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☛ Are bad breeding practices animal abuse? 5-26-17

BAD BREEDING PRACTICES

 

IS THIS ANIMAL ABUSE?

 

By Rick Dennis
May 26, 2017

As an AQHA breeder, my requirements are to breed an animal that is genetically correct with excellent conformation, the right temperament, enough athleticism to perform multiple events, enough cow instinct to perform in cow horse or cutting, free of genetic defects and with enough bone and stamina to withstand the rigors of the show pen for many years.

 

My article entitled, “AQHA Genetic Pool Shrinks,” dated Jan. 10, 2015, delineated an ongoing problem within the Quarter Horse industry in that the genetic pool is shrinking. Undesirable genetic traits and diseases are being passed from generation to generation. The following articles were the proto types of my article that would later play out in a courtroom in Texas in 2017 involving HERDA.

 

ARTICLE EXCERPTS:
Recent articles in the American Quarter Horse Journal entitled “The Changing Landscape of Quarter Horse Genetics, Part 1 and Part 2,” really caught my eye because of two reasons: 1) I’m an American Quarter Horse breeder specializing in multiple-event reined cow horses and 2) I’m a Life Member of AQHA.

Part 1’s first paragraph essentially sets the stage for the present state of the breed in that it’s becoming more and more inbred, stating, “Talk to an equine geneticist long enough and you are bound to hear two assertions made about the American Quarter Horse breed that sound like opposites: First, it is one of the most genetically diverse equine breeds in the world and second, it’s becoming increasingly inbred.

 

The second and third paragraphs of Part 1 outline the history of the breed and a factor causing this shrinking of genetics, stating, “Beginning in colonial America, the breed began from a diverse genetic base of largely Thoroughbred and Spanish blood that was added to and developed for roughly 200 years, focusing on producing quickness and durability.

 

But fast-forward to the modern era of specialized American Quarter Horse performers, especially at the highest levels, and you find specialization in the horse-breeding herd too: specific groups of individual classes of horses used to produce those top performers. If you’re breeding for a specific category of horse (i.e.) reining, cutting, cow horse, etc., the gene pool is further narrowed within this subgroup.

 

That suggests there are narrowed gene pools in those subgroups and now a genetic study clearly shows it. A research team from the University of Minnesota has published its findings in an issue of the Journal of Heredity, “The American Quarter Horse: Population structure and relationship to the Thoroughbred.” The 2012-2013 study was partially funded by the American Quarter Horse Foundation.

 

“In the pedigree analysis, some groups shared no common sires, such as halter and racing, but other groups did, such as reining and working cow horse. Although popular sires within one group were rarely shared with another group, all the pedigrees reflected the common roots of the Quarter Horse.

“Additionally, pedigree analysis showed that the most common 15 sires across the groups were all direct tail-male descendants of Three Bars (TB), with several of those stallions showing more than one cross to the Thoroughbred in the first four generations.

“Inbreeding” refers to the mating of relatives and results in an “inbred” individual horse. The amount an individual horse is “inbred” can be estimated from its pedigree or genetic data. In a pedigree analysis, determining an individual’s “co-ancestry coefficient” gives an idea of how closely related individuals are on a pedigree page. Two individuals can be highly related without either of them being inbred, but if you breed two individuals with a high co-ancestry coefficient, their offspring will be inbred.

“Diversity quantifies the amount of genetic variation there is in a population. Typically, a highly inbred population has low genetic diversity. In this study the lowest genetic diversity within a sub-population was in the cutting and racing groups. The highest average inbreeding was found in cutting.”

 

Also, a recent statement from Nena J. Winand, DVM, PhD and a specialist on HERDA that was a witness for the Plaintiffs in a recent lawsuit regarding HERDA mentioned later in this article, said, “I’d point out from a medical perspective, ANY shared ancestry, no matter how remote (far back) is considered inbreeding, because it provides a chance for an individual to inherit the same gene derived from the common ancestor from both parents.”

 

ANALYZING QUARTER HORSE BREEDING RULES:
From this study, it’s clear that the present American Quarter Horse breeding rules require scrutiny to determine: 1) their contribution to this shrinking genetic pool and 2) the adverse affect each adopted breeding rule may or may not have on the breed itself. I wonder if the executives paid six figures at the AQHA and the Executive Committee members, especially the Stud Book and Registration Committee, had any forethought in the ramifications their expansive breeding rule adoptions would have on the Quarter Horse breed and industry over time?

As a private sector Risk Analyst, I’m commonly faced with the task of analyzing practices and concepts to determine either the detriment or usefulness an existing concept or practice has on an organization. In order to shed light on the topic, I examined two specific breeding rules adopted by AQHA: Multiple Embryo Transfer and Frozen Semen. I also examined the impact each adopted breeding rule may have on the breeding populous as well as a correlation of each one’s compliance with AQHA’s Mission Statement.

 

BAD BREEDING PRACTICES:
A horse’s conformation affects his ability to perform certain tasks. Read more about this interesting concept in AQHA’s Form to Function report.
Click for “Form To Function” report>>

“Longstanding breeding practices likely contribute to that. Habits such as “popular sire syndrome,” which is the tendency for many breeders to breed to a top-performing stallion, or the use of assisted reproductive techniques such as frozen semen and embryo transfers can greatly amplify one horse’s genetic impact. Even the practice of always breeding the ‘best to the best’ can contribute to increased inbreeding in a sub-population.

“Any time we take a single individual and increase its ability to generate offspring, that is going to decrease the genetic pool that is reproducing.

“Additionally, when you increase inbreeding and reduce diversity, you increase the incidence of undesirable genes making an appearance.

“A good example is the incidence of HERDA (hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia) in cutting horses. It’s very frequent within this sub-population, which might be the result of decreasing diversity and/or the ‘popular-sire’ effect. A previous study revealed that 28.3 percent of cutting-bred individuals carried the recessive gene for HERDA.”

Click following for AQHAGenetic Pool Shrinks>>

 

FIRST LAWSUIT ENTERS COURT OVER HERDA:
In a lawsuit entitled, “Minshall Vs Hartman Equine, Dos Cat Partners, Shauna and Ed Dufurrena” was tried in a Texas courtroom in 2017. The basis of the lawsuit encompassed fraud with the AQHA stallion Auspicious Cat. The owners of the horse advertised the stallion as being HERDA Negative when in fact the horse was designated N/Hr (a carrier of the HERDA gene) by the American Quarter Horse Association.

 

Prior to this lawsuit, the AQHA required genetic testing of breeding stallions on a graduated scale based on the number of mares bred until Jan. 1, 2016. After this date, each breeding stallion was required to have genetic testing which included a 5-Panel group of designated tests that were designed by AQHA and performed by UC Davis.

 

Up until the filing of this lawsuit, AQHA reserved the right NOT TO RELEASE the 5-Panel test results, except to the owners of the specific horse. This nondisclosure prevented anyone breeding to a specific stallion from obtaining the 5-Panel status of the stallion; therefore, running the risk of passing on a defect to the impending foal.

 

After the filing of the above-captioned lawsuit, AQHA has changed its posture to include releasing the 5-Panel test results to anyone who contacts them and asks for it. It’s also planned that the test results will be on the horse’s pedigree when their new computer database is online. Further, AQHA intends to embed the horses’ 5-Panel test results directly onto the stallions’ registration papers as a permanent record.

 

However, the curious nature of AQHA’s testing requirements does not include breeding mares, which, in my opinion should be a requirement as well. After all, mares carry the same number of genetic chromosomes as stallions do, which includes the mares’ lineage as well.

 

This is exactly what happened in this case as two N/Hr (HERDA carrier) horses were bred together, producing a HERDA affected foal. The Plaintiff’s had simply relied on the honesty and integrity of the stallion owner. Does AQHA have any culpable liability in the matter from their previous posture of not releasing stallion specific genetic testing results?

 

The other curious nature of this saga is that my article AQHA Genetic Pool Shrinks, along with its predetermined scientific facts and warnings about inbreeding, ended up in this courtroom drama two years later.

 

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FOALS OF THESE MISGUIDED BREEDINGS?
Just about every cutter I’ve talked to wants a High Brow Cat-bred horse because of their winning nature. In fact, some even breed for horses carrying the HERDA gene due to this phenomenon, which is exactly what happened in this lawsuit. The Plaintiffs desired to breed to a High Brow Cat stallion that carried the AQHA N/N designation and ended up breeding to an N/Hr horse. Since their mare carried the N/Hr designation, two N/Hr horses produced a HERDA-affected foal that required an enormous amount of money to maintain.

 

So at the end of the day, what happens to the foals that wash out due to genetic deficiencies: euthanasia, the horse slaughter pipeline, retired and crippled at two or three years of age perhaps? Has our industry become so callous and money hungry that they throw caution to the wind when breeding? What about the poor horse that suffers due to this selfish act? This is an arduous fact to quantify simply due to non-reported statistical data. In my opinion just breeding to a particular line of horses just because they’re winning is a very poor excuse, especially in lieu of the fact that a known line is capable of producing undesirable genetic traits in the American Quarter Horse. We experienced this in the HYPP line of horses!

Also, it’s my opinion that AQHA being the breed registry for the American Quarter Horse should live up to its own Mission Statement and step in to prevent this well-known and established HERDA gene from permeating the American Quarter Horse breed. After all, they are the rule makers and some of their established and unorthodox   breeding rules have and continue to contribute to the shrinking genetic pool of the American Quarter Horse, thus causing direct harm to the breed. Only AQHA can stop or control the insertion of bad genetics into the American Quarter Horse Gene Pool!

 

BREEDING PREREQUISITES 101:

1)         Mare owners should have their horses genetically tested by the AQHA 5-panel prior to breeding.

2)         Mare owners should perform due-diligent research into the genetic test results of the impending desired stallion prior to breeding.

3)         Prior to breeding, consult with a geneticist to determine whether the match up would produce any undesirable traits in the produced foal, especially if a shared lineage or line of horses is in the background of both horses.

 

GENETIC DEFICIENCIES IN THE THOROUGHBRED LINE:
Unfortunately, bad breeding practices and catastrophic results aren’t limited to the American Quarter Horse Industry. In a later article I’ll discuss and delineate the bad breeding practices in the Thoroughbred Industry.

 

“Until Next Time, Keep ‘Em Between The Bridle”

 

WIND RIVER COMPANY LLC
Richard E. “Rick” Dennis
Managing Member
Office/Mobile: (985) 630-3500
Email: windrivercompany@gmail.com
Web Site: http://www.windrivercompanyllc.com

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Comments

  1. Great article Rick Dennis. Finally the truth comes out how rotten the AQHA is. Not very happy with them right now since I have a High Brow Cat foal on the ground this year. I’m contacting AQHA on Tuesday and demanding they DNA test my foal free of charge. This info should have been made publicly available about these horses to all people breeding to this line. This is pathetic and inexcusable corruption on their part. Devastating loss to our industry. Thank you for your article Rick. Makes me mad but very glad you wrote it at the same time.
    Emily

  2. This is an awesome article and sadly true!!!
    Betty H.

  3. I read your article on the shrinking genetic pool for the American Quarter Horse that’s a good article.
    Dorothy

  4. I bet it’s nice to do it your way, hgh? By the way, I loved your writeup on Quarter Horse breeding. I stopped buying or getting involved with them about 14 years ago. The last I had was Copper Doc/Bar Penny. Loved her and her colt Doc Cheatum Copper Bar.
    Bernie Belding

  5. Rick,
    Your article about HERDA and the AQHA is awesome. I’ve known for years the High Brow Cats were producing HERDA foals. The AQHA and the NCHA don’t want to do anything about it. Never have. Just concerned about making money. All us breeders breeding HERDA free horses and doing things the right way by improving our herds should get together and sue the AQHA, NCHA and the Cat stallion owners for passing on HERDA before they ruin the Quarter Horse breed. Thanks again for the guts to tell it like it is.
    Anonymous

  6. I’ve always cringed when someone tries to tell me an animal is “line bfed.” It’s still inbreeding and changing what you call it won’t change fact. I’ve never been a fan of crossing too close. And TBs are just as bad. It’s destroying the breeds.
    Lori King

  7. What a great article. I’ve shared it. I think everybody in the horse business needs to see this wonderful article.
    Anna

  8. A bazzilion percent agree with this very well written article.
    Wendi Banbury, California

  9. Just when you think nothing’s going on everything’s going on. Obviously the High Brow Cat folks thought they could keep this revelation hidden forever. A really well written article Rick Dennis. Wonder what AQHA’s next move or should I say lack of is going to be??
    Paul

  10. After reading your article I will definitely say this is horse abuse. When you deliberately breed two horses to get a HERDA carrier what becomes of them later if the disease pops out. Breeding to High Brow Cats is gambling a lot. Winners or diseased horses.
    Helen

  11. Our industry has gone down hill over the years with this specialized breeding. The Quarter Horse doesn’t even look like it use to. Some big, some squatty, some heavy muscled, some overly tall, some small like ponies. Your article really nails it. The inbreeding to produce a specialize horse also sometimes brings defects like HERDA. AQHA knew it, why haven’t they done something to stop it?? I agree with your whole article right down to the last line. Thanks. Bill

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