough and sound.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What an interesting discussion! I think a lot of it does have to do with breeding, just based off what types of horses I have seen hold up to sport over the past few years. I grew up on thoroughbreds, like many of you I would guess, but I haven't touched one in over 10 years now. The modern thoroughbred is so hard to keep sound that I feel sorry for my OTTB owning friends (of course I know a few exceptions to this and they are FABULOUS, but the vast majority barely hold up to low level work).

                        My warmbloods stay pretty sound, even my older FEI level horses. They are high maintenance though - some have special shoes, some require special diets, some joint support, etc. They do have 24/7 access to turn out though which I think probably helps my older guys stay sound.

                        I also have native ponies are they are pretty indestructible. They can go barefoot. They never take a lame step. They eat hardly anything but stay fat and happy. They work the same amount as my warmbloods but don't require a fraction of the care.

                        So yes, breeding must play a part, but I think environment can definitely help or hinder.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've noticed that a lot of modern TBs are not bred for longevity. As a result they're significantly more "fragile" than horses bred for a long career.

                          While this is an anecdote I can't help but think about my 3 horses; 2 warmbloods and a thoroughbred. My warmbloods are 27 and 20 and sound with solid feet (1 barefoot and 1 in front shoes only) and the ability to live outside 24/7 in a herd environment without much injury. Even at their age they don't require much maintenance for a job. My TB, on the other hand, was retired at 16 due to arthritis and requires 4 shoes to be in any sort of work. He could probably be made sound for light riding with injections, NSAIDs, and something like Adequan.
                          Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
                          My equine soulmate
                          Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                            That's really interesting. With all the Arabians used in endurance in North America, I tend to think of them as tough and sound.
                            They are. Just not in this part of the world where they actually came from. Due to the things Beowulf stated. We are now breeding unsound horses with conformational issues and not correcting anything. Hence why people in this part of the world spend millions importing Arabians from America, France (usually with russian breeding) Australia. Here it’s very normal for a 3 year old to have a tendon injury, or suspensory injury. So I do believe that here in this part of the world we are breeding fragility into horses that used to be renowned for how tough they are.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Definitely an interesting and complex topic. Everything here is really just anecdotal.
                              It seems to me that horses (and ponies) are living longer than they did in the past. I think it’s also possible that owners, riders, and trainers are willing to retire their horses earlier, at the slightest unsoundness. There is a stigma associated with working unsound horses, and rightfully so.

                              Anecdotally?
                              My welsh pony went blind in one eye at age 8, eye removed at age 12. No one could figure out why he went blind. At that point he was retired from showing. Otherwise sound. Lived to be 34.

                              My children’s hunter was a tb x paint that developed ulcers and hind gut acidosis at age 10 that we had extreme difficulty managing. We ended up euthanizing. Otherwise sound.

                              Next horse was a sport bred tb. Awful feet, otherwise sound.

                              Next horse was an ottb. Developed shivers at age 6. Pasture sound only by age 8. Ok feet.

                              I don’t know how those horses and pony were managed before I had them. While I had them they all lived 12 hours turnout, and stalled for 12hrs.

                              The next three who I still have were all purchased as young horses (4yo, yearling, weanling). All have spent the majority of their lives on 24/7 turnout.

                              One is now a 17yo tbxholsteiner who is still showing at 3’. His only lame steps were from a pulled hamstring at age 10. Wears front shoes as his feet tend to chip.

                              One is now an 11yo Oldenburg who is showing at 3’6”. Only lame steps have been due to thin soles. Front shoes are normally enough, pads needed if the ground gets too hard.

                              The last is a 3yo RPSI. She’ll be started under saddle soon. So far *knock on wood* she is sound, with good feet, and is barefoot.

                              In my years working as a groom (hunter/jumper) unsoundness usually seemed to fall into three categories, no matter the breed.
                              1) Crappy feet
                              2) Arthritis
                              3) Accidents or missteps resulting in pulled muscles or tendons
                              All of these things can be influenced in some way by genetics, management, diet, and the environment.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I think it a combination of early years, genetics, and luck....I had an OTTB that was an iron horse. Absolutely sound until a freak accident at age 26, generally barefoot, did eventing and up through 2nd level dressage. He died of colic at age 33, still going strong. But, he came out of a field in upstate New York, and after a brief failed career at the track (he had a thing about starting gates), he was returned to that rocky, hilly, muddy field until I picked him up at age 9. I've known some other TBs who were iron horses, all grew up that way.
                                On the other hand, the little paint pony who is a companion horse for me is the most delicate flower ever. She came out of the halter/show ring circuit, and then barrel racing. Stalled 22 hours 24 for most of her life. Fly allergies, issues with mud, issues with gravel, sunburn, prone to muscle strain. Etc. I love her dearly, but she is was not bred, built, or brought up to be physically tough.

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                                • #17
                                  One thing not mentioned is that I think we're a lot more tuned to unsoundness and a lot quicker to address small lameness problems, where decades ago we'd just push the horse through. The dressage horses are not just bigger and flashier, but we also don't tolerate any shortness or unevenness.

                                  Turnout I think matters not just because it is good for the horses, but a scenario where you can keep horses out, and maybe you have some spares, means that a horse that doesn't seem right just gets left alone for a while. When I boarded horses and the horse was slightly lame, of course we called the vet, we bandaged, we did everything we could to get the horse sound again as quickly as possible. Now that I have them home I'm actually much more likely to just check the horse over carefully for anything scary, and just leave them be a few days. It was remarkable to me how often things resolved just as fast if not faster by doing essentially nothing.
                                  If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

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                                  • #18
                                    I see this as a huge issue and not just in performance breeds. We have a problem with people making poor breeding decisions.

                                    The person is advertising a beautiful stallion, that is athletic and jumps well. Upon further research (and thanks to a prior post on here), I find out that stallion has uveitis and lost an eye. I have one horse with uveitis. I believe his sire had it as well and was pts because of it. The pictures are all taken from one side so you are left unaware of the issue.

                                    DSLD- this disease is becoming a problem in dressage bred horses- like in dancers that are extremely flexible, it may give an advantage in the ring. Until the disease progresses. Then you end up with a crippled horse. The only way to avoid it is by visually inspecting older stallions before breeding. It won't show in younger stallions, and if you can't get recent video on an older stallion, they could still have it.

                                    There are genetic diseases like pssm type 2 (and the many suspected subtypes) that do not have a genetic test. I bought a mare at age 2, and she was just diagnosed at age 16. She continually had slight soundness issues behind... The harder and more frequent you worked her, the sounder she would get. The vets immediately thought lameness issues and the diagnosis was missed because she wasn't tying up. It's her stifles, let's inject them. It's her SI joint... She has loose stifles, work her harder.

                                    I took her on a 15 mile endurance type ride with no preparation (as I was planning on riding my other horse). I ended up on her instead and she did absolutely fine. Many long rides throughout her life and she was fine.

                                    But one hot summer day, she tied up. I dismissed it as being overheated in the nasty 100 degree heat index. Then it happened the next summer on another miserably hot day. Then again this spring, after a 3 month layup... And i finally put all the pieces together. Likely she's had it all along, but she wasn't visibly tying up, just moving stiffly. I knew a mare with pssm type 1 and that was very obvious (tied up with muscle tremors, looked ataxic, extremely exercise intolerant). This was a totally different presentation.

                                    If my mare was a broodmare, I can guarantee you, the diagnosis would have been missed and she probably would have passed it on. She has absolutely no symptoms other than being somewhat stiff behind. She never tied up for the first 14 years, at least not in a noticeable way. Never reluctant to move out under saddle, her favorite gait is an extended trot. She was bucky at the canter, but again nothing that couldn't be blamed on a slight lameness issue. The harder you worked her, the better she did. Several days of hard riding and she would be moving better than the starting day.

                                    We are breeding horses to be delicate flowers and not ruthlessly culling anything with health issues. That thoroughbred racehorse stallion that fractured a leg would have been lion food in the wild. All these health issues that are normally eliminated in wild herds, are continually propagated thanks to us. Pssm wouldn't exist in the wild. A horse that can't move because their muscles lock up would be eaten. The defect would be eliminated.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by 4horses View Post
                                      I see this as a huge issue and not just in performance breeds. We have a problem with people making poor breeding decisions.

                                      The person is advertising a beautiful stallion, that is athletic and jumps well. Upon further research (and thanks to a prior post on here), I find out that stallion has uveitis and lost an eye. I have one horse with uveitis. I believe his sire had it as well and was pts because of it. The pictures are all taken from one side so you are left unaware of the issue.

                                      DSLD- this disease is becoming a problem in dressage bred horses- like in dancers that are extremely flexible, it may give an advantage in the ring. Until the disease progresses. Then you end up with a crippled horse. The only way to avoid it is by visually inspecting older stallions before breeding. It won't show in younger stallions, and if you can't get recent video on an older stallion, they could still have it.

                                      There are genetic diseases like pssm type 2 (and the many suspected subtypes) that do not have a genetic test. I bought a mare at age 2, and she was just diagnosed at age 16. She continually had slight soundness issues behind... The harder and more frequent you worked her, the sounder she would get. The vets immediately thought lameness issues and the diagnosis was missed because she wasn't tying up. It's her stifles, let's inject them. It's her SI joint... She has loose stifles, work her harder.

                                      I took her on a 15 mile endurance type ride with no preparation (as I was planning on riding my other horse). I ended up on her instead and she did absolutely fine. Many long rides throughout her life and she was fine.

                                      But one hot summer day, she tied up. I dismissed it as being overheated in the nasty 100 degree heat index. Then it happened the next summer on another miserably hot day. Then again this spring, after a 3 month layup... And i finally put all the pieces together. Likely she's had it all along, but she wasn't visibly tying up, just moving stiffly. I knew a mare with pssm type 1 and that was very obvious (tied up with muscle tremors, looked ataxic, extremely exercise intolerant). This was a totally different presentation.

                                      If my mare was a broodmare, I can guarantee you, the diagnosis would have been missed and she probably would have passed it on. She has absolutely no symptoms other than being somewhat stiff behind. She never tied up for the first 14 years, at least not in a noticeable way. Never reluctant to move out under saddle, her favorite gait is an extended trot. She was bucky at the canter, but again nothing that couldn't be blamed on a slight lameness issue. The harder you worked her, the better she did. Several days of hard riding and she would be moving better than the starting day.

                                      We are breeding horses to be delicate flowers and not ruthlessly culling anything with health issues. That thoroughbred racehorse stallion that fractured a leg would have been lion food in the wild. All these health issues that are normally eliminated in wild herds, are continually propagated thanks to us. Pssm wouldn't exist in the wild. A horse that can't move because their muscles lock up would be eaten. The defect would be eliminated.
                                      I agree with this to a degree. It’s difficult to breed out diseases or conditions that don’t show up until later in life. By the time it shows up in the stallion they may have covered hundreds of mares. By the time it shows up in the get, the stud may be dead or retired anyway.
                                      Same goes for broodmares, just to a lesser degree.

                                      Honesty in stallion owners is another question. But also likely that there are instances where a foal is born with a club foot for example and either no one told the stallion owner so they’re unaware, Or that club foot actually came from the mare. Who knows?
                                      Breeding is very unpredictable.

                                      I have a nice 3yo mare. If she turns out fancy and amateur friendly under saddle than we may breed her when she’s older. The baby would hopefully be able to replace my older gelding.
                                      I have several older stallions picked out. I like the confidence that a proven stallion gives. But it’s still a gamble.
                                      We’re set up for 24/7 turnout, with stalls for emergencies, etc.

                                      As far as comparing to wild or feral horses? There are unsoundness’ in sport horses which would not be a death sentence in the wild. And there are unsoundness’ in feral horses that are easily managed in sport horses.

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                                      • #20
                                        I definitely think there is a management component, but in my opinion, the bigger issues arise whenever we are "too successful" at selecting for a certain quality (speed, elasticity, size). If you compare Thoroughbreds, French-bred Arabian racehorses, and other purebred Arabian horses, you'll get a sense for how powerful a driver selection is. French-bred Arabian racehorses, which have been bred for a few generations JUST for speed, quickly lost a lot of the external Arabian phenotype. That's not because the original pool of sires and dams were less type-y than the average Arabian, but that we selected for SPEED.

                                        Referring, I believe, to Dr. Fager's mile record from 1968, I read a few years ago that greyhounds and human runners are still setting new records, while horses largely aren't. Or aren't at the same pace. The author theorized that apart from changes in track surfaces, racehorse training and racehorses themselves had already been "optimized." Thoroughbreds are already as fast as they can physically get without falling apart - and that means that their hooves are as small, light, and thin-walled as they can be.

                                        Unless we actively select for soundness, we probably won't get it. And we'd need ways to evaluate it, too.
                                        Disclaimer: My mom told me that people might look at my name and think I had an addiction other than horses. I don't; his name was Bravado.

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