WEG: Demonstrating fine breeding decisions

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Below are some excerpts from news items in the April 2013 issue
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Genomics: The breeding revolution

France (by Jean Llewellyn) On August 25, the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses and SHF co-hosted a well-attended conference in Caen entitled ‘Genomic selection can revolutionize horse breeding’. The three presenters, all geneticists and luminaries in their particular fields, were Dr. Thomas Mark, Philippe Monget, author of ‘Genetique Moderne’, representing AGENAE, and Dr. Axel Kahn, a French scientist and geneticist.

The conference opened with Dr. Thomas Mark, from the university of Copenhagen, who has been working closely with the Danish Warmblood stud- book. He started the ball rolling by saying “Genomic selection can revolutionize horse breeding”, and that genomics in general have a real place in sport horse breeding. Of course, whether it’s desirable for genomic selection to eclipse traditional breeding remains to be seen, and it’s evident that there will need to be increased collaboration between studbooks in order for this concept to reach its full potential.

Dr. Mark started by outlin- ing the basics in (horse) breeding, including the ‘breeding values’ (BV) that many breeders and stud- books use as a component in the decision-making process. For example: A breeder chooses a particu- lar stallion for his mare because this stallion produces offspring with the desired breeding values – a ver y nice type, good jumping skills, etc.

Mark explained that ‘bottle- necks’ in sport horse breed- ing could be overcome with the use of genomics. By bottlenecks Dr. Mark was referring to the generational gap between stallions and/or mares and their first off-spring (an average of eight years), and the preference for many breeders to use older, proven performance stallions. If we are able to shorten the generational interval, the progress of the population accelerates.

Dr. Mark stated another breeding basic: only half of DNA (or BV) is passed from a parent to its offspring, the other half coming from the second parent. He also out-lined the differences between performance predictability and random predictability, with DNA being the only predictable quotient – genetic traits passed from parent to offspring – and accounts for only one part of the total picture. The second part includes ‘environmental’ or ‘random’ factors, in a horse’s life:

• Feeding
• Housing
• Training
• Rider
• Gender
• Disease pressure
• Age

All these listed factors greatly influence a horse’s development and can be de- cisive in whether they be- come a moderate sport horse or a top-flight per- former at the highest level. It is worth reiterating that these random factors differ for ever y horse given the managerial and geographi- cal spread of stud farms and breeders...

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Hanoverian foal delight

Great Britain (by Jean Llewellyn/Press release) A total of 147 foals were consigned for the 40th Elite Foal and Broodmare Auction which took place in Verden last month. The eagerly moving Fly, by Bundes- champion Franziskus, was the top-priced youngster, who sold for €32,000 ($40,978).

.Other customers invested €31,000 ($39,698) his half brother Freak Blue, and international clients were certainly delighted with the selection on offer.

The 40th Elite Foal and Broodmare Auction started with the current Federal champion Franziskus (Fidertanz - Antara x Al- abaster) and his rider, eventing team Olympic champion Ingrid Klimke. This riding master presented the six-year-old stallion in awesome style – only a few days earlier, he had participated at the FEI dressage World Breeding Dressage Championship for Young Horses. Klosterhof Medingen purchased the highest-priced Fly (Fran- ziskus - Charmante x Con- tendro I), bred and exhibited by Rita and Otto Sölzer, from Fritzlar-Werkel. The typey black-brown colt had already attracted expert eyes at the German foal championships in Lienen where he finished third. ..

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The future of British sport horse breeding

Great Britain (by Celia Clarke) The British Equestrian Federation Futurity series completed its intensive 11-venue, 14-day, three-week run on 19 August. The Futurity’s principle aim is to identify talented young sport horses and ponies, in order to collect data on British breeding so that British breeders can make use of that information for future breeding decisions.

It also aims to provide feed-back to participants on the suitability of the horse they have bred for its intended discipline and the market for which it has been bred. As such it is the major national sports horse breeding event in the UK and operates across all recognised studbooks and a number of FEI disciplines, assessing foals to three-year-olds for their potential for dressage, eventing, showjumping and endurance. This is based on the scores of a panel of 18 judges (ideally three per venue) marking the animals before them for conformation, paces, athleticism (including jump for three-year-old eventers and showjumpers) and temperament bearing in mind the discipline for which they are intended. In this they are aided by a veterinary surgeon specialising in sport horse confirmation, whose score plays a vital part in the assessment of the likelihood of any conformationally based unsoundness in the future. Interestingly, because of some rather ill-in-formed allegations of biased judging by participants in the past, the judges are no longer allowed to know the breeding of the horses before them, but on a more positive note once the breeding is published at the end of each assessment day this does indicate the suit- ability of the bloodlines to the chosen sport to a unique degree and is a great help to breeders in their future planning.

Since last year, with the sole exception of those sired by Thoroughbreds, only ani- mals whose sires are graded stallions have been allowed to enter, which has been a great step for ward for the Futurity as far as quality con- trol is concerned. However, even though this would be seen as the most basic re- quirement in most sport horse breeding countries – and certainly in all WBFSH member studbooks – the re- action of some of the more entrenched ‘I know what I like and no studbook is going to tell me what to do’ attitude of a few past partic- ipants in the series saw them venting their displeasure on Facebook and elsewhere with threats that this limita- tion would be ‘the end for the Futurity’ and that the entr y would collapse. In fact, there has been a re- duction of overall numbers in 2013 and 2014 but this is pretty much a reflection of the reduced number of ani- mals now being bred and is compatible with the entries for breed and other in-hand shows, so the actual imple- mentation of this rule (which was signalled as hap- pening since 2010) has had very little effect apart from ensuring the validity of the breeding of the animals for- ward for inspection...


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A candy store of WEG bloodlines

Christopher Hector looks at the bloodlines on show at Caen: When we look at the start list for the dressage at the WEG, the first thing we need to observe – yet again – is the outright dominance of the Donnerhall line. He himself is represented by four competitors, a total only matched by his son, De Niro. Donnerhall is further represented by two sons, Donnerschlag and Don Cardinale. Another son, Don Gregory is represented by two of his sons, Don Davidhoff and Don Ruto. De Niro’s son, Danone I is also the sire of one competitor.

That’s thirteen D-liners out of 103, almost 13%, and it will be interesting to see if this percentage grows when we look at the top 15 per- formers.

D = dressage / D = Donnerhall

The Trakehner, Gribaldi (Kostolany - Gondola II x Ibikus), and the half Trakehner-KWPN Michel- lino (Michelangelo - Claudette x Ulft), each pro- vide three competitors, then there are six stallions each represented by two: Sandro Hit (Sandro Song - Loretta x Ramino),both ridden by Australians; Rohdiamant (Rubinstein I - ElektiaV x In- schallah); the DWB Solos Carex (Castro - Solos Larix x Lagano); Florestan I (Fidelio -Raute x Rheingold); Come Back II (Cor de la Bryère - Amone x Landgraf I); and Jazz (Cocktail - Charmante x Ulster)

In the Freestyle, the ‘D’ per- centage has risen to 46.66 (seven out of 15). Three by the grand old man himself, the rest by four of his sons. In terms of studbooks, the Dutch lead with seven repre- sentatives, with the next largest book the Hanoveri- ans with three, but it gets a little more balanced when we add one Oldenburg and one Westfalian to make it five German to seven Dutch horses... although this is still a statistic that will cause some heartburn in Deutschland, especially when the gold medallist, Valegro, is solidly Dutch bred three generations back.

Valegro’s sire Negro (Ferro- Fewrie x Variant) was a small tour dressage horse before he was injured, and he has been a moderately successful sire, although none of his progeny are remotely as suc- cessful as Valegro. But the stand-out rising star of the WEG, Verdades (Florett As - Liwilarda x Goya) proves that you don’t need a gilt-edge pedigree to become a star. The bay gelding is by the un- heralded Westfalian stallion, Florett As, by the great Flo- restan, out of a mare by the less than great, Urofino, but it is on Verdades’ dam line that things start to get wild... His dam, Liwilarda, is by Goya, a grandson of the very famous carriage stallion, Renovo, who is by the Hack- ney, Cambridge Cole, with a couple of crosses of the old agricultural Dutch Gelder- landers. Her dam, Wilarda, is also by Renovo out of a Gelder mare. Not surpris- ingly Verdades has a ‘blood’ percentage of 9.77%. This is hardly the much hyped mod- ern Dutch dressage horse – I wouldn’t try telling that Laura Graves though...


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