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Date Posted: 10:14:30 02/28/09 Sat
Author: Mystic Oak Ranch
Subject: Health Issues?
In reply to: Alex 's message, "I think the breed is doomed!!!" on 13:03:32 01/11/09 Sun

I don't get on her often at all - in fact, last time I lurked a bit was months ago ;-) But as I'm cleaning out my web links, I happened to see this post. Alex, I have heard ONE other person delivering the same exact message you have, and did a little research because I too, had NEVER heard of some of these issues in relation to Friesians. Funny to see your post, it is identical to that other person's website.

In fact, the issues that are pretty well confirmed as Friesian problems are, some have poor semen, mares do have high incidence of retained placenta (easy to treat), OCD is seen in many larger horses (including Warmbloods and Drafts, not just a Friesian issue), and there has been some discussion but NO CONFIRMED STUDIES on the higher incidence of torsion colic in the breed. It is a small world, when a Friesian colics, it makes bigger news than when a Warmblood or Draft or other horse colics, so we all assume it is a Friesian issue.

ONE single stallion in Australia carries the dwarfism gene, and I think that stallion's breeding approval has been pulled. In fact, I asked at UCD a few years ago about dwarfism because I saw a Warmblood foal there who was a dwarf, and the vet I talked to said it was not a breed specific issue, it was seen in a few Warmblood and Pony lines. He didn't mention Friesians at all.

I've NEVER heard of a case of hydrocephalism and Google didn't turn any up either.

Sweet itch (or dermatitis or scratches or other skin issues) is because of FEATHERS - not a Friesian issue, a feathered horse issue. Drafts and other feathered horses get it too. Heavily haired horses get it - not a breed issue, a hair issue. I shave my Friesians feathers, no problems.

Are there problems in the breed? Yes - but all breeds seem to have their issues. It is the result of inbreeding and careful line breeding. I fully agree that the current "sport type" stallions are not all idea sport types. Weak stifles, poor loin connections, no heart girth, long curvey necks (if you are a dressage rider, let me tell you, that is NOT a neck you want to try to ride well!), etc - I'd love to see the trend go back toward the middle type (heavier than sport, lighter and leggier than baroque) Friesians. I've got one of those at home - he's not Baroque, he's got long legs, but he's got a fairly short back, great hind end, nice loin, and big body - along with a big white star and not a ton of hair. Not the ideal breed standard, for sure, but for a true RIDING horse, exactly what I want. And he can canter ;-)

FHANA/FPS could use some new blood, and maybe changing the requirements, allowing some horses in as approved for breeding based on performance (if they can go FEI, who cares if they are too short or have a little white on them, or are a bit heavier than the inspectors prefer?). I would love to see the B book revamped to allow some bloodlines to blow out some of the inbreeding, and perhaps even consider infusing a little outside blood (carefully, of course). Would be interesting to see some inspectors who know something about RIDING horses added to the inspection process, or accept scores from recognized shows in lieu of inspection scores.

However, I hardly think the breed is doomed - or that all the health issues you discuss are Friesian issues. I think what most hurts the Friesian world is the lack of solidarity and the exclusivity of FHANA. I'll fully admit, I'm a cross breeder - I breed an ocassional purebred, but I love the crossbreds, since I look at the horses from a rider's standpoint, and I want a bit more stamina and elasticity in my horses. But I do own purebreds, and have friends who own and breed them, and know people who specialize in training Friesians.

Doubt the breed is doomed, but its saving grace may be those who are breeding outside of FPS/FHANA guidelines...

>That's the problem - the approved stallions are not
>baroque and are long backed - I would not use any of
>the modern approved stallions on my mares- the FPS is
>trying to get rid of the baroque style as it is in
>their view making the breed look old fashioned - they
>want to keep up with the trend of horses being sport
>horse types. The stallion that won had very low
>scores compared to the other stallions - so why did it
>win - fashionable pedigree perhaps?? - Hmmm call me
>synical but are the judges and owners friends!!!!;) -
>there is alot of money at stake here - what do you
>I would have no problem breeding along the lines of
>the breed standard and I stick to what is considered
>in all breeds a useful conformation for both riding
>and driving and temperament is very important - I
>would never breed from a nutty or nervous animal. But
>FPS's new interpretation of it is what you see winning
>in the show ring!
>I would not want my stallion approved for all the
>world as they then dictate what I can and can't do
>with it and I would not put him through the stallion
>training in holland - do you know how they get them
>doing the high stepping trot and at what age?? - not
>something I would submit any of my horses too. Also
>the fact they would down grade my horses because they
>are baroque is not really an incentive to spend all
>that money either - they are more expensive than
>Wetherby's! - and put them through a keuring, why
>bother with baroque mares either as they will be
>poorly marked as is not what is fashionable so not
>really any point as no matter what stallion I put my
>mares to they will be baroque - so not wanted by the
>FPS. They either need to split the breed up into
>different types and thus narrow the gene pool further
>of they should embrace anything that has a useful
>conformation - but they are never going to! Do you
>know how hard it is to find baroque mares now - they
>are either not bred from or got rid of as the owners
>have all gone onto sport types - that is how we found
>one of our old mares - she was no longer fashionable.
>They are like hens teeth now, we have found 2 that
>would compliment our stallion so far that we have
>imported, but am so disheartened with breeding
>friesians as they are getting so much bad press we are
>cutting our numbers back and just having stallions - I
>have registered all of them with the sport horse
>society and hope to grade them in the future - far
>more useful than the FPS!!! - Thier loss genetically -
>but they don't exactly inspire anyone - ever wonder
>why there are no FPS approved stallions in the UK - do
>FHAGBI do much to promote the breed with all the money
>they get from membership - not really?!!!
>As far as AI is concerned the majority of vets have
>little experience with inseminating friesians - as
>they do have this weird follicle problem, getting them
>AI'd for your average single mare owner is not really
>feasible and can be a really difficult to find a vet
>that knows the breed.
> The reason the breed nearly went extinct was not
>because of crossbreeding - how do you think the breed
>first came about?!! - but because its use as an all
>round farm horse was no longer needed due to
>mechanisation, now the horse is a leisure animal and
>people want that particular look and temperament that
>they were once famous for they brought it back. Now
>it seems the friesian is just something to look pretty
>in the show ring and be a black horse but not be
>actually of any use - like the extreme show arab - so
>people who want a driving horse for the growing trend
>in carriage driving are not even considering the
>friesian as it is becoming renowned as being highly
>strung and severely lacking in stamina, the same goes
>for dressage as the new sport type cannot do the
>collected moves as it is not physically possible to do
>them well enough as thier back is so long they don't
>get the marks.
>I went to a keuring and they described what the judges
>were looking for in a stallion - long, lean, swan
>necked, high stepping action in the front end and a
>rectangular profile, with long legs - they never
>looked at what the horse was like, or what kind of
>backend it had, what would be considered useful
>conformation in all other breeds was way down the list
>- oh and as long as it was black and had some
>feathering it was given a premie!!
>You can see why I have nothing to do with the FPS -
>they knowingly use stallions that pass on numerous
>genetic faults but do they exclude them from the gene
>pool? - no - they are too valuable money wise! We had
>our stallion Wessel semen tested and x-rayed to make
>sure he was fit for breeding, I would not hesitate to
>geld him if he did not pass his
>conformation/temperament and action on to his
>offspring - it is my hobby not a money earner - I
>Here are some of the main known genetic problems the
>breed sufferes from:
>Hydrocephaly - can be fatal for mare as well as foal,
>Dwarfism - fatal,
>Retained placentas - 54% compared to 2-10% in ALL
>other breeds - most of our friesian mares have
>retained placentas at some point compared to 1 in our
>other breeds of horse!!,
>Abnormally sized follicles in mares which would be
>considered cystic in all other breeds,
>Poor fertility in mares and stallions in general - the
>majority of stallions fail on semen,
>Most stallions semen cannot be frozen,
>OCD - another common thing horses fail the keurings
>Fewer adhesions of the gut and other organs to the
>intestinal wall leading to a predisposition to
>torsional collic,
>Holes in the mesentry which loops of gut get stuck
>through and die- causing death or severe colic - have
>known 3 friesians to die of this,
>Larger numbers of foal malpresentations,
>A higher number of mares suffering from placentitis,
>Sensativity to aneasthetic/sedation - you either need
>tons of it or very little for the size of horse -
>which obviously carries risks to those handling, and
>the animal!
>Sweet itch - or predisposition to allergies - a thing
>the Fell pony has inherited from its friesian
> So quite a frightening list compared to other breeds,
>which the FPS are doing nothing about and continue to
>narrow the gene pool in order to produce these flashy
>trotting things - the wining stallion had an
>inbreeding % of 17% - I thought it had to be less than
> I know several top classical dressage trainers and
>film horse trainers who wouldn't touch a friesian with
>a barge pole the reason they give - too highly strung
>and not built to do a days work!! - Not really the
>image the breed needs!!! - they would rather use
>Andalusians - which as everyone knows are very
>sensative high strung horses!!!
>I think the dutch are a bit weird on the crossbreeding
>idea but crossbred friesians are really useful and
>popular horses in the US and Australia and have their
>own breed registries and are regulated, they are used
>as dressgae and event horses as it increases the
>breeds stamina, as long as the right crosses are done
>and from top quality mares from other breeds and with
>good conformation that are bred with a purpose in mind
>not just because they are cute!
> If friesians hadn't been used for crossbreeding
>there would be no Shires, Fells, Dales, Groningens and
>modern warmblood types so crossbreeding has always
>gone on - why not use a good animal to improve the
>genetics of another breed? I do not agree with
>crossing them with anything that moves - we are picky
>what our stallions cover as the results are our
>advertising, but there are many that are not picky and
>are using poor quality friesian stallions in the first
>place, it is they that are giving a bad reputation to
>crossbreds - but that happens in most breeds. TB's
>are used on other breeds to give athleticism and speed
>etc to other breeds so why not use friesians - to give
>bone, temperament, looks etc to other breeds.
>I think the breed will need new blood at some point,
>am not the only one who thinks so!, after all it is
>only a look/action/colour and temperament that we are
>talking about - adding a bit of say carefully selected
>spanish/percheron or arab blood in every few
>generations is not going to alter the characteristics
>that are so prized but will mean the horses themselves
>are more healthy and fewer die as a result of
>inbreeding - having had one youngster die from what
>was revealed on PM - a hole in the mesentry - and
>known others that have had the same problem and lost
>thier horse due to a genetic problem. I feel
>something needs to be done and would save other horses
>and owners from going through the same nightmare and
>heart ache. Why do you think I like the crossbred -
>same temperament etc but far less likely to die from
>genetic problems!
>I enjoy a good debate and like to hear others views -
>can anyone give me a sensible answer why the genetic
>problems are not widely published - I had to do alot
>of digging, and why the stallion that won did - was
>that the best they had enter? - if so they really need
>to address thier breeding plan, it had pretty poor
>scores overall!
>Where does every one else stand on all these problems?
>Did you know about them when you bought your friesian
>- did the breeder/dealer tell you about them when you
>bought your horse?
>Do you think it is acceptable to loose alot of horses
>just for a look?
>Have you had any problems with your friesians but are
>scared to speak up/don't want your horses tainted by
>Go on we need more petrol - I want answers!!!!;)

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