Cool Na Grena Sporthorses
I have been a breeder here in the US for over 25 years, and have had a fairly successful event horse breeding program in that I have bred a 4* horse, as well as 3* horses, advanced and intermediate horses, and good number of prelim and lower level horses. Even with that success, it has been difficult in the past for me to find and attract buyers for my event bred horses. I know other breeders have the same problems. Because I also compete (at the lower levels), I also often hear upper level eventers say they do not know where to find talented young horses in the US - they feel they must go overseas to find them. Obviously, both sides need to connect in order to support both our breeding programs and our upper level riders. Discussions centering around this need have led to the concept behind the US Event Horse Futurity.
First, I have to admit this was not really my idea, but I seemed to have inherited it :-) The purpose is to bridge the gap between breeders and riders in the US. I know a lot of breeders who don't know where to go to get youngsters trained or how to find riders for them. Hopefully, we can create a program that attracts trainers to promote our US-bred horses and lets both sides make connections that may align our different, but related goals. We foresee that trainers will look for prospects to partner with, riders will find breeders who produce nice youngsters, and everyone will benefit. We also want to showcase some trainers and riders who aren’t well known but do a great job, so that they will benefit as well.
I already have at least 5 riders (some of them 4 and 3*) that have expressed interest in training. What I really need now is for breeders to take a step and commit to trying this out. I think that deals could be worked out that would lessen the cost for the breeder, but you have to put your money where your mouth is and spend a little to get your horses and your name out there. We are such a tight fisted group - we will send money on stud fees and mares, but when it comes to training....
Here is an outline for the US Event Horse Futurity and how the program will work.
US Event Horse Futurity 2019 (Horses born in 2015)
Understand that this is a pilot program that will be organized and run by volunteers – mistakes will be made and we will all learn how to improve the program as it evolves.
Two consecutive months of not posting will eliminate a contestant from the program - no refund will be given. Transparency is to be encouraged. Not every horse will be mature enough to participate in the Championships, and not all training will go to plan. These setbacks are to be acknowledged and worked through in a visible manner. It is our hope that a trainer will develop a following, not only by winning the competition but also by developing the young horse to the best of their abilities.
Awards to Entrants
Awards will be presented at the East Coast Young Event Horse Championships in October 2019 to the highest scoring Futurity Entrants. They do not have to be the overall winner, but must compete and finish the competition to be eligible for the prize money. Monies collected will be distributed in the following manner after expenses are met (awards, etc).
Why did I decide to run with the project (besides being caught in a weak moment)? I bred a horse that was selected to represent the US at the World Championships for Young Event Horses at Le Lion d’Angers in France this past fall, and was lucky enough to attend. The best young event horses in Europe were there, as were the best riders. And at the end of the day, my US-bred horse (the only US bred in the over 100 horses that were there) was just as competititive as the best Europe has to offer. There are many more of these horses in the US - we just have to get US riders to find them and get breeders to find the trainers and riders. It’s simple, it’s just not easy....
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Managing Director, Hilltop Farm
The big topic of discussion this spring and summer for many sport horse breeders in both North America and Europe has been Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome (WFFS). The news first broke in March when we released the carrier status of one of the Hilltop Farm stallions. For a syndrome with a very low occurance rate, has the response been overblown or are we not doing enough? In the four months that have passed, there have been many developments that I feel are important for breeders to know and understand. It is the voices of breeders that will direct how this and future genetic testing is or is not utilized within sport horse breeding.
The initial responses from the North American sport horse registries was quite positive. They acknowledged member concerns and encouraged mare owners to test. An especially significant development out of this support from the registries was that UC Davis started offering the WFFS test as well. As you probably are aware, UC Davis handles the DNA parentage verification for almost all the registries in North America. The ability to cross-check on identity verification, the opportunity for a large-scale population study to better evaluate the carrier rate, and UC Davis's excellent reputation all are important components in the significance of this development. Many of the breed registries have negotiated discounted rates on testing and you can often use DNA that is already on-file at UC Davis if your registry requires hair samples for proof of parentage at time of registration.
The Dutch (effectively immediately) and Swedish Warmblood (have begun testing but not mandatory until 2019) registries in both Europe and North America are going to require testing of all approved stallions and are openly publishing testing results. The American Hanoverian Society (although notably not the Hanoverian Verband) are encouraging stallion owners to test and will include testing status in their yearly directory. ISR/OldenburgNA has requested stallions to be tested, but hasn't yet announced if/how those results will be published. Other registries are taking a more cautious approach, recommending testing but not going so far as to require it and a few registries are completely silent on the WFFS question. WFFS and genetic health in general will be a major topic of the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses annual meeting this year and it's likely we'll see some registries waiting to make an official decision until after that meeting.
Notice none of the registries are requiring testing for mares at this time, although those that have made statements have encouraged mare owners to test. I feel this has been an underemphasized step to-date. WFFS is an autosomal recessive trait, meaning a foal can only be affected if the foal inherits the disease from both parents. When the Friesian breeders were facing similiar sorts of recessive traits they have taken the approach of testing the mares as the top priority. That way a breeder was guaranteed knowledge for at least one side of the breeding equation. While a stallion is likely to have a much larger impact on the population as a whole, it is our mares that have the largest impact within our own breeding results and as such we need to know everything we can about them. A breeder that tests their own mares will know either that their mare is clear of the mutation and regardless of the stallion’s status a foal would not inherit the actual expression of the disease OR that the mare is a carrier and while she herself won’t have any health risks, it will be important to know the status of potential stallion combinations for her and choose only to breed to a stallion who is himself clear of the recessive allele.
I can understand the breeders taking the position of not wanting to test, but I do not agree with them. Yes, there are many far larger issues confronting breeders that we need to be concerned with in our breeding choices and yes, the incidence rate of affected foals is very low. But with all we spend on our horses, why would we not reduce the risks of something going wrong when we can? This test is easy and inexpensive. If we test breeding stock in this generation, we'll have a lot of offspring for subsequent generations that won't need tested as it automatically applies that if both parents are free of the gene mutation than the offspring are as well.
For those of us with carrier horses, we now have important information we didn't have a few months ago. While there is a 50% chance a carrier horse will pass along carrier status to their offspring, as long as we avoid carrier-to-carrier breedings we can prevent any potential foal losses due to WFFS. There are strong opinions on both sides for allowing or not allowing carrier stock to be bred but the cautious, longview approach that has been adopted by all other registries in dealing with similiar situations has been to require testing, avoid potentially risking combinations, and focus on education of breeders and the general riding public.
For those of you who have tested, been active in the online discussions, or contacted your registry with your thoughts - thank you! Please continue to do so as we are a long ways from all the registries having full plans in place for handling the question of WFFS testing. I fully expect we'll be having similiar discussions in coming years regarding other genetic traits as testing becomes more available and how we respond to WFFS will shape how future tests are integrated as well.
Report by Alice Knox
The inaugural Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival was warmly welcomed to the Southern California dressage scene in January, and already many are looking forward to the event’s return next year. WCDF president Scott Hayes described the festival as “Not only competitions, but a gathering place for the dressage community to socialize, learn, and grow brands and businesses in this spectacular part of the horse world.” Designed primarily as a means to provide multi-week, winter-time FEI competition without having to fly horses, clients and supplies to southern Florida, the San Diego tournament handily accomplished the mission.
The location was the beloved Del Mar Fairgrounds, fondly referred to as “Where the turf meets the surf”. The showgrounds are regarded as the best on the West Coast, with permanent shed row stabling and roomy stalls. Arena footing is maintained by the same equipment used on the adjoining race track, site of the 2018 Breeders Cup Championships. The sparkling Pacific Ocean is directly to the west, and the charming village of Del Mar to the south. To the east are equestrian communities where San Diego’s resident dressage Olympians, namely Peters, Seidel and Traurig, have their training barns. The weather was typical for southern California at this time of year - warm, dry, sunny days with crispy cool nights. Wear short sleeves during the day, and put on a puffy jacket when the sun goes down.
Show management’s attention to detail included dressing up the indoor arena with classy black linens and glowing table lamps on the VIP box seat tables. The ringside Hospitality Lounge didn’t disappoint and provided a lively meeting place for riders, trainers, owners and friends. The comfy couches, full bar and view of both the competition ring and golden Pacific sunsets were quite inviting. Hungry? A café just outside the lounge prepared fresh, made-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner items.
The four weeks of top competition, along with Master Class exhibitions, attracted exhibitors throughout the West Coast and British Columbia. Those who wanted to experience the event but couldn’t attend were treated to free livestreaming on the horse show’s Facebook page, with expert commentary provided by retired FEI 5* star judge (and San Diegan) Axel Steiner. Master Class clinics featured equestrian celebrities Monty Roberts, Boyd Martin, Laura Graves, Helen Langenhanenberg, and Charlotte Dujardin. General admission to the presentations was simply a suggested donation to the international animal welfare organization Brooke USA. By making the show easily accessible to so many, the West Coast Dressage Festival created an instant fan base that will happily support the event next year.
The USSHBA was well represented at the festival. Congratulations to breeder and USSHBA board member Maggie Neider of North Hill Farm in New York. During the show’s final weekend, Maggie’s home bred Rosalut NHF (Rosenthal x Legacy x Salut) continued his success in the dressage ring by winning the CDI 1* Intermediate 1 class with 70.41%, out of 14 entries. The 8 year old Oldenburg was ridden by Carly Taylor-Smith of Malibu, California for owner Nikki Taylor-Smith. USSHBA was also an event sponsor, and our full page, color advertisement in the show program introduced the West Coast dressage community to our organization.
More information on the Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival info can be found here.
There is no one-stop, comprehensive database at this time that crosses all sporthorse breeds, disciplines, countries, etc. With the crossing of bloodlines across registries, you’ll need to be very resourceful and explore multiple research options to gain a more complete representation. The following resources are listed as some suggestions to get you started along with some notes as to why/how we use various sites. There are pros and cons to users being able to edit data so remember to use caution when evaluating/relying on data on sites that do allow that option.
Depending on the information you are looking for, the bloodlines, and the discipline, you'll find your favorite sites to utilize. We'd love to keep adding to this list, so send in your recommendations or helpful hints to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courtesy of Paul Loomis, Select Breeders Services
I have always been fascinated by the exquisite design of biological systems. The more we humans understand about biology, the more we realize we don’t know. The process of mammalian fertilization is one of these complex biological systems that in nature requires the proper coordination of so many factors ranging from the behavior of male and female to biochemical changes at the cellular and molecular level. Defined as: “A process in sexual reproduction that involves the union of male (sperm) and female (ovum) gametes (each with a single, haploid set of chromosomes) to produce a diploid zygote”, fertilization requires that functionally viable sperm, at the right stage of maturity, are present in the oviduct of the mare during a brief window of time when a functionally viable oocyte is present.
Spermatogenesis (the process of sperm formation in the testes) is an ongoing process with newly formed sperm being produced constantly during the sexually mature lifespan of the male. In the stallion, spermatogenesis takes approximately 57 days from start to finish. Further sperm maturation occurs during transit of the sperm through the epididymis where motility and fertilizing capacity is acquired. Mature sperm are then stored in the tail of the epididymis and the ampulla until ejaculation. At ejaculation, the sperm are exposed to factors in fluid from the accessory sex glands that are important in protecting the sperm from the immune system of the mare. Once ejaculated into the mare’s uterus the sperm undergo further changes in response to specific signals from the female reproductive tract. These physical and biochemical changes (capacitation and the acrosome reaction) are required for the sperm to bind to and penetrate the oocyte and initiate fertilization. Once the changes associated with capacitation and the acrosome reaction occur, the sperm have a finite period to encounter a mature oocyte after which they rapidly die and are no longer able to participate in fertilization. So, successful fertilization requires that there are sufficient “functionally viable sperm” that have survived the transit through the female reproductive system, that are at the right stage of maturation at the right time and in the right place (oviduct) when a mature oocyte is present.
Prolonging the Lifespan of Sperm
The use of artificial insemination (AI) with cooled and frozen semen is our attempt to remove some of the natural barriers to successful fertilization such as geographical distance between sire and dam or asynchrony of optimum time for mating. AI is also used to improve efficiency of breeding by allowing for multiple mares to be inseminated from a single ejaculate. AI with frozen semen allows for International distribution of superior genetics and the possibility to access sperm from exceptional sires that are no longer fertile or even deceased.
To prolong the lifespan of sperm after ejaculation and interrupt the normal timing of sperm maturation and death, semen processing laboratories will slow down or completely halt metabolism by cooling or freezing the sperm. Without proper processing, cooling and/or freezing of sperm causes lethal damage to the cells. In this article, we will discuss the major causes of sperm damage during cryopreservation and what steps are taken to minimize that damage.
A solution consists of a solute and a solvent. The solute is the substance that is dissolved in the solvent. For example, in a saline solution, salt is the solute dissolved in water as the solvent. Ejaculated semen consists of spermatozoa in a suspension of seminal fluids. In an isosmotic (or isotonic) physiological state, the concentration of solutes dissolved in the seminal fluid is equal to the concentration of solutes within the cell. The membranes that surround the spermatozoa can allow for the movement of water and ions across the cell membrane to maintain this equilibrium and keep the osmotic pressure equal across the cell membrane.
In a suspension of cells, a solution that contains a concentration of solutes higher than that inside of the cell is hypertonic and one that has a lower concentration of solutes is hypotonic. The membranes that surround compartments of the sperm are comprised of a bilayer of various lipids and proteins (diagram above left) that are arranged to serve certain functions including transport of molecules, ions and water between the inside and outside of the cells. At body temperature, these lipid membranes are fluid and the proteins can move laterally within the membrane. At reduced temperatures, the lipids undergo phase changes from liquid to gel to solid states and the arrangement of membrane components can be altered, leading to changes in permeability, premature capacitation and eventual cell death.
Sperm Damage During Cryopreservation
The traditional theory of sperm damage during cryopreservation is the two-factor hypothesis. In this theory, the two major factors contributing to damage are:
Conversely, if the cooling is too rapid then the water doesn’t have time to move outside the cell and large intracellular ice crystals form which can physically damage the cells.
The ideal cooling curve (right) to minimize cell damage is one which is slow enough to allow for partial dehydration of the cell and avoid large intracellular ice crystal formation but fast enough to minimize damage from solution effects.
To minimize damage, sperm are suspended in extenders that contain a number of components designed to protect the sperm during cooling and freezing. In addition to salts, buffers, water and antibiotics both non-penetrating (sugars) and penetrating (glycerol, DMSO, ethylene glycol, amides) cryoprotective agents (CPA’s) are included. Freezing extenders also typically include sources of lipid and lipoprotein from egg yolk and milk. The low-density lipoproteins in egg yolk and the casein in milk are thought to protect the sperm from cooling damage and may play a role in membrane repair. Penetrating CPA’s like glycerol, ethylene glycol or the amides protect sperm by lowering the temperature at which the cells are exposed to critically high salt concentrations while non-penetrating CPA’s like lactose protect the cells through osmotic properties that promote rapid dehydration of cells.
However, evidence from recent studies with human and horse sperm indicate that with the cooling rates typically used for cryopreservation of sperm there is little or no formation of intracellular ice. Therefore, the major source of damage may be primarily due to osmotic stress caused by extracellular ice formation and the resulting changes in relative cell volume during freezing and thawing.
Let’s consider the changes in cell volume (see graph below) that likely occur during a typical freeze-thaw cycle. For horse semen cryopreservation protocols:
If the volume change exceeds the osmotic tolerance limits of the membranes then they will be irreversibly damaged and cause cell death. Species differ in the susceptibility of their sperm to damage due to cold shock and cryopreservation. These species-specific differences are thought to be related to the biochemical structure of the plasma membranes, specifically the cholesterol:phospholipid ratios, fatty acid content and membrane fluidity. It is believed that these differences are likely responsible for the differences in osmotic stress tolerance seen between species whose sperm survive cryopreservation well versus those that do not.
Male to Male Variation Within a Species
In addition to this species-specific variability, a well-documented inherent variation exists between individual males of many species in the ability of their sperm to withstand the stresses associated with freezing and thawing (cryotolerance). This male to male variation is especially evident in stallions. In dairy cattle, bulls have been selected by the AI industry for more than 50 years based on the ability of their sperm to withstand the stresses of standard cryopreservation protocols. This selection has led to an increasingly uniform and positive response to cryopreservation. Studies on membrane fluidity and osmotic stress tolerance have demonstrated that bull sperm have a much greater tolerance for exposure to hypertonic conditions than stallion sperm and that there was a 3-fold greater variance in osmotic stress tolerance between individual stallions than between individual bulls. Studies with boar sperm and human sperm have also revealed significant male to male variation in plasma membrane composition and some correlations have been found between cholesterol to phospholipid ratios, membrane fluidity, fatty acid content and response to cryopreservation. Further evidence for the relationship between membrane composition and cryosurvival comes from experiments with 4 different strains of mouse sperm that vary significantly in their cholesterol:phospholipid ratio. The percentage of motile sperm after thawing was directly correlated with the cholesterol:phospholipid ratio. The researchers were also able to dramatically improve cryosurvival in the low cholesterol strain by increasing the cholesterol content of the sperm membranes with cholesterol loaded cyclodextrins.
The SBS Difference
To date there is no single universal cryopreservation protocol that is optimum for semen from all stallions and use of a single protocol (extender, cooling rate, etc.) has led to the belief that stallions can be grouped into “good” and “bad” freezers based on post-thaw evaluation of semen frozen using a single common protocol. The SBS System for freezing stallion semen is based on the belief that semen from a large percentage of stallions in the population can be frozen successfully if an effort is made to customize cryopreservation protocols to identify optimum conditions for each individual stallion.
Our goals are to:
Excluding a champion performance stallion from a commercial frozen semen breeding program based on results from a single cryopreservation protocol is not acceptable if frozen semen is to be a significant tool in modern horse breeding.
The SBS approach employs multiple protocols that are designed to determine the optimum procedure for maximum fertility of frozen semen from each individual stallion. Standard practice for all new stallions is to perform 1 or 2 split-ejaculate test freeze procedures using a variety of extenders that contain different sources and amounts of lipids, proteins, sugars and various penetrating and non-penetrating cryoprotectants designed to control damaging cell volume excursions during freezing and thawing.
A great deal of progress has been made in the fundamental understanding of how sperm from many species are compromised during cryopreservation and this information has led to development of new extenders and protocols that have improved the results of frozen semen inseminations. Today, with improved freezing protocols leading to better quality frozen semen and a greater understanding of how to manage mares for insemination with frozen semen, this technology is more widespread than ever in horse breeding. And given the stress that we humans have placed upon nature’s exquisitely developed system of reproduction, one can marvel at how successful this technology has been so far.
A collaborative effort produced by the USSHBA Education Committee, USSHBA members, and our partners.