Sunday, 26 October 2014

HWSD testing Statistics

The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) from UC Davis which is conducting all of the HWSD testing worldwide, has provided the Connemara Pony Research Group with a report on the numbers of ponies that have been tested for the HWSD mutation to date.

The reason for doing this is to help the CPRG to continue to help educate and disseminate up-to-date information to breeders.

The information from VGL is raw data only.  As with any statistics it is the analysis performed on the numbers which begins to paint the bigger picture.

The first message to understand is how the numbers are initially collected and how the table is constructed.    Also it must be noted that the ponies being sampled and tested are not 'random' samples which skews the results.
VGL states the following:
 "Attached are the summary stats by country of HWSD tests since we started offering the test at the end of August 2014. Percentage of carriers and affected were calculated only if more than 10 horses were tested per country. The carrier frequency in the VGL’s data is coming out higher than the value found in Dr. Bannasch’s research. However, keep in mind that we are using raw data from testing, which includes related individuals. Our estimates are not based on a random sample of unrelated horses and obviously overestimate the frequency of carriers and affected. With time, you’ll notice that the values will settle around the actual frequencies."

The full table from VGL is listed at the end of this page.  
This raw data  has to be adjusted and analysed in order to gain a truer picture of the situation in each country. 
VGL does not have any background information on the make up of individual populations of ponies in various parts of the world.  Country of residence does not always equate to country of origin. Using a combination of information of country of origin combined with country of residence a different picture emerges.

For example:

New Zealand is listed as having tested 21 ponies with 16 N/N and 5 N/HWSD.  However what is not obvious from the table below is that all five of the N/HWSD ponies are ponies imported from Australia. However another seven N/N ponies listed under NZ are also recent Australia imports. Another mare was imported to NZ from the UK; bred in Ireland by a French stallion, her imported in-utero colt is also in the NZ tested list.

Thus if the numbers are adjusted to acknowledge this, then the Australian/New Zealand  figures will look like this:

                            N/N    N/HWSD   HWSD/HWSD   Grand total    %age Carriers
Australia                  69           14                  1                          84                 17.9%
New Zealand          4             0                  0                            4                    0%

Similarly Australia has an N/N  colt  and an N/N filly listed which are both bred in Germany (these have been extracted from the numbers in the table above).

Canada lists four non Canadian bred stallions: one N/N from Germany, one N/N from USA, one N/N from Ireland and one N/HWSD from Ireland.

France has one N/N stallion from Great Britain.

Germany has one N/N stallion from Sweden, one N/N stallion from Ireland.

Six stallions bred and resident in Northern Ireland are listed under Great Britain.

New Zealand has listed one N/N colt of  German, Irish and French breeding but bred by a UK breeder.

USA has three Irish imports listed.

This breakdown is to demonstrate just how closely interlinked individual populations of  Connemara ponies are, across the world.  This becomes even more apparent when considering mares and fillies.

Looking purely at the country statistics from what is known from the results sent to  CPRG for positing on the HWSD tested ponies results page distribution of  ponies outside their listed country:

Australia and New Zealand tabled above.

Canada - stallions 3 imports as mentioned  above.  Mares 4/11 imported: 3 Great Britain, 1 Ireland

Switzerland - no notifications made to CPRG

Germany - 2/12 stallions as above; mares 0/11 imported

Denmark - stallions 0/6; mares 0/15 imported

France - both ponies are British bred, French residents.

Great Britain - one N/HWSD stallion from Ireland and one N/N bred in GB + the six stallions from Northern Ireland plus three mares also.
Thus GB when adjusted ONLY for the Northern Ireland situation, would look like: 53 - 9 from Northern Ireland + 2 from France = 46

          N/N     N/HWSD   N/HWSD  Total  %age Carrier
GB      40             5                  1         46              13.0%

Ireland:    8/10 of the ponies on the VGL table come from two owner/breeders.  These are on the CPRG page.  3/8 recorded are mares.  1/3 mares is N/HWSD; 1/5 stallions is N/HWSD.

Sweden: 25 ponies are on the blog list of which five are N/HWSD or HWSD/HWSD.  Even with the restricted numbers of notifications made to CPRG the %age carrier rate is still 20%.  

USA has the highest number of tested ponies to date.  Of those listed on the CPRG list, 19 are mares, 7 of which are direct imports (4 ex Ireland) or born to imported ponies in the USA (3).  3/19 mares are N/HWSD and 0/19 HWSD/HWSD.   Stallions 3/11 are imported.  1/11 is N/HWSD

Conclusion:  The uptake of the HWSD test by Irish owners and breeders based purely on population levels of the Connemara pony in each country, is very worrying.  The assumption is that this poor response is due to a very low awareness of the HWSD issue among the wider population.  The same situation is assumed for France and Great Britain.

France, which is the second largest producer of Connemara ponies in the world demonstrates an even lower uptake than Ireland - as the two ponies tested and listed are of  British breeding.

Great Britain is the third largest producer of Connemara ponies in the world; it too has significantly low uptake of the HWSD test.

Indeed Australia and the USA each have both tested more ponies than Ireland, France and Great Britain COMBINED!

For the most part the people who read this blog are already the more educated about HWSD among the breeders of Connemara ponies worldwide.  What each and everyone of you should consider doing, is to spread the message to those less well aware of the HWSD problem - and the solution afforded to breeders - by the availability of the  VGL test.

HWSD DNA Testing Statistics -September/October 2014

Country N/N N/HWSD HWSD/HWSD Grand Total % of Carriers % of Affected
Australia 64 9 1 74 12.2 1.4
Canada 15 6 1 22 27.3 4.5
Switzerland 3


Germany 25 7 0 32 21.9 0.0
Denmark 25 18 0 43 41.9 0.0
France 2


Great Britain 45 7 1 53 13.2 1.9
Ireland 10 2 1 13 15.4 7.7
The Netherlands

New Zealand 16 5
21 23.8 0.0
Sweden 27 9 2 38 23.7 5.3
United States 77 18 3 98 18.4 3.1
Grand Total 309 82 9 400 20.5 2.25

Test Result Disease Status

N/N Normal

N/HWSD Carrier

HWSD/HWSD Affected

Friday, 24 October 2014

Rosewood Witchcraft receives posthumous award from the American Connemara Pony Society

At the recent Annual General Meeting of the American Connemara Pony Society  Rosewood Witchcraft was awarded the "The purebred Connemara of the Year Award".
The citation reads as follows:
"The purebred Connemara of the Year Award went to Rosewood Witchcraft (ArdCeltic Art X Balmullo’s Rhiannon) for her contributions to solving the puzzle of HWSD, a genetic hoof wall disease.  “Crafty” was the poster child of HWSD and was, additionally, the first case of HWSD seen by the geneticists at UCDavis, the institution that eventually solved the puzzle and now provides a test for carriers of the disease.  Crafty contributed to not only the science, but also to the publicity and the fundraising.  Sadly, though, because of the disease, she had to be put down before her third birthday. " Link to American Connemara Pony Society website

On the HWSS Facebook page, Crafty's owner and breeder Darian Hall, wrote the following:
"At this years annual ACPS Awards Banquet Rosewood Witchcraft (Crafty) was named ACPS Pony of the Year. It was bitter sweet as Crafty did not survive the condition. She became a poster child only because we went so public with her. However there were so many of you who put your effort, your time and money into this and so many of you who suffered to watch your ponies fall apart without the answer and you tried as hard as I did to find the answer. AND WE DID.
So Crafty's award belongs to all of you for your effort and dedication that has brought us this wonderful test. Crafty was born at the right time, in the right place and to someone who was not going to shut-up (me). But without all of you I would still be fishing in the dark.
Thank you so much CPRG."

On Sunday 29 September 2013, this blog paid tribute to Crafty on a page titled Vale for Crafty

The poster which Darian wrote for the Clifden meeting about Crafty can be seen here

By honouring Crafty in this way the ACPS once again demonstrates the pro-active stance which the Society adopted very early on in the research process.  It is not widely known that the ACPS early in the fundraising process made a substantive monetary donation towards funding the research at UC Davis.

In response to requests, a French translation is now available for both formats of the information pamphlet.



Listed again are the links for the pamphlets:

HWSD Test Results page

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Blog hits reach 40,000 and other really important things.

Hits on the blog have now passed 40,000.

Below is the all time hits tally from the countries which made the Top Ten:

United States
United Kingdom
New Zealand

There is no facility on the blog site to retrieve all of the figures from all of the countries from where the traffic has originated, which is a pity.  From looking at the monthly totals the majority of the hits from Ireland and the UK have been over the past three months.

The CPRG has put together an updated version of the pamphlet which was written to be handed out at the Clifden meeting.  The links to the pamphlet are listed below.  You can download and print out the pamphlet yourself or pass the links and/or the download onto other people to share on any relevant websites.  
There are two formats containing the same information:

The HWSD-Information-Pamphlet-3-fold-brochure-version is designed so that when printed back to back it is a brochure which folds into 3 panels.

The Information-pamphlet-on-Hoof-Wall-Separation-Disease-Portrait-page-format prints onto A4 as a straight two page document.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

HWSD Test Results are coming thick and fast.

VGL have shown that at present they have a very quick turn around for the HWSD genetic test.  As more people send in samples for testing it is likely that one can expect a longer turn around time.

A number of owners and breeders have been posting the results of their pony's tests on the HWSS Facebook page.

Not all of the people who read this blog are members of the facebook page so will be missing out on this important information.

The CPRG has made the move to give owners a place to list their HWSD results HERE until such time that the breed societies make this facility available to their members.

For those of you who are not already on the Facebook HWSD page you can find it Facebook page HERE

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Clifden Meeting Report and other matters

The meeting to present the results of the research into Hoof Wall Separation Disease was held in Clifden on 19 August 2014 at the Alcock and Brown Hotel Function Centre.

The meeting was well attended by breeders from around the world as well as some of the ICCPS delegates.  As a direct result of this meeting significant 'movers and shakers' from the Connemara Pony breeding world now positively accept that HWSD does exist and that it is an  unique, verifiable and testable disease.  The number of breeders present was outweighed by farriers, which in some ways is a good thing. Farriers have to deal with HWSD on a more regular basis and will likely have seen more cases  during their work than what most breeders will have seen.   Hopefully the farriers  will be helped in their future work by the talk from Ray Knightley. Also in attendance was Dr Alan Fahey, an animal geneticist from UC Dublin who is presently conducting research into the problem of in-breeding inertia in the Connemara Pony.  

Sadly though although there were breeders present from all corners of the Connemara breeding world, there were few breeders from Ireland present at this meeting.  This is an omission which could lead to the detriment of the Irish produced ponies in the future.  Even more disappointing was the absence of  ICCPS society delegates from the largest Conenmara pony producing countries.  Here was the chance to return to their countries with first hand  and the most up to date information possible, yet this opportunity, for the most part was ignored.

This lack of  delegates was a disappointing development  as attendees at the ICCPS Technical meeting, held that morning, were told by the CPBS veterinarian and other officials, that it was important for people present at the ICCPS meeting to attend the HWSD meeting later that day, notwithstanding  there was a clash in event timing.  It is sure that the ICCPS delegates who did make the effort to attend were greatly rewarded in that they now have the most up to date information to relay to their society memberships.

One does have to wonder about the priorities of delegates who chose to NOT attend a meeting which presented material of the greatest significance to the ongoing healthy future of the Connemara Pony breed.  How can these people be true representatives of their society membership when socialising is considered to be of greater importance than education?   That is for each individual member from each individual Connemara breed society to question and then act appropriately when electing their governing bodies in the future.

To the meeting itself.  Dr Finno explained just how the research was undertaken; the sheer size of the gigabytes of data which had to be analysed is beyond comprehension! Dr Finno showed slides demonstrating the how big the difference is and where the mutation lies on the genome between normal and affected HWSD ponies.  Words are a poor substitute for visual explanations!!!  That HWSD is a genetic disease is categorically proven beyond all doubt yet,  as one person was heard to say, "needless to say there was the usual lone voice in absolute denial". 

Ray Knightley, the farrier, was the second speaker.  Ray talked the meeting through a variety of treatments options which he had tried on HWSD affected ponies.  He listed the advantages and disadvantages of each option illustrated by a power point show with  'before and after' images of the feet of affected ponies with which he has worked.

After a short break for afternoon tea, the meeting concluded with a presentation by Sheila Ramsay on the statistical implications of the potential HWSD carrier population within the breed.  Many people at the meeting left at afternoon tea because of prior commitments and so missed this important information.

HOWEVER  THE MAJOR TAKE HOME MESSAGE from this meeting, is that unlike with Chicken Licken, the sky is not falling!!!

CARRIER PONIES MUST NOT BE REMOVED FROM THE GENE POOL.  If the ponies are of breeding quality they have to be kept within the breeding programme.   Knee jerk reactions of culling animals because of carrier status is both stupid and counterproductive to the breed.

It is NOT a personal reflection upon breeders if they find out that their pony/ies are HWSD carriers.

HWSD testing is happening now!  Results are already being made public.  Educated buyers are going to want to know the HWSD status of potential breeding stock before they decide to purchase.

Other Matters:

On display at the meeting were a series of posters telling the stories of  HWSD affected ponies.  These posters were written by the owners (and in some cases the breeder/owner) of the ponies; the Connemara Pony Research Group has exerted no control over the material presented.  
The posters can be viewed here.
Also on display (and for sale) were the hoof sections from a HWSD affected foal, which were made by Dr Christoph von Horst.

It is intended to publish a DVD of the complete meeting in the future.  Until this DVD is available, people will be reliant upon first hand reports from meeting attendees.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

UC Davis has gone public with the HWSD Test!!!

You can get more information by attending the meeting at Alcock and Brown Hotel, Clifden, 19 August 2014

Researchers in the Bannasch Laboratory have identified the genetic basis of Connemara Pony Hoof Wall Disease. Hoof Wall Disease (HWD) is characterized by a hoof wall that easily breaks and cracks, and a normal appearing coronary band. The breaks and cracks begin to occur in young ponies. In severe cases the pony bears weight entirely on the sole of the foot which can lead to severe lameness. HWD is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. This means that carriers are completely normal and only animals with two copies of the mutation will show clinical signs of the disease. HWD appears to occur only in the Connemara pony and the carrier frequency has been estimated to be about 14.8%. A DNA test for this specific mutation can determine if ponies are normal or if they carry one or two copies of the mutation. Ponies that carry two copies of the mutation are highly likely to be affected with the disease. Some cases are milder while others are more severe. We have identified at least one case where the pony does not appear to have clinical signs associated with having two copies of the mutation. This indicates that the mutation is not fully penetrant; however it has very high penetrance of 96.8%.
The VGL offers a DNA test for HWD to assist owners and breeders in identifying affected and carrier ponies. The test uses DNA collected from mane hair thus avoiding invasive blood collection. Breeders can use results from the test as a tool for selection of mating pairs to avoid producing affected foals.

Allow 2-6 business days for results.
Results reported as:
N/N: No copies of HWD mutation; animal is normal
N/HWD: 1 copy of HWD mutation; animal is normal but is a carrier
HWD/HWD: 2 copies of HWD mutation; animal is affected
Ponies that have only one mutant copy of HWD (N/HWD) are normal but they are carriers of the disease.  UC DavisUC Davis VGL website website

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

One Week to Go!

It is one week from today that the HWSD meeting with Dr Carrie Finno and Ray Knightley is being held.

Alcock and Brown Hotel, Clifden. 19th August 2014 at 1.30pm.

Dr Finno and Ray Knightley have only been able to attend this important event because of the generosity of many people who donated to the travel fund.  The Connemara Pony Research group wishes to thank these people from the depths of our hearts.   Donations are still being accepted.

In fact the rapid progress which has been made in HWSD research that has led to this meeting is also the result of 'crowd source funding' by people with the future of the Connemara pony at heart.

We have 16 Anatomical Plastination Specimens from  Dr Christoph von Horst.  These hoof specimens are from a lovely foal from Denmark which, due to the HWSD, was not able to survive.  We have to thank his owner for preserving his hoofs and making them available for the plastination process.
These sections will be available for purchase at the meeting on the 19th August at 75 € each.
These are the only Plastinations of HWSD affected hooves available world wide and we hope they will be a rare thing of the past. Very suitable for teaching purposes or anatomical museums.
If you wish to purchase a section (or two) please email with your order.  If sections are to be picked up at the Clifden meeting there will be no shipping charges.  Any other orders will occur shipping costs.

Two of the Plastinations.

A stud tour to visit the Cloonisle Stud outside of Galway City has been scheduled for a time which coincides with the HWSD meeting.

Visitors to Clifden will have to make the decision for themselves as to which event is of more importance for them.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Hoof Wall Separation Syndrome has an official new name!

HWSS officially has a new name and is now to be called Hoof Wall Separation Disease (HWSD).

Syndrome: A group of symptoms which consistently occur together, or a condition characterised by a set of associated symptoms.

Disease: A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury ( 2014).

This subtle name change is to align with the usual nomenclature used in defining disease states.

Important news is that the data needed for UC Davis to file the patent application has been submitted.  As soon as it is filed, the test will go to UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory 

The test will be offered there and any interested owners/breeders will be able to send in hair samples for testing.

Dr Carrie Finno has asked for the following message be released to the Connemara community at large:

"After spending 2 years in Minnesota where I learned next-generation sequencing techniques, I have accepted and started a faculty position as Assistant Professor in Veterinary Genetics back at UCD.  As I have returned to UCD, I am to continue to act as a liaison on this project and keep the community informed.  

Thank you for all your fund-raising efforts and I look forward to meeting you. [at the meeting on 19 August in Clifden]

Carrie Finno, DVM, PhD
Diplomate, ACVIM
Assistant Professor, Veterinary Genetics
University of California-Davis
280 Vet Med II
One Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616".

State of the Fundraising:  Thursday 3 July 2014

Monday, 19 May 2014

Those who fail to heed history are doomed to repeat it.

It is surprising what one finds when clearing out a cupboard.

This 1993 magazine contains a comprehensive article about the research involved into HYPP, you can read this article in pdf format here for easier reading. One of the relevant issues to the HWSS research, and addressed in this article is that the HYPP research took seven years before before the cause of the HYPP mutation was made public.  
The HWSS research will be public inside three years from the commencement of the initial GWAS.

Further reading about the HYPP research from the same issue of the Equus magazine is available at Unmasking-the-Fatal-Flaw

Many of the issues facing the Quarter Horse breed in 1993 with regards to HYPP are also relevant to the present situation being faced by the Connemara pony with HWSS.  The AQHA has a less than sterling reputation over how they have addressed the HYPP issue.  

Just like with HYPP, the drive to solve the HWSS problem has been driven from the grass roots.  

The AQHA was slow to address the HYPP issue.  In 2014  HYPP is still a problem in the QH breed. 

The CPBS and the ICCPS seem intent on repeating the history of the AQHA over the HYPP issue. 

The CPBS and the ICCPS still do not acknowledge the existence of HWSS.

The CPBS and the ICCPS did not even bother to reply to letters sent by the Connemara Pony Research Group inviting them to be associated with the presentation by Dr Carrie Finno. 

Many owners of HWSS ponies will identify with the following:

"Owners: Grief and Anger.
For those who own a horse affected with HYPP the flow of information is far too slow.  Man veterinarians still do not know a hyperkalaemic episode when they see one, they say, and aren't sure what to do even if they recognise the signs.  Misdiagnoses, such as tying up or colic, are still common place according to several owners and trainers, and horses are suffering as a result." (Equus,185, March 1993, page 50).

Substitute HWSS for HYPP and tying up and colic to White Line disease and fungal infections!  

The research group has been very open with the progress of the research since the beginning of the work.

Connemara pony owners and breeders, farriers and veterinary professionals are invited to the HWSS presentation by Dr Finno at Clifden is on the 19 August 2014. 

If you wish to secure a seat at this presentation make a minimum donation of  6.00Euro per seat required.   Seating is limited by venue size. How to make a donation and secure your seat is at Donation instructions

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Let's get Dr. Finno to Clifden 19 August 2014

The upcoming meeting at which Dr Finno will present the results of the genetic research into HWSS is exciting progress.   As with everything, progress comes at a cost.  

The Connemara Pony Research Group is an informal collection of people who came together in an effort to find the cause of HWSS. The research undertaken by the Bannasch Laboratory on the group's behalf was funded by member's donations, a grant from the American Connemara Pony Society Foundation and  many public donations made to the Connemara DNA Research Fund, Centre for Equine Health, University of California Davis, USA.

Knowing that the result of the research and genetic test development is of importance to every Connemara pony owner or breeder, the decision was made to bring Dr Finno to Ireland to present the results of the research.  The presentation will be of value and interest to veterinarians, farriers and Connemara pony breeders from across the world, many of whom will be attending 2014 Clifden Show Week and Sales.

The CPBS and the ICCPS were offered the opportunity to support this event at no monetary cost to either organisation.  However neither of these two organisations has replied to their invitation.

We need to raise funds to pay the costs of getting Dr Finno to Ireland, her accommodation in Ireland, and associated costs of presenting this meeting.   An application for funding support was made to Horse Sport Ireland but as the result of their own funding cuts, they were unable to help.

We need your help to raise the funds.

Should any organisation, business or private individual wish to be a named sponsor for this event, then please contact the group  email

Several methods are available to make donations to the Dr Finno Travel Fund :
  • SEPA-banktransfer. Free of charge!
    Recipient: B. Hellwig Connemara Pony Research Group
    IBAN: DE35 5605 1790 0101 2347 71
    Bank name: KSK Rhein-Hunsrueck
  • GoFundMe (+paypal). 7.9% +35c will be taken from every donation

The total donated funds will be updated on the barometer below.  

Sunday 27 April.2014 

Provided by
We are extremely delighted with the Euro500 donated by the  German Connemara Pony Association (Connemara Pony Interessengemeinschaft) who have been great supporters of the research project from the outset and who are also managing the accounts on behalf of the Connemara Pony Research Group.  Euro180 has been donated by several German breeders.

Provided by

Surplus Funds will be donated to:
Connemara DNA Research, 
Centre for Equine Health,
UC Davis,

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Exciting News!!!!

The Connemara Pony Research Group is very proud to be able to announce that Dr Carrie Finno will be giving a public presentation on the results of the HWSS research at a meeting in Clifden on 19th August 2014.

The meeting venue is
Vickers Function Room
The Town Square

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Dr. Carrie Finno received her DVM from the University of Minnesota (UMN) in 2004. She completed an internship in large animal medicine and surgery at UMN in 2005 and then went on to complete a 3-year residency in large animal internal medicine at the University of California, Davis (UCD), culminating in board-certification in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Dr. Finno elected to pursue a career in equine genetic research and obtained her PhD under the guidance of Dr. Danika Bannasch in 2012 from UCD. She then moved back to UMN and completed a 1-year post-doctorate fellowship with Drs. Stephanie Valberg and Jim Mickelson. Dr. Finno is currently an assistant professor at UMN. Dr. Finno's research is focused on equine genetic diseases, including Hoof Wall Separation Syndrome (HWSS) and equine neuroaxonal dystrophy/equine degenerative myeloencephalopathy (NAD/EDM), equine shivers, myofibrillar myopathy and immune-mediated myositis. In conjunction with the equine studies, she is researching the interaction of vitamin E and neural development, using a well-established mouse model.

After the conclusion of the presentation by Dr Finno, the Connemara Pony Research Group is equally delighted to be able announce a presentation by Ray Knightley.   Ray will be addressing the practical shoeing and hoof care issues associated with the HWSS affected hoof.

Ray Knightley grew up in Suffolk, Great Britain where he rode until aged 14. In 1987 Ray was living in Germany where he made the decision to train as a farrier. His farrier career now spans 26 years. Ray is a registered State farrier and a certified Euro farrier. He specialises in the area of remedial hoof care. As such Ray has become one of the 'go to' people in Europe for ponies affected by hoof wall separation syndrome (HWSS). He is presently working on developing new techniques which, it is hoped, will provide better quality of life for HWSS affected ponies. Ray brings to this meeting extensive experience in in caring for HWSS affected feet.

The Connemara Pony Research Group extends to all  interested persons, a cordial invitation to attend this meeting.

The Town Square, ClifdenThe Town Square, ClifdenThe Town Square, Clifden
The Town Square, Clifden