Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Quantifying the effect of Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome on foaling rates in the German riding horse population

Awareness of breeders of Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome (WFFS) increased after a widely discussed case in the USA in 2018. The hereditary connective tissue disorder, first described by a US research group in 2011 and for which a commercial genetic test exists since 2013, is caused by a point mutation in the PLOD1 gene, inherited autosomal recessively. Extension of molecular genetic testing and reporting of test results of organized horse breeders to their studbooks implies new opportunities for analyses. In Germany, data are centrally accessible through the integrated equine data base allowing comprehensive and population-wide investigation of the role of WFFS. The objective of this study was statistical testing for associations between WFFS and reproductive performance of German riding horses and quantifying possible differences between WFFS carriers and non-carriers, also in respect of performance traits. For this purpose, covering data from 2008 to 2020 were provided by ten German studbooks, so almost 400,000 coverings and resulting foaling rates were available for multiple analyses of variance with general and mixed linear models using procedures GLM, MIXED and HPMIXED of SAS software (version 9.2). Published breeding values of stallions were used for respective comparisons of riding horse performance. Assuming a WFFS carrier frequency of 9.5-15.0% in Warmblood horses, Hardy Weinberg principle implied an expected difference of 2.4-3.7% in the foaling rates of carrier and non-carrier stallions. Our results provided statistical evidence of detrimental effects of WFFS on the reproductive performance of Warmblood horses with about 2.7% lower average foaling rate in carriers of the mutant allele than in WFFS free sires, if mated to an average mare population. Indications of favorable dressage performance of WFFS carriers were found. Reported WFFS cases indicate only the tip of the iceberg and assessing the impact of WFFS on reproduction requires consideration of premature foal losses.

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