Saturday, July 14, 2007

By popular request: A few words on genetic Russian Roulette

Here we have two 2-year old sorrel registered AQHA fillies. They are both AQHA breed show halter quality. In fact, the one on the left has already proven herself by qualifying for the World Show and earning 40 points. The one of the right is just a prospect but I do agree she'd probably do well if someone got out there and showed her. Their bloodlines are actually quite similar. Both are advertised as prospective broodmares.

Here's the difference:

The filly on the left is HYPP N/N. (Negative) The filly on the right is HYPP H/H. (Positive).
HYPP (Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis) is a genetic defect that traces back to a popular Quarter Horse sire named Impressive. Not all descendants of Impressive are afflicted and there is a simple test to determine which are.

Here is a description of the disease from the web site
"HyPP affects the sodium channels of afflicted horses and overloads the system with high potassium levels that cause episodes which may include: mild muscle twitching that is undetectable to the human eye; noticeable muscle twitching; "crawling" skin, ranging from slight to very noticeable and usually from the back flank area forward; hind quarter paralysis; excessive yawning; and paralysis of the muscles surrounding the heart and/or lungs, causing death due to heart attack or suffocation."

Lovely, huh? The good news is, it's very easy to eliminate this disease forever! All we have to do is stop breeding any Quarter Horses except those which test N/N.
Unfortunately, it's not so simple, because stubborn, greedy morons - and yes, I think you are all downright EVIL if you do this - insist upon breeding these horses, giving stupid reasons like saying it takes a positive horse to win in halter. Really? I suppose no one told the filly on the left. And even if that were much more shallow and shortsighted and downright EVIL can you get than to deliberately produce horses who may be doomed to die a horrible death in order to make a profit?

Am I exaggerating about the horrible deaths? Let's look at one description of a HYPP death, fro the same web site.

"The rest of the clinic went on until the lunch break of the second day, when the whole group of parents and kids were outside having a bbq, while the horses were put up in the stalls. All of a sudden the little girl comes screaming down the barn aisle saying that something is wrong with ‘scooter’ she was crying, so all immediately jumped up to find out what was going on. When I got to the stall, my heart was taken aback. ‘scooter’ was down in the stall amidst in a full blown attack. Not a little muscle on the side attack, his whole body was racked with spasms. I recognized it immediately, and had one of the parents call the vet from the cell phone. Meanwhile this horse is literally screaming for breath. I have never seen the fear and panic that was in that horses eyes. Luckily the Vet was only 3 miles away, and we thought he should be here in time. We had no Karo, no acetazolamide. I asked the owners if he had ever had an attack before, they asked an attack of what? They knew nothing about the disease, and had never seen the horse show symptoms. Of course they might have, but just not known what it was.

To make this long story shorter. The Vet never made it in time. About a minute after getting off the phone, his eyes went glassy, and the muscles stopped. I will also never forget the look on the faces of the parents and the kids who were there. I won’t go into details into how they had to get the horse out of the stall."

Fugly can be on the inside, too. Fugly is a horse that is a ticking time bomb. Yes, some positive horses live to a ripe old age. Some never have an attack. But others suffocate alive and aware, unable to move, unable to be helped. And this is something breeders could completely eliminate in the next 20 or 30 years. We could ensure it never happens again to another horse. People are choosing to continue to breed carriers of this defect, as well as others I could name. This is irresponsible breeding at its finest and it is not helped by a breed organization that is too much of a bunch of pussies to do what they should do and refuse to register any offspring of a N/H or H/H horse.

For those of you who prefer the humor, sorry about today's moment of seriousness, but now that everybody and their brother seems to be reading this blog, I felt the need to take advantage of the soapbox. Back to your regularly scheduled snark tomorrow!