A United States-based researcher into Hoof Wall Separation Syndrome (HWSS) in Connemara ponies will travel to Ireland in August to present the results of three years of research into the condition.
The Connemara Pony Research Group came together in an effort to find the cause of the syndrome, and to educate owners and breeders about the disorder.
Genetic research was undertaken by the Bannasch Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, on the group’s behalf.
The very existence of the syndrome and that it was of genetic origin had been questioned by many people throughout the Connemara Pony breeding world.
Those who had not seen or personally experienced the condition were reluctant to accept that such a serious problem could exist within the breed.
In 2012, Dr Carrie Finno, the researcher who will travel to Ireland in August, and her colleagues from UC Davis announced that the syndrome had been confirmed as an inherited condition, typified by the dorsal hoof wall splitting away from the underlying structures.
Affected animals can suffered considerable pain, as the condition results in affected ponies having to support their weight on the sole of the hoof. Even if initially controllable, ponies can develop laminitis over time.
The condition is particularly troubling for the Connemara community because the parents of affected ponies are completely unaffected.
Hence, the need was identified to confirm any potential underlying genetic cause.
Finno and her colleagues conducted genetic testing that found a strong association between disease status and polymorphisms in a particular region of the genome. At the time, the researchers were sequencing candidate genes.
There has been increasing awareness worldwide of the the hoof syndrome within the breed over the last 15 years.
The condition has been identified in several different countries, in both local and imported stock – not one country nor one bloodline.
Its manifestations can be seen in foals as young as 2 -3 weeks of age.
Finno is set to present the results of the genetic research on August 19 in Clifden, Ireland.
The research group says her presentation will be of value and interest to veterinarians, farriers and Connemara pony breeders from across the world, many of whom will be attending the 2014 Clifden Show Week and Sales at the time.