AQHA Convention 2005 – 12.03.2005
by Carol Harris
I believe we members are all aware that the American Quarter Horse Association is our registry and the governing body for our breed. I`d like to bring to everybody`s attention that they do not wish to dictate how our horses should be bred and developed. However, I`m also sure that they feel an obligation to inform their members of dangers regarding health and behavior if certain genetic practices are not addressed and respected. All this is more or less what the American Kennel Club does for the dog world along with sanctioning approximately a hundred breed associations that endeavor to educate and, more or less, police the breed. In dogs, standards for judging are created and everyone is expected to adhere to them. The health of all dogs in all breeds is paramount, and breeders are expected to test for genetic fallacies in eyes, hips, stifles, hearts, seizure disorders and so forth. Those who ignore these obligations, because testing is time consuming and expensive, are not only frowned on but are stamped with a bad reputation and are distastefully called money hungry Puppy Mills or careless breeders. Education and published information can somewhat control the pitfalls of careless breeding although it should be remembered that in horses it takes much longer to discover mistakes and to correct them than dogs.
Until HYPP came along, our horse industry was pretty oblivious to what might be the cause of nay problems. Our horses` pedigrees with repeated names in them still seem to mean nothing to most people. Personally, and I`ve said this more than once, that the overuse of the same bloodlines in people or in animals is spooky and will eventually develop into huge mess. That`s why I have written this paper in hopes that we can identify careless breeding and can find explanations and cures for new recently discovered health problems in our horses.
Winning horses have always developed popularity that lead to trends. Unfortunately the desire to make money has been a gigantic temptation to overuse winning bloodlines. Our lack of education on genetics could be responsible for all this. As a child, I was fascinated with breeding. I adored baby chicks, kittens, puppies, guinea pigs and naturally, foals. Even then I bred anything that moved. Then I would analyze what I produced and show them at state fairs, cat shows, dog shows, horse shows, etc.
I learned a great deal from the people who beat me. I talked to them all and at a very early age learned quite a bit about line breeding, in breeding and out crossing. As I matured, I eventually valued the information derived from successful breeders who continually turned out conformation dogs or horses that could also perform and were easy to live with and train. Now it seems that specialization has gotten us in trouble. Our halter horses have become excessive and our performance horses are expected to all be bionic. In both cases, it`s apparent we have over used certain bloodlines to achieve our goals. We no longer have available the wisdom of the successful Ranchers and Breeders of the past who originally created the beauty and versatility in our breed. We are almost totally relying on horse trainers today to tell us what to do next. No one is more aware of our trainer`s talents than I am, but I sincerely believe that most of them have little background or respect for genetics and health issues. If they did, I will guarantee that our race horses and show horses would not have to be continually injected, manipulated, medicated and treated by various assortment of quacks, and experts and vets that are living off our naïve owners today. None of this is costing the trainers anything but still our poor horses are being asked to perform when so much is wrong with them. I honestly feel the medication rules we are using today are a tremendous mistake and eventually we should say lets go back to the way it used to be: no medication al all. Lets force the trainers to be more careful and then, lets let the horses tell us whether they want to perform or not. The trainers; I`m sure, won`t like it, the vets won`t like it, and some of the owners won`t like it, but I know the horses will: and after all, aren`t they the ones we are supposed to be concerned about?
We are facing a big question – Is our industry out of control? Do
we want to win so badly that our horse`s health means nothing? Only
our members, our owners, trainers, veterinarians and our judges can
answer this question. We are all, no doubt, a little bit at fault,
but now that this has been solidly brought to our attention, are we
still going to let money and greed destroy our breed? Are we kindly
going to tell each other to go to hell – You do what you want cause
that`s what I intend to do? I certainly hope not. We`ve come way too
far for that. We have the world`s greatest animal, the American
Quarter Horse, completely depending on us.
Our judgement and our integrity should prevent anything from ever hurting these horses and I want to emphasize that our judges must also take responsibility because – They are the ones who dictate what the trends will be.
I can assure you that our association is very much concerned. Our president and executive committee and the staff of the AQHA are working their butts off to preserve what we have created. At this time, they need our help more than ever because they know that the records they keep and the work they do will be useless if we no longer are showing or racing healthy animals. The simplest thing we must do if we ever intend to breed even one more mare, is to try hard to educate ourselves a little bit on genetics, pay attention to the excellent professional research that has been done for us and stay aware of all health problems we see in other horses as well as your own. We need to study pedigrees and we should stay respectfully clear of inbreeding. I`m not sure whether all breeders will do this but we must encourage them to. Most of all, we should never forget that – Too much of a good thing is not a good thing.