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.