Tuesday, 8 November 2011

How HWSS has really affected so many people and their ponies

HWSS was unofficially brought to the attention of  some ICCPS delegates during a break in their technical meeting back in 1998.   Sadly for the breed as a whole and for specific ponies and owners, the information supplied then was not heeded.

Human nature being what it is, people will have wanted to protect their own interests, so the 'don't want to know' attitude is not surprising.

But what have been the true costs?  Consider the following.

HWSS has not been talked about openly - there has been plenty 'talking behind the hand' in some areas BUT for the most part until now, owners and breeders have been on their own dealing with this issue.

OWNER GUILT is one of the prime psycho-social effects of  having to deal with such a problem in isolation.   Up until now there has been no support group to turn to.  The level of denial to there even being a problem is also very high.   Owners feel guilty that something they have or have not done in the care and welfare of their pony (ies) is the cause of this debilitating hoof condition.   The farriers and veterinarians have had no knowledge of the condition and have been treating these ponies for all manner of pathologies - usually White Line Disease (WLD) or fungal and bacterial infections.   All at great cost to the owners and with no or little positive results (thankfully this is now changing with prominent veterinarians, farriers and hoof experts following the progress of this research).

Just think about the effects on such an individual who has bred 4 such ponies and has been struggling on in isolation to do the best for them?   To suddenly be made aware just a matter of weeks ago, that there was research happening this area and that the hypothesis is that it has a genetic basis, was an overwhelming relief for this person.
Actually there are 4 such pony owners - this is not some hypothetical situation - who have come forward in the past month from 3 different countries, and whose ponies have supplied blood samples to the Bannasch Laboratory for the GWAS.   These owners have met all the collection costs and FedEx expenses from their own pockets; the research group and Bannasch are so grateful to them for doing this.

Sadly there is no cure for HWSS; some cases can be 'managed' but some ponies are so severely affected that  the only 'cure' is euthanasia.  Sadly for one of the four people mentioned above this is the outcome for another lovely pony (yes there have been more ponies from the same person who have had to be euthanased on humane grounds, even with the best of care) .   Except that THIS time the owner, the veterinarian and the farrier all had an idea about what they were dealing with.

This pony will add much information to the research project as all four legs (hooves) and other tissues have been sent to UC Davis and are undergoing pathology testing.  The preliminary results confirms that these hooves do NOT  have the pathology seen with 'normal' hoof  structure.

There is a great amount of scuttlebutt presently zipping about the interwebs on HWSS.  The number one take away message is:
This is NOT a curable condition in but some cases it can be managed so well that the pony can live an active and productive life.  


  • The ponies who are being reported, via the scuttlebutt, to have been 'cured' have in fact been euthanased.   
  • It is a worldwide problem and definitely not restricted to any one country.   
  • It IS more common in some countries and some areas within certain countries.
  • Don't point the finger at other people - you too could well have a carrier pony standing in your paddock/barn.  You have either not yet bred it OR have lucked out and 'won' the 50% lottery.   (carriers have a 50% chance of passing the defect on to their offspring - simple Mendelian genetics predicts 1:4 ratios of affected to non affected offspring when two carriers are mated). 
Become part of the SOLUTION.
  •  Help with donations to Bannasch.  
  • Contact this group if you have an affected pony or have bred an affected pony.   Part of the research involves building family trees.   The database is already large with over 21,000 individual ponies listed from all over the world but more information is required.