Unethical breeding?

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I have owned four horses over the last 10 years, and three of the four have been Irish bred ISH/RID, and all three have developed arthritis. Two in the neck and the latest in the hocks. The first two were pts before the age of 10.

Having taken years to get over the financial and emotional fallout from the first two and despite telling myself I would never buy another ID again, I managed to convince myself that I was just unlucky and about a year ago I bought a 7yo unregistered ISH mare.

She has just been diagnosed, at 8 yo, with arthritis in the hocks and PSD. In discussion with my vet, who treated my other horses, I put forward my theory that there was a genetic timebomb lurking in the Irish Draught breeding. Much to my surprise, he agreed with me.

Are there people out there who find themselves with a big, expensive, mare on their hands that may or may not ever be ridden again and decide that despite the genetic implications, in order to claw back some kind of value or purpose, they will breed from her? Thereby perpetuating this genetic predisposition?

I am aware that a lot of people will have many happy years with their ID horses and not have any problems at all, but if three out of three ID horses that you owned became useless, valueless and in my experience downright dangerous as a result of the same condition wouldn't you question it?

These three horses have consumed years of my life and enormous amounts of money and I can't sustain it, so this will be my last horse ever, never mind ID.
 

be positive

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Sadly I think it is far more widespread than just in the one breed, gone are the days when people bred from a proven mare once she had retired from her day job usually through age catching up with her rather than being unsound at an early age unless due to an injury, arthritic changes seem to be showing up in many types at a young age and if the mares are then used for breeding the issue perpetuates.
I have no idea what the answer is as people will continue to breed from these mares if they can sell the offspring.
 

milliepops

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as you mentioned ID, OP, I just wondered how big your horses were?

the IDs I've known well have been enormous horses. not just height but stature. I'm not saying this is the case with yours obv but it struck me, watching them through their lives that they weren't really suited as sports horses as it must have put enormous strain on their joints. They all went down with hindleg issues eventually, spavins & some kind of soft tissue stifle thing.

I think the very big WBs are also timebombs in many cases.
 

YorksG

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It isn't just the ID's where this happens, sadly. We had an old style Clydie, born late 60's early 70's hard as nails, as tough as boots, beautiful temperament with people and horses, we then had one born in the 90's still great temperament but with a fair few physical issues (died of internal tumour). I know a sample of two is not evidential, but a friend also had one born in the 90's, also died of cancer, we presume to some extent it is the narrowing of the gene pool but they are now not known for their longevity :(
 
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It is a dilemma - I understand that. I paid approaching 5 figures for this mare a year ago as she has good conformation (showing potential) and a very willing temperament. However, I didn't want a happy hacker, which is what I'm looking at best case scenario in six plus months time, so what am I going to do with her? I'm either going to have to accept that she is pretty much a field ornament or have her pts. Either way, between the latest diagnosis and the ulcers she was diagnosed with shortly after I got her for the last year she has been a massive black hole of money and emotion, and there is no end in sight. I won't, however, be breeding from her!

With regard to the size of my horses, the registered ISH was 16.2. He was quite fine when I first had him (4 yo), but did fill out somewhat, but not massive. The full RID was again 16.2, but true to type I would say with regard to weight - good bone but not excessive. The mare I have now is also 16.2, but broader and heavier than either of the previous two. To be honest, I discussed this with my vet, and in his opinion the size and heaviness of the horses wasn't a consideration. As for any potential workload/activity implications, the first one had been backed two weeks before I bought him (from a breeder I knew), and since he was pts 6 years later I can confirm that he was wrapped in cotton-wool and whilst ridden regularly was not put under any particular strain! The other two had allegedly hunted in Ireland, and that is about as much as I know about them.
 

paddi22

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That's an awful run of luck you have had, can see why you would be very down about it :(

I disagree with the vet that size and heaviness of horse has nothing to do with risk of arthritis though. Any friends I've had with big, heavy horses have definitely had arthritis issues a lot more than others.
I think a lot of irish draughts are broken much earlier than they are physically able for. And some are hunted hard when still developing which can't be good for them. AshM on here breeds draughts and people have always been on at her as to why her horses aren't broken earlier, she delays breaking them properly until she thinks they are developed fully. i don't think a lot of draught breeder do that by the looks of it
 

mule

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Irish draughts take a long time to physically mature. I have a chunky one that was started when she was rising 3 (Far too young imo). She didn't fill out until she was 7/8. She was diagnosed with arthritis at 18/19, so she was pretty hardy.

The ISH also take longer to mature than other warmbloods, probably because of the draught blood. Part of the reason they've lost popularity to the continental warmblood is due to them being less profitable for sale because they have to be given more time to mature before putting them in serious work.
 
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It is such a shame that you have had such bad luck with your IDs.

I do not have much experience of horse breeding but dog breeding seems to have really take a positive attitude to future generations and genetic testing is now prevalent to guard against hereditary problems and conditions. Depending on the breed, dams, sires and puppies are tested and the results are recorded. Buyers are made more aware of the problems that their puppies might inherit.

Puppies that have been fully tested fetch higher prices which i think is justified.

I know you cannot guarantee that off spring grow into 100% healthy beings but this type of testing is surely a sensible way to go and i am not sure that the horse breeding world has adopted this same approach yet and if they have I expect that they might be some way behind. I think that given the prices of horse today, the costs of such testing is more than justified but until the breed societies insist of it, it will not happen.
 
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If the horse has a hereditary predisposition towards arthritis then it would seem irrespective of age/maturity at backing and subsequent activities, any amount of work could be too much for them. Arthritis at age 7, 8 and 10 seems horribly young though. My horses came from very different backgrounds and having thought long and hard about contributing factors, to me the one thing that ties them all together is their shared ID breeding. It stands to reason that not all ID are affected, but with a relatively small genepool it does feel a bit like russian roulette - you might be lucky, or not.

I'm sure there are other breeds affected too and for all the people that take breeding seriously and care about future progeny, I suspect there are an equal number that if they find themselves with a mare that is unrideable because it is broken or just a complete nutter will breed anyway, even if for the greater good they shouldn't.
 
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And this is what happened with the dogs. It was not until there was a huge amount of negative press against the KC and particular breed societies that people sat up and listened, acknowledging that there was a problem.

I was speaking to a registrar at the KC and since that time, some genetic conditions have been nearly eliminated over just three generations. That's amazing quick. But it took drastic action and with one breed, some negative test results meant that affected litters could not be registered. Drastic.

Of course I accept that horses will take a lot longer but those who say that it is only environmental factors affecting these horses are not being realistic. However I do accept that training, upbringing and diet can all affect our horses adversely.

I think testing would certainly sort the wheat from the chaff. Those who breed unethically would soon be seen for what they are........I expect that they would find a way to justify no testing.
 

honetpot

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I had always held to the belief that bigger horses like bigger people have more wear and tear on their joints, they are made the same as the smaller breeds. They are now expected to go round in circles a lot, if its a draft breed was originally bred to pull a cart or plough in straight lines most of the time, then became the original sports horse, the hunter which again spent most of its time in straight lines. It was old at nine and dead and most likely dead at eleven.
A lot of wastage is hidden. Over the years I have had quite a few animals and the ponies are tough, I have been lucky with the horses that they have had no mechanical issues, but I do not believe in going round in endless circles and they are educated out hacking and have been sound all their working lives. If I have to lunge its done on an a rectangle/oval and as big as I can walk and keep in touch, that's how I was taught.
No breeder tells you their horses faults, they are selling a service/product and if I was spending a lot of money I would always try and find out as much as possible about any offspring. They often sell ones they do not want to be associated with without breed papers. With publicity there are certain sires that seem to dominate most breeds, when really we need genetic diversity, but with sire/off spring list performance lists if you want something to win it looks better to buy what you think is a known quantity. Trying to explain to a breed purest that the ugly duckling may actually be an asset in the terms of breed genetics.
The Connemara breed society has done a lot of work of dominant blood lines.
A lot of traditional competitive horse breed seem to be smaller, close coupled and look bendy, I am thinking, Quarter horse, Morgan, Arab and the Argentinian polo pony and our NF will stand a lot of work with what seem to some a lack of bone and not so perfect feet.
There has been a lot of work research on TB's and the effect of exercise on development and ability to cope with physical stresses, the conclusion seemed to be the right sort of exercise can be beneficial when young, even just exercise in the field, but are horses have less land to range over and are routinely stabled for a lot of their lives.
So I think lots of things are going on.
 
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I'm guessing that part of the problem would be identifying at risk horses - how would you test for arthritis? Interestingly if you read the Wikipedia entry for the ID breed there is a lot about efforts to improve genetic diversity. Perhaps they already know there is a problem but won't own up to it?
 

holeymoley

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Interesting post.

Only input I have is a friend's ID who has coffin joint arthritis aged 17. He had a 'tougher' life though in that he done a lot of eventing and laterally a lot of dressage. I agree perhaps the eventing and strain to their joints are possibly a big factor due to them not being traditionally built for it. A livery on my yard have just bought a 5 year old ID, proper leg at each corner type and all they do is trot it in circles round the school. No idea how long it's legs will last with that :(.
 
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Funnily enough, the coffin joint was specifically mentioned by my vet when we were talking about the breed. If my horses had made it to 17 before getting arthritis I would consider myself lucky!

Larger horses and backing too early and going round in circles may well be a contributing factor, but to attribute everything to this without looking at underlying causes would be massively shortsighted and in my personal experience doesn't add up. Not to mention being dismissed by my vet.
 

holeymoley

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Funnily enough, the coffin joint was specifically mentioned by my vet when we were talking about the breed. If my horses had made it to 17 before getting arthritis I would consider myself lucky!

Larger horses and backing too early and going round in circles may well be a contributing factor, but to attribute everything to this without looking at underlying causes would be massively shortsighted and in my personal experience doesn't add up. Not to mention being dismissed by my vet.
Absolutely, definitely something going on somewhere up the lines.
 

mule

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I do think riding or lunging in small circles can't be good if done excessively. I think more straight lines and varied terrain is the way to go.

I suspect dressage can be pretty tough on them too, considering they have to shift a lot of weight to their hind end (I know this is supposed to be better for them, but the majority of horses are ridden on the forehand and I don't think dressage horses are any sounder than other horses)
 
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I totally understand the desire to retain breed characteristics, but maybe this leads to a somewhat blinkered view of things. Perhaps it should be permissible to compromise on 'purity' in the name of good animal husbandry. I think breed societies that hold their hands up to genetic issues and address them should be applauded and encouraged.
 

Nudibranch

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As mentioned, it seems to be common amongst bigger horses full stop. I had a 17.3 British WB who was pts at 7, having never done anything more than light hacking. Never set foot in a school. Both my vet and particularly my farrier are adamant big horses just don't stay sound like smaller ones.
If it's any consolation I now have a Fell and a Dales, and am enjoying horses again. I hadn't realised how miserable they make you when there's always something wrong. But I agree that breeding is an issue. Certainly there seems to be a lack of breeding from mares who have proven themselves both in work and in temperament. But I doubt it'll ever stop, sadly.
 

Asha

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So sorry for you Lola, youve really been through it. I love my irish draughts and wouldn't be without the breed.

I lost my boy earlier this year to neck arthritis. He was 9yo IDxWB. His mum 3/4ID ( still going) has no arthritis in her neck whatsoever, in fact at 21 she only shows a little stiffness in her hocks after coming out of the stable after a full night in . We had the physio round yesterday and I was asking this very question, would my other youngster ( his maternal half sister) be prone to it . She explained that they are seeing a lot more cases of neck arthritis but mainly in horses that jump. What she explained makes sense to me, that when a horse jumps they land and put all the weight on there front feet. That shock has to go somewhere, and in her opinion it goes straight to the c6-c7. So in dressage horses they are seeing more and more issues behind, and jumping horses more and more issues in the neck. Perhaps we are asking more of our horses than what they are designed to do?
As for my two, Aria has a long very flexible neck, and Harry had a very short neck. Physio believes she is less susceptible to it ,but time will tell.( she is also more blood than Harry) We believe Harrys arthritis was as a result of a trauma he suffered as a 5yo. ( he was rushed to the vets with a suspected broken neck, but given all clear )
So my point being, the heavier the horse + conformation + jumping can predispose to it , draughts are by nature heavier. Having dwelled on Harrys issue over the past few months ive also come to the conclusion that youngsters have a way of hurting themselves too, so who is to say that while growing up they haven't had a trauma in the field that has been missed .

Also, a friend of mine has just lost her 7yo (17.2) jumping bred WB to neck arthritis too, his does sound genetic as he had it in several points around the neck.
 

catkin

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That's interesting Asha about horses reaching their 'design limits'.
I would guess that for competition horses what they are asked to do has changed, and quite rapidly too in the overall scheme of things - tight twisty technical jumping courses, the 'brilliance' of movements in dressage. There must be a downside too.
It is also much easier these days to see video and film of exceptional horses - which then raises expectations of type of movement in all horses. So the breeding changes within a very few generations.
 
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