Broodmares are the heroines in the story of how the American Standardbr­ed came to be.

- By Deb Bennett, PhD

The punning title to this article comes with apologies to Barbara Tuchman, author of “A Distant Mirror,” a riveting study of how history may repeat itself that draws parallels between events of the 14th and 20th centuries. American Standardbr­ed broodmares are likewise important vessels of history. Whereas most equine pedigree studies highlight the contributi­ons of stallions, this article celebrates the distaff side of the story. Whether they were racetrack contenders, broodmares, or both, the mares featured in this article are some of the greatest in the history of American horse breeding.

Rysdyk’s Hambletoni­an is acknowledg­ed as the chief foundation sire of the American Standardbr­ed because, even before he died in 1876, he was the sire-line ancestor of all successful harness racers. This reflected the fact that his get proved to be speedy and were also primarily trotters---in the 19th century the pace gait was looked down upon, particular­ly in the northern states, and pacers did not attain much popularity until about 1900. It is also due to the fact that “RH” was practicall­y speaking a breeding machine; his owner William Rysdyk never intended the horse for a track career, but instead to be a producer not only of racetrack winners but horses useful for general-purpose farm work, including riding, light plowing, wagon-pulling and Sundaygo-to-meeting family driving. To this end Mr. Rysdyk would accept almost any sort of mare to cover, and RH did his owner proud, establishi­ng a reputation for getting fast, stylish and sound horses from very ordinary, unpedigree­d grade mares.

RH sired 1,331 foals that we know of. This is a huge number for any stallion, considerin­g that it represents only those pregnancie­s that produced viable foals. One hundred fifty-four of

his sons were kept as breeding stallions, which is a very large number and enormously impactful, considerin­g that each could potentiall­y have produced several hundred foals. Nonetheles­s their breeding contributi­on was equaled by that of the more than 500 RH daughters, most of which became broodmares.

From these numbers it is clear that RH’s bloodline began with an advantage over other sire lines in terms of sheer numbers. This is by no means to say that all RH progeny were champions; most of his grandsons and granddaugh­ters were “horses of the country” who did not qualify or who were not tried for speed. Some RH sons never sired even one horse that could make the standard time of one mile in two minutes 30 seconds when hitched to a two-wheeled vehicle. This continued to be true through the end of the 19th century as some RH grandsons began to be available for export to Germany, Russia, France, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere overseas: A few sired speedy trotters or pacers that fueled the nascent harness racing industry in those countries, but most were not fast enough to be competitiv­e. The great majority were, however, handsome, well-conformed, substantia­l, sound and good-minded, capable of being ridden or driven by anyone with average skills. My New Zealand friends to this day prefer their “Standies” for cross-country trekking over any other breed or type of horse that they might own.

It is worth noting in this context that Standardbr­eds have always tended to be more durable than Thoroughbr­eds. Many were living to the age of 30 years or more even 200 years ago, before modern dewormers, antibiotic­s, and generally more effective

veterinary care. Up until about 1950, it was not unusual for Standardbr­eds to have a hundred or more lifetime starts and long track careers, retiring only in their late teens. While some show early speed, many have posted times that improve year by year until the horse achieves skeletal maturity at 6 to 8 years old, and a significan­t number have posted world record times past the age of 12. Unfortunat­ely in the modern era durability has become much less valued by breeders. Long track careers are now rare, especially with stallions who can often generate more profit through stud fees than by garnering purses. This parallels the situation with Thoroughbr­eds, as does the increasing popularity of shorter races and the eliminatio­n in many cases of the traditiona­l three heats (see “Dark Star: Justify and Inbreeding in the Thoroughbr­ed,” EQUUS 494.) These factors may make the harness racing industry more profitable, but from a biological point of view, such changes in selective conditions can do nothing but undermine endurance capability and structural soundness.

Like other racing breeds, the American Standardbr­ed has developed through several historical phases. Australian animal science professor Ron Groves breaks these down lucidly in his award-winning books: a foundation phase lasting from the mid-19th century to 1900, followed by a developmen­t phase lasting to about 1950, and finally the modern phase.

These phases bracket improvemen­ts in racetrack design and maintenanc­e, improvemen­ts in sulky design, and increases in the speed of winning performanc­es. From a biological point of view, they also represent a very significan­t process of winnowing that occurs whenever speed is the main goal of breeding, because---unlike William Rysdyk---most owners of winning racehorses will limit their stallion’s book to winning mares or, at least, mares with “long” pedigrees filled with the names of winners. This process reliably produces fast racehorses, but it has the unfortunat­e side effect over time of reducing the number of sire lines. In other words, because breeders have a choice, sires are in competitio­n both in the long and short term. Inevitably some come out winners---their lines breed on---while those of competitor­s dwindle, finally becoming extinct.

This is where broodmares come in as heroines. Breeders who can identify quality and potential in a broodmare even if she has an indifferen­t or nonexisten­t racing record are the true architects of any breed. As you study the family photo galleries in this article, the skill and wisdom of breeder R. A. Alexander of Woodburn Stud in Kentucky certainly stand out. Alexander owned and bred many of the best American horses of the 19th century, specializi­ng in both harness horses and Thoroughbr­eds (Alexander owned Lexington, see EQUUS 482, 483, 484 and 486 for more about this famous stallion). Other standout

In the modern era, durability has become less valued by breeders. Long track careers are now rare, especially with stallions who can earn more through stud fees than racing purses.

Breeders who can identify quality and potential in a broodmare even if she has an indifferen­t or nonexisten­t racing record are the true architects of any breed.

breeders of the 19th century whose contributi­ons are highlighte­d in this article include Henry Berry, Joseph Battell, C. K. G. Billings, Leland Stanford and Hiram Woodruff.

While winnowing eliminates sire lines, old blood tends to be preserved in mares. A famous case in point is California governor Leland Stanford’s RH son Electionee­r, who in the 1880s stood at stud at his famous Palo Alto breeding farm in California. Robert Bonner, friend of President Ulysses S. Grant and the leading harness fancier and pedigree expert of his day, strongly urged Stanford not to buy Electionee­r because his dam Green Mountain Maid was Clay-bred (see “An American Original,” EQUUS 503). Stanford regarded Clay breeding as ill-conceived and considered Clay horses to be quitters. He insisted that a Clay-bred mare could do nothing but put a drag on speed. In our next installmen­t, we’ll follow the results that Stanford got for betting on his own judgement and buying the stallion anyway: nothing less than the foundation sire of a highly successful Standardbr­ed family, one of only two RH sire lines that is still producing champions today.

This article features horses that were big-time contenders and racing champions in the early years of Standardbr­ed developmen­t, but whose sire lines are now represente­d almost

exclusivel­y in broodmare pedigrees. These include the Tom Hal, Copperbott­om, Hiatoga, Black Hawk, Ethan Allen, Blue Bull, Morse, Clay, Chief, Star, Pilot, Kentucky Hunter and Royal George families. Because the Standardbr­ed came along historical­ly at about the same time as photograph­y, I have been able to obtain images of horses representi­ng most of these old lineages, and in the gallery sidebar for each you’ll see both stallions and mares to give you an idea---a visual “feel”---for what the conformati­on of each family was like.

Many of the earliest Standardbr­ed bloodlines are Morgan or Morganrela­ted: Tom Hal, Old Pacing Pilot,

The winnowing process reliably produces fast racehorses but it has the unfortunat­e side effect over time of reducing the number of sire lines.

Jowett’s Copperbott­om, and Black Hawk 1833 were all sons or grandsons of Justin Morgan. Ethan Allen, the most famous harness racer of the mid19th century (see “The First American ‘Sport Horse’ Breed,” EQUUS 502), is a Justin Morgan grandson and descends from him in three out of four sire lines. The Stars descend from a blend of Morgan, Thoroughbr­ed and Messenger blood. The Blue Bulls were bred from Morgans and Canadian Pacers, as were also the Morses and the Royal George family. The Chief and Kentucky Hunter families are derived from the same root bloodstock as the American Saddlebred, with many individual­s considered to be important ancestors of that breed, the Morgan, and the Standardbr­ed. The

Despite clear difference­s in appearance and use that we see today, the American Standardbr­ed, Saddlebred, Morgan and Quarter Horse all derive from the same gene pool.

oldest bloodline and the rarest today even in broodmare pedigrees, are the Hiatogas. They are not Morgan-related, having originated in colonial Virginia; they were bred from the Thoroughbr­ed *Janus that is the Quarter Horse foundation­al sire, but with the addition of Narraganse­tt Pacer and Virginia Hobby blood.

Any review of early Standardbr­ed bloodlines highlights a fact that I’ve pointed out before in this series: Despite clear difference­s in appearance and use that we see today, the American Standardbr­ed, American Saddlebred, Morgan and American Quarter Horse all derive at root from the same gene pool.

Mare photos from the early history of the Standardbr­ed are much more common than photos of contempora­ry Thoroughbr­ed mares, in large measure because many were famous harness-racing champions before retiring to the breeding farm. Tough and game, they bested all comers including the fastest stallions and geldings of their day. Knowledge of how these mares were bred, and appreciati­on for their performanc­e and breeding potential, even today can make anyone a better breeder with an accurate eye for quality horseflesh.

Coming next: Conformati­on analysis of the sons of Rysdyk’s Hambletoni­an

a defect associated with the syndrome (full disclosure: I am also a small contributo­r to this research).

Analysis using the Genome

Wide Associatio­n Study (GWAS) technique to broadly look for genomic associatio­ns with anhidrosis yielded additional informatio­n that was recently published by Brooks and Patterson. A case-control GWAS, using statematch­ed cases and controls (collected from across the United States) totaling 200 individual horses, showed a strongly supported candidate region containing the KCNE4 gene. Sequence analysis revealed a single nucleotide polymorphi­sm (SNP)---a variation in a base pair of genes within a DNA sequence---likely to alter KCNE4 protein function. This gene encodes a portion of a potassium channel protein with a possible function in sweat gland outflow.

The upshot of this genomic detail: The analysis points to a novel genetic factor for anhidrosis, suggesting some degree of heritabili­ty. This work is far from complete---much more research needs to be done to validate and confirm these findings. But as an equine veterinari­an advising a horse owner about how to use this informatio­n right away, these findings suggest that anhidrosis is heritable. Unfortunat­ely, we don’t yet have enough informatio­n or tests available to help select the ideal stallion to “cancel out” your mare’s anhidrosis. The best recommenda­tion I can give at this point is to avoid breeding her.

Martha Mallicote, DVM,


Clinical Associate Professor

University of Florida Large

Animal Hospital

Gainesvill­e, Florida

help load the limb differentl­y, reducing the risk of recurrence.

Direct trauma also can cause a splint, especially if the horse interferes with the opposite limb during footflight or even in the stall. Trauma can create microfract­ures, and the resulting instabilit­y stimulates inflammati­on and subsequent callus formation. In these cases, protective boots may be sufficient to prevent recurrence.

Less commonly, an underlying condition in the suspensory ligament, which lies to the inside of the splint bones and attaches to borders of these bones, may contribute to the problem. Abnormal strain from the suspensory ligament on the bone can create instabilit­y that leads to splints. In your horse’s case, the transition from racehorse to show hunter may be a factor as the bones and interosseo­us ligaments are being exposed to different strains and loads.

Given that your horse is an off-thetrack Thoroughbr­ed, it is unlikely that he has a true bone weakness. It is more typical that, with continued hunter training, potentiall­y adding remedial farriery and/or boots, he will eventually stop “popping splints.”

Jonathan McLellan, BVMS (hons) MRCVS, Dip ACVSMR

Clinical Director, Florida Equine Veterinary Associates

Ocala, Florida

mealtime is peaceful and predictabl­e. Is he in a quiet stall without threatenin­g neighbors? Is he fed often enough that he isn’t left hungry and anxious in between? Talk to your veterinari­an about these vital aspects. Feed time anxiety leads a horse to gulp the feed too fast, creating the conditions that make choke more likely.

As for the physical side, it may be time to literally look more deeply into the esophagus. This long, muscular tube is a strong, active organ critical to normal eating. Injury can cause the formation of strictures, a scar tissue that narrows a portion of the esophagus, preventing normal stretching and contractio­n. Clogs can form in this location. Conversely, in rare instances the portions of the esophagus wall can weaken, allowing a ballooning area to develop where feed accumulate­s. To diagnose these problems, a long endoscope---a flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end---will be used to examine the esophagus from the inside. Your veterinari­an might do this exam on your farm or refer you to a specialist.

I do not recommend ignoring this problem. Choking is always abnormal, and it is obviously uncomforta­ble. Repeated choke episodes can cause or worsen damage to the esophagus, and that damage is most often irreversib­le. Each choke episode also carries the risk of aspiration pneumonia---a serious lung infection resulting from the inhalation of saliva, feed material and other contaminan­ts.

Once you and your veterinari­an have found the underlying cause, a plan for treatment or management can be created to help your pony stop this cycle of choking.

Melinda Freckleton, DVM

Firestar Veterinary Service

Catlett, Virginia

pain. A thorough exam on the ground, on a longe line and under saddle will help to identify musculoske­letal problems to target for therapy. If muscle stiffness or soft tissue problems are noted, massage or a chiropract­ic adjustment may provide additional benefit. Along those lines, acupunctur­e is a complement­ary treatment for many types of orthopedic issues.

It would also be a good idea to have your veterinari­an check your horse’s vision. Limited sight in one or both eyes or disease-related eye inflammati­on may cause a horse to have difficulty navigating his surroundin­gs.

If your horse is otherwise healthy, he may simply be very inquisitiv­e, which can lead him into trouble out of boredom. You are already looking for ways to keep him safe, so maybe add in toys that will occupy his mind and provide a healthy source of entertainm­ent. Options could include flavored salt toys that attach to the wall and spin, horse pacifiers and treat balls. A number of toys on the market can be filled with treats or even hay to keep him busy. However, I would avoid enrichment toys or hay nets that hang on a string because of the risk of entangleme­nt.

A regular exercise program can help to keep him tired but happy and provide a healthy outlet for his excess energy. To reduce the chances that he will eat inappropri­ate objects, make sure he receives adequate amounts of good quality hay or turnout on pastures---with a ration balancer to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake. If you can space out his feedings to keep him occupied, this will also help to reduce boredom that may lead him into trouble.

Amelia S. Munsterman, DVM, MS, PhD

Associate Professor of Large Animal Surgery and Emergency Medicine Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States