Tuesday, 7 August 2012

It is Official - More Samples required for HWSS Research

It is Official - 

UC Davis requires/needs more samples to continue with their research into the causes of HWSS.

Whole blood samples are required from both unaffected and affected ponies.

Submissions from affected ponies require high quality digital photographs to accompany the blood samples.  Where possible a full medical history is also desired.  A farrier's report could also be useful.

If you want your ponies to be part of this research project you need to contact UC Davis OR the Research Group to obtain the correct submission forms and the sample collection protocols.

Samples from outside of the USA will require an import permit which can be obtained from UC Davis or the group.

UC Davis have not indicated how many samples they need BUT let us, the Connemara community, show how important this issue is to the health and welfare of the breed and get as many samples as possible to UC Davis as quickly as possible.   

They need more samples to go onto the next stage of the research. Until they have enough the process will slow down dramatically.  Some of the research equipment used runs in cycles with 48 samples per cycle.  A run does not  get wasted  by loading less than the optimum number of samples; it all comes back to economies of scale.  So until there are enough samples for a 'run' all must wait.

Both UC Davis and the group look forward to having our in-boxes flooded with requests for submission documentation and import permits.

The contact details for UC Davis are on their poster Here is the link to UC Davis

Putting email addresses directly onto the blog, sadly invites the attentions of spam crawlers, so you will need to go directly to the UC Davis page to get their contact details.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Breaking News - HWSS is Official

It is Official!!

Because of the close relationship between the HWSS Research Group and the Bannasch Laboratory, UC Davis, we have been aware for sometime of the progress that has been made, and now we can share this publicly.

The very existence of HWSS and that it is of genetic orign of it has been questioned by many people throughout the Connemara Pony breeding world. Those who have not seen or personally experienced the condition are reluctant to accept that such a serious problem could be lurking within their beloved breed. Understandably the recurring call has been the need for scientific proof that this is not simply an environmental or management issue, but a genetic one. Now because of the dedication of a number of breeders and individuals throughout the world, we have that proof! UC Davis has released the following information into the public domain.

While this may only be the first official statement regarding research into HWSS, we believe that now is the time for an open acknowledgement that there is a cause for concern, but that there is a way out of the situation.

The ICCPS Annual General Meeting is coming up, as is the Technical Meeting. With so many delegates from breed societies around the world present for these, the research group group sincerely hopes that the UC Davis release on HWSS is enough scientific proof to acknowledge the condition, and start a constructive discussion on the issue.

For further research to continue, UC Davis needs the help of Connemara Pony owners and breeders worldwide. They need more samples from ponies, and the sooner they get them, the sooner we will have a test for the condition. The ICCPS are in a unique position to facilitate this. An education campaign to the daughter breed societies would rapidly add to UC Davis' collection of samples. Additionally, breed societies could vastly aid breeders and owners by coordinating the collection and shipment of blood samples to UC Davis. What a huge pro-active and positive step for the breed that would be!

The Connemara Pony community needs to start talking now about how to deal with the problem when a test is commercially available. There will be a time lag between the research phase being completed and when testing becoming commercial available, but that should not stop us from calmly, and rationally, discussing how this issue will be managed to the betterment of the breed.

We are not the only breed society to have faced such issues - both the Fell Pony breeders and the New Forest Pony Breeders have faced similar problems over the genetic issues in their respective breeds. And like the conditions in the above breeds, we do not believe that HWSS will be limited to just the Connemara Pony - this research will likely benefit horses worldwide.

We know the test is coming; let us as a cohesive community be positive and ready. Let the Connemara Pony community worldwide be ready and waiting to embrace the new technology as soon as it becomes available.


The Research into HWSS – How was it Achieved??

The research into HWSS is the result of the dedication and perseverance of a few private individuals who rose to the challenge to provide the scientific evidence required to support their working hypothesis.

The research group made a tentative approach to researchers at the Bannasch Laboratory back in April 2011.  Because of the high standing worldwide that this laboratory has in the area of equine genetic research the group considered that any work performed by them would be well beyond any reproach .  

Although interested to be involved at a personal level, the researchers told us that to conduct the necessary initial GWAS required money – lots of money which the group did not have and until we could fund the study, there was little they could do to help.  However Bannasch did make the offer to the group that if samples were submitted to them they would extract the DNA and then store this for the future; an offer which was gratefully accepted.

The turning point came when Rosewood Witchcraft was taken to the Centre for Equine Health for a clinical workup. Thank you so much Darian, you had no idea what this action would precipitate. Rosewood Witchcraft's facebook page

Until 'Crafty' was 'seen in the flesh' the researchers really had no conception of just what the severity of this condition was. Photographs just DO NOT illustrate how dramatic this condition can be.

Shortly after Crafty's visit another affected pony made the journey to UC Davis.

These clinical examinations was the spur needed to get official, professional interest underway to research into the causes and origins of HWSS.

But of course 'we' still needed money – lots of money; thus this blog was created.

To all of you private individuals who rose to the occasion and donated funds to UC Davis to fund the GWAS and subsequent gene sequencing; 


it could not have happened without you.

The influx of funds to UC Davis allowed the initial GWAS to start. Because of the great start to fundraising UC Davis approached the Morris Foundation to apply for a dollar for dollar grant. This grant application was accepted and the Morris Foundation and two other sponsors are continuing to support the ongoing research.


without the initial financial support from mainly private individuals within the worldwide Connemara Pony community the grant from the Morris Foundation would not have eventuated, nor that of the other two sponsors.

At this point the Connemara Pony Research Group would like to formally acknowledge the following organisations for their financial support of the research:
  • American Connemara Pony Society
  • Region 111 of the American Connemara Pony Society
  • Ulster Connemara Pony Breeder's Association (previously known as Northern Ireland Connemara Pony Breeder's Association)
  • Connemara.nu (an independent Swedish organisation which collected private donations on behalf, specifically for this project)

The above funds combined to approximately a  third of the total monies donated; the balance came from private individuals. Other than the official notifications received from the mentioned organisations, the research group has no information as to who made donations to the fund.

Another result of this blog is that many owners of affected ponies around the world made contact with the research group. 

One of these people was Kathy.  read her story here 

People who emailed the group were  put into direct contact with their country representative in the group. Much work has been performed by these representatives on behalf of both the pony owners and the research group. Without this input of samples from so many different countries, Bannasch could not have made progress as quickly as they have.
Blood collections and co-ordinated shipping of samples to Bannasch for DNA extraction (which each participating pony owner paid for themselves) have been made from Denmark, Germany/Austria, Canada, USA, Sweden and New Zealand.

UC Davis are now calling for further sample submissions.

NOW is the time for the 'ordinary' breeders and owners to unite and to become involved in this ground breaking research.
Contact the research group for help if you wish to be part of submitting samples in a co-ordinated response or UC Davis direct, if this should be your preferred option.