Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Genetic Defects and Model Horses: Part Two

Here's part two of my posts on genetic defects and model horses.

I'm going to continue talking about the same horse here. If you'll remember, I mentioned he had Impressive in his pedigree multiple times, and was himself HYPP N/H.

The bottom of the horse's pedigree was nice, with some Three Bars in there (I like Three Bars, just not through Impressive), but there was something scary lurking back there among all the nice stuff: Poco Lena.

But what's wrong with Poco Lena?

Poco Lena comes from the Poco Bueno line. Poco Bueno and Poco Lena carried a defect known as HERDA. This is a recessive mutation that basically causes weakness in the skin. A recessive mutation requires two copies of the mutation to have an effect, so Poco Lena more than likely got it from both her sire and her dam, which means that whole line is very suspect in a pedigree. Current thinking is that the original mutation goes back through a mystery horse line involved in the Poco line, either coming through, or starting at, a horse named Traveler.

There are seven conditions that cause similar problems to HERDA in humans, and they're all very problematic for sufferers. The weakness of the skin caused by these disorders makes it very easy to tear. When skin is opened up, there is a risk of infection. When the skin is easy to tear, that means more opportunities for infection. Simply saddling or riding a horse with HERDA can cause horrific damage to the horse. Sunburn too is a big problem, as the peeling can spread a lot further than it would in healthy skin.

HERDA is usually lethal in 2-4 years in horses.

This is classic HERDA scarring. This is the least disgusting and squicky picture I can find. Everything else is very graphic.

In a way, HERDA is a bit like Vinegar Syndrome if OF model horses, or lifting, in vintage custom model horses.

What does HERDA mean for model horses?

Thankfully, it doesn't mean much. Our plastic horses, unless they have vinegar syndrome, or suffer from lifting, aren't going to fall apart if we happen to have their pedigrees give us a HERDA positive horse.

However, I think for pedigree assignment enthusiasts, HERDA is something to keep in mind. If you wouldn't breed for it in real life, why are you breeding it in your models?

That concludes my Genetic Defects and Model Horses mini-series for now. I don't know enough about other genetic disorders in horses to write about them.

I hope you've enjoyed it, and that it's given you something to think about.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Genetic Defects and Model Horses: Part One

Today, I went browsing for examples of stud ads, because I want to put together some stud ads for my plastic horses. Since one of the horses I want to make a stud ad for is a quarter horse, I started off by searching for those in a Google image search.

Well, if you know real quarter horses, you know where this is going, don't you?

I found a horse whose portrait looked stunning. He's got a lovely head, and he looks big and studdy. His full body shot wouldn't disappoint... but, I saw something worrying about the pictures. He's big, with a wide chest and haunches, and short legs. He looks like a body-builder. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought he was a stunning example of a quarter horse. Then I saw the line "this is [horse] in pasture condition", and alarm bells really rang. I suspected that what I saw was a result of a genetic defect called HYPP. Off I went to All Breed Pedigree to confirm my suspicions.

The pedigree is even scarier than I expected. My heart sank. The top side of the pedigree is packed full of Impressive.
Why is Impressive a problem? Impressive is the originator of the condition HYPP.

Why should HYPP worry a real horse owner? HYPP is a genetic disorder that has serious health consequences for the horse. His muscles are constantly more contracted rather than relaxed, and when he has an HYPP episode, he can suffer paralysis in his muscles. It doesn't take a genius to know that the heart is a muscle, and that there are muscles responsible for breathing, and in holding the throat open so the horse can breathe. There are muscles involved in digestion too. A horse having an episode can collapse as his legs fail him, or can suffer heart failure, or can suffocate to death, or suffer a deadly colic and this can happen any time his sodium levels creep too high.

You remember how I mentioned that HYPP horses have muscles that are constantly more contracted? This gives them the appearance of being big, beefy bodybuilder looking horses. They look like the horse version of Mr Universe.
Arnold Schwarzenegger
HYPP, despite its problems, continues to be somewhat sought after in the halter world. An HYPP positive horse has big, dramatic muscling, and tends to be evenly muscled front and back. He looks impressive. That's desirable in the halter show ring, so breeders have continued to breed for HYPP, despite the health risks that go with it.

Impressive himself wasn't too drastic, which is what you'd expect in a horse that only has one HYPP mutation. That's normally written HYPP N/H.

The horse I was looking at was HYPP N/H, and was bred from two HYPP N/H horses. Scary.

When you breed two HYPP N/H horses together, 50% of the time, you will get an HYPP N/H horse. 25% of the time you will get an N/N. The other 25%, you get an H/H.

HYPP H/H horses have rarely won anything in the halter show ring. They tend to be very drastically muscled, and in my opinion, they tend to look a bit grotesque. They're also much more prone to HYPP attacks.

There's a question as to whether it's ethical to continue placing HYPP positive horses in real shows. By placing them, the AQHA is basically giving tacit approval to breed horses that are dangerous, not only to the horse, but to their handlers as well. A horse suffering and HYPP attack can kill or seriously injure anyone or anything around it, as well as itself.

How should a model horse judge look at sculptures of HYPP positive horses? Looking at the rules the AQHA has set would seem a natural place to start.

HYPP N/H is not prohibited in Quarter Horse registration. It's allowable. It's not even heavily discouraged by the breed assocation.

HYPP H/H cannot be registered with the AQHA. Period.

A judge, and a model horse shower, need to know what they're looking at. If the horse looks HYPP H/H, that horse shouldn't place in a model horse show. It's not registrable. If you are going to place it, it had better place only in color classes, or in Mixed Stock Breed/Grade/Mixed Horse classes, because that's all it can be.

What about HYPP N/H? That's legal. Well, this comes down to judge's decision, ultimately. Personally, I won't place an HYPP N/H looking horse over an HYPP N/N horse, pure and simple. If it's not ethical in the real world, it's not ethical in plastic pony land either.

I'd have included pictures of HYPP H/H horses to give you an example of what they look like, but I really don't have the energy to argue with a real horse owner about the intricacies of the laws about libelous writing.

Come back Wednesday for more on Genetic Defects and Model Horses.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stories from the Ranch: Winter Weather Warning

Today, I'm trying something new, I'm sharing some fiction writing about my ranch with you. I was going to do a basic write-up about upcoming events for my horses, but I'd rather do it in the form of a story than in summary like before. Eventually, I want to start sprinkling in pictures of my models to go with the stories, a sort of partial photo story.

 Winter Weather Warning

The day started with a winter weather warning for the area around Long Road Home Ranch. Even the horses, normally frisky in the cold, stood huddled together in their fields. Every one of them was coated in a thick high tog rated blanket, but from their sullen looks, it was clear it was still too cold for them.

Many of the horses had looked askance at the stable staff when they were turned out of their nice warm stalls into the cold, but this might be the last opportunity the stable had to safely move soiled bedding to the muck heap with the front end loader.

The forecast called for snow turning to freezing rain, and later sleet on top of the freezing rain. It would turn the yard into an ice rink. For the jockeys and stable staff, that would be a fun novelty. Ever since they'd heard the forecast, they'd been talking about leaving half of the arena unsalted so they could play winter sports. Another staff member had joked they could put some studs in Wasabi Sensation's shoes, put his racing harness on, and give ski joring a try.

One of the staff had even suggested a spot of grooming bucket curling. Sharon had to admit, that sounded like fun. She'd given them permission to leave the uncovered half of the arena unsalted so they could play their winter games, but she had no intention of joining them. It was too cold. Alfio, the jockey from Colombia, had very vigorously agreed with that sentiment. He'd never experienced such cold in his life. Like the owner, Alfio was bundled up in four sweaters, and a coat, as he and the rest of the jockeys trudged upstairs to the lounge and office over the small barn.

One of the western performance riders, a lad named Dicky, was watching videos on the big screen TV. Dicky didn't look up as the jockeys trudged up the stairs, and kept taking notes on his clipboard.

"I don't recognize that horse, that's not one of ours, is it?" Sharon said.

Dicky looked up, startled. "No, that's a colt out of a mare I was looking at for a new reining prospect. I love your Blendy-colt, but he's way too hot for reining. If we're going to win, we need a more laid-back horse."

Dicky leaned forward and hit pause on the remote, then picked up a magazine. "I was looking at this mare," he said, pointing at one of the full-page full-color glossy ads, "So I figured I'd do some research and see what her babies are like."

"Oh, I'll leave you to it, then."

"Is that a yes, then? You're gonna consider buying or breeding a new reining prospect?"

"Yep. But on one condition."

"What's that?"

"We're going to try something new with the next one. I want to see if those new boots that are designed to take shoes will work with slider plates. I hate that Blendy-colt has to be turned out on his own all the time, and that he can't be turned out outside at all when the weather's bad."

Dicky gave her an odd look. "For chrissakes-"

Alfio gave Dicky a stern look.

"Sorry," Dicky said respectfully, then turned his attention back to Sharon. "Boss, it's a horse, not a baby."

"Yes, and I think a horse should be a horse. Horses are herd animals, so they should be in herds if they can be. He's the only stallion here that doesn't have a pasture mate."

"I don't see what option you have, boss. Are you really gonna pull his shoes off every time he comes home just so you can turn him out with a buddy? You'll mess his hooves up."

Arnold rapped the teaspoon on the side of his cup of coffee, flinging the last drops of coffee off the spoon and into the cup. "If you can fix a hoof like Barbaro's with resin... couldn't you fix a shoe to a hoof with it, too? That way, you could just put his shoes on for shows and leave him barefoot the rest of the time. He'd probably slide more too, because he's not so used to walking on his sliding plates."

Dicky shook his head. "Nah, you'd lose all that smoothness and straightness in the slide, and he'd struggle with his direction changes. You're better keeping him shod all the time."

Sharon shrugged as she went into her office. "You find me a stallion and a mare you think would make a good reining baby, and I'll figure out the rest of it."

She opened up the filing cabinet, and pulled out a stack of folders, then headed back into the lounge and threw them down on the table. "Anyway, let's get this racing business sorted. The horses are leaving tomorrow, and we're leaving for Australia on Monday, and I want to make sure everyone's got their travel and work documents in order. This is our last chance to get anything sorted."

Sharon pulled out her checklist. "Passports: human."

Everyone put their passports on the table in front of them.

"Work visas?"

Everyone put their visas on the table.

"Racing license: Australian."

Everyone put their racing licenses up on the table. Sharon noticed some of her jockeys had a big stack of racing licenses to sort through. Arnold's stack of racing licenses was huge. She recognized some of the headers on them as he sorted through them: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Great Britain, Ireland, France...

Finally, Arnold put his Australian racing license on the table, with an apologetic look on his face. "Sorry, too many to search."

Alfio held up his stack of racing licenses. "Alphabetically sorted. Much easier to find them that way."

"Alright, everyone grab a horse folder."

The jockeys all grabbed a folder. Sharon picked up a pen to check the documents off her list as they found them.

"Alright, name check first: Aasifa Bint Johar?" Check. "Antar Al-Ahmar?" Check. "Backfire? Pride of Nayef? Rum Runner? Shes All That? Solar Eclipse? Wafiyah?" Check, check, check, check, check. "Excellent, that's everyone."

"Registration certificates?" Check.

"Vet check #1?"

The vet checks for flying the racehorses to Australia had started weeks ago, with scheduled Equine Influenza vaccinations, and coggins titres. With eight horses to vaccinate and check, the vet checks had taken all day.

"Excellent. Vet check #2?" Check.

"Fantastic, that'll do it." Sharon went back into her office and grabbed a water-tight filing tote to put the files in. "Let's get these files in here and get them in the horse box for the ride to the airport tomorrow."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

All Breeds Racing Board Spelling Season Ends February 4th

If you've been following my blog, you know I've been racing over at the All Breeds Racing Board since November last year. The atmosphere there is great. It's a young club, only a year old, and most of us are new to model horse racing, so we're all learning the ins and outs of the model sport of kings together. Our first race of the year is on February 4th, with the last call to the post on February 3rd, so now's a great time to join the club and prepare for the upcoming racing season.

If you'd like to join in, click on the picture above, or type the URL into your browser bar, and sign up for an account with the Starting Gate tab on the website.