Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dr. Sponenberg's View on the Matter

Dr. Phil Sponenberg has worked for years helping to preserve heritage breeds of animals. He is without equal on the subject of mustang strain preservation. He recently sent me his thoughts on the importance of mustang registires working together to save and promote these Spanish horses.

"Having a unified registry for Colonial Spanish Horses in the USA (Spanish Mustangs, Spanish Barbs, Barbs, and several local names) has great advantages. This is more true now than at any time in the past, because the current horse market has taken such a beating with the depressed prices for horses. The general depression of horse market is due to many factors, most of which are out of our control, but some of the recent changes are likely to be long-term rather than a consequence of the general economic downturn. In the face of depression of the general horse market, it is all the more important to join ranks around this breed and to effectively promote it. The multiplicity of registries only fragments an already small gene pool into ever-smaller units, each of which has the task of association and registry support, in addition to the all-important task of breed promotion. The American Quarter Horse had several registries in the first half of the 1900s, and only after they all sat down and decided it was all right to respect another breeder’s horse – and not breed to it! – did it become possible to amalgamate these into a single registry that has become the most successful of any horse registry. While the Quarter Horse as a breed has a number of perplexing and troubling issues around it – political and biological – it remains a fact that it is indeed a very successfully produced, promoted, and merchandized horse breed.

I can think of few drawbacks to more unity among breeders and users of this breed. One potential one is that different groups have different definitions of what should be included and what should be omitted. This question has no easy answer. A registry that allows for strain identification could come close to satisfying this potential negative, as breeders could rally around their chosen strain and still function within the larger organization. A second potential drawback is that all strains could be successfully amalgamated into a single composite, and we would then lose the distinctiveness of many of the strains. This, too, could be solved by strong advocacy groups for each strain as an identifiable separate entity.

Advantages are numerous, but included in these is the advantage of not duplicating incredible effort that goes into maintaining registries. Added to that can be that a single registry negates the increased cost and work involved in double, triple, and quadruple registering horses that qualify for multiple registries. The generally small groups involved in each registry, after some sort of unification, would be more able to promote the breed, and hopefully to increase demand for it. Unification would lead to a decrease in confusion in the public’s mind concerning this breed and its identification (all those names!) as well as its abilities."

D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD
Professor of Pathology and Genetics
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine


Spanish Sulphurs said...

I agree with Dr. Gus Cothran from Texas A & M from the Animal Genetics department that there are no CS strains, but breeds. I think that Dr. Sponenberg omits many differing aspects of the different CS breeds in order to make them fit into his concept of them all being strains of one large breed.

I am certainly not alone in my thinking.

DianneW said...

A unified registry is a Very Good Idea. The devil is in the details. The first stumbling block it that the powers-that-be in some registries are unwilling to even discuss the idea. People have been kicked out of registries for suggesting less.

The Horse of the Americas, Inc (H.O.A.) serves many of these functions. It registers the broadest range of Colonial Spanish horses, allowing breeders to use breeding stock from most of the other registries. It has strain clubs, although I do not know how active they are. For horses that are an amalgamation of strains, each strain is listed on the registration paper with the percent of the pedigree that it makes up. The H.O.A. does add to the potential multiple registrations and requires the maintenance of another studbook, another awards program, another promotional effort, and so on.

Save Our Sulphurs said...

There is only one Spanish Sulphur Horse Assn and Registry. The American Sulphur Horse Assn aka ASHA and the Sulphur Springs Horse Registry aka SSHR has joined forces to make one registry. Our Facebook group, ASHA and the SSHR are working together trying to Save Our Spanish Sulphur Mustangs from being wiped off the Southwestern lands. We hope that our hard work will result in officially naming the Sulphur Mustangs as Utah's Heritage Sulphur Horse. SOS