Our 2012 Foals...And My Feelings On Dwarfism

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Jun 8, 2005
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Well here goes! I said over a week ago I would be making this post, and I've given myself plenty of time to reflect as well as to let my emotions settle. First I'd like to show off our 2012 foals.


Rock Rivers Reckless Road Runner (Roady)


Rock Rivers Reckless With Rum (Rummy)


Tinker (aka Tinker The Stinker)


Rock Rivers Little Homewrecker (Lil)


Rock Rivers Reckess Resolution (Petey)

As some of you may have noticed or already known, one of these foals is different. My sweet little Tink is a dwarf. I knew that dwarfism was a common problem with minis, but until I announced my own dwarf last week, I had no idea how common the problem was, or how many people think it's inappropriate to acknowledge that problem. Ever since I was a little girl, breeding the caliber of minis that I saw in the World has been my most enduring dream. When my grandfather passed away 20 years ago, it became a very lonely dream, but I've always found solidarity and support in the rest of the mini community. I think the biggest shock of all in this experience has been discovering how what seemed like a harmless personal choice was interpreted by so many as a "self-righteous" judgment of their own choices. I hope this thread can be used for an open, civilized discussion on both sides of the dwarfism debate.

I want to preface this by saying that when it comes to my belief of how dwarfism occurs, I accept John Eberth's theory. As far as I can tell, this is the only theory that is backed by extensive, mini-specific research. I received many emails from people that have their own theories, and while I respect their right to form their own opinions, I also think some people are willfully spreading misinformation. Having noted that, I am going to use some of John's statistics to argue three of the most common misconceptions I heard, but I want to be clear that my opinions are in no way endorsed by him and that when it comes to how I am choosing to handle the issue, my opinion is sometimes opposed to his.

Some people told me that all minis carry the gene. If this were true, then Double Destiny (who John stated back in 2007 had never produced a dwarf, having had around 200 foals at the time) would have beat some pretty incredible odds. With a 25% chance of producing a dwarf from two carriers, we'd be having an awful lot of dwarfs, though I already suspect people are having far more than are being acknowledged. Others told me that dwarfs are spontaneous. I can understand why people think that, since you could breed the same two carriers together for years and never have a dwarf, or have one and in all likelihood never have one again, but obviously the well-known carriers that are/were bred more extensively and produced numerous known dwarfs show clearly that in most if not all cases dwarfism is inherited. Some people also pointed the finger at just one parent, but I confirmed with John that he still firmly believes that all five known types of dwarfism in minis are recessive, and therefore both parents must carry and pass on the gene (or one must be homozygous for it/a dwarf) in order to produce a dwarf.

The last point leads me to a different issue I'd like to address. I've many times on this forum seen people try to blame dwarfism on poorly conformed horses, but I think few people would argue that the sire and dam of my dwarf are not quality. I searched years for a stallion with the conformation, pedigree and show record of the sire. The dam is also very correct with a known pedigree, and I had seen all five of her previous foals including a Supreme Champion. The current estimates on how much of the mini gene pool is affected by dwarfism are 50-75%. If you also believe the current, popular theory on how dwarfism occurs, then you can understand why those numbers are so staggering. Some people told me that "There is no way to avoid producing a dwarf," and if the estimates of dwarfism's prevalence in our current gene pool are correct, then I understand why they feel that way.

I'm sure some of you are wondering why the heck I feel the need to air all of my dirty laundry, but so many people have questioned me on this decision that I feel the need to explain it, if only to get it off my chest once and for all. I knew immediately after delivering my dwarf that I wasn't going ot use the sire and dam for breeding anymore. A lot of people have told me I am wasting these horses, and I want to be clear that even though I thought I knew how I felt about dwarfism before Tink was born (which is still very much the way I feel now), it was still a difficult decision for me. All four of the normal foals pictured above have the same sire as Tink, and I'm not disappointed in a single one of them. I've literally had minis in my life as long as I can remember, and I've always planned to have them in my life until the day I die. Being relatively young, that means that I think about the future not only of my own horses but of minis as a whole often. If a majority of the mini population are already carriers, and even carriers bred to non-carriers have a 50% chance of passing on a dwarfism gene, then it stands to reason that the only way we can reduce the prevalence of dwarfism in our gene pool is to remove some carriers - even once a test is available. I know that two carriers also have a 25% chance of producing a non-carrier, but when you look at the flip side of the coin that means they have an overall 75% chance of passing on the genes in some form (either a carrier or a dwarf). Those aren't odds I'm comfortable playing with, and that's why I'm not breeding the sire and dam of the dwarf anymore. In fact, those odds have made me so uncomfortable that I've decided I probably should leave breeding to the more adventurous, stout-hearted or business-minded people.

This brings me to my final point, and it's not entirely dwarfism related. My decision not to breed anymore does not mean I'm getting out of minis. For the longest time, when I thought of my minis breeding was just a given. The decision not to breed anymore resulted in a few really dark days for me, and then one day I looked at the horses I already have and realized I won't love them any less if I never have another foal, and that in all truth I'll probably get a lot more out of them if I do away with all the stress and cost and time that breeding and foaling requires. All the time we talk about how bad the market is on here, and if we're honest with ourselves it can't all be blamed on the economy. So many people implied or outright said that my horses would be wasted if I wasn't breeding them. If we continue to promote breeding as the primary benefit of our minis, how on earth can we sustain a market for them? I don't judge anyone for breeding, or even for breeding carriers when they make an effort to do it responsibly, but I do think it's a no-brainer that we need to decrease the emphasis on minis as being fun to breed and increase the emphasis on minis being fun to own, show, drive, etc. Maybe if we built our market around the usability instead of the breedability of our horses, there wouldn't be so much concern about how the carrier status of a horse affects its value.
I just wanted to say that Tink looks like a stinker. I'm sure she carries the same nosy trait that MANY dwarves posses! I bet she just loves pestering her brothers and sisters!

Dwarves are definitely stinkers!

Congrats on your foals and your otherwise healthy Tink.

EDIT: I hope that you feel open enough to post pictures of Tink over the next couple years on the educational dwarf thread in the Picture forum that is pinned.
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Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts on this topic. There are several questions that this brings up:

Would I knowingly breed a horse that carries a gene for dwarfism or would I view that as a flaw that was unacceptable in a breeding horse?

Is it unethical to breed two horses knowing the've produced a dwarf before?

Is it unethical to breed a known carrier when there is no test to screen potential mates and a relatively high carrier rate?

Can a breeder responsibly manage the recessive dwarf genes like they do with other recessive diseases?

Would I feel obligated to share the information that I discovered?

How does a breeder weigh personal profit or loss (because of exposing a carrier) against the welfare of animals affected or openly providing information that allows other breeders to make informed decisions?

Are there some horses that are worth the risk because of their other attributes that contribute to the breed?

I don't think we can answer these questions for other people - we all should answer them for ourselves. The hard part is that one person's decisions (whether to geld, breed, or name as a carrier) will affect the other people who's horses share those bloodlines. No perfect answer here, but it seems clear that access to dwarf gene tests and a reduced incidence of dwarves (in one way or another) would be a good thing.
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Tremor, I will be glad to post pictures of Tink to the educational thread as she grows.

The hard part is that one person's decisions (whether to geld, breed, or name as a carrier) will affect the other people who's horses share those bloodlines.
Vic, they are all questions that I have definitely answered for myself. I did hesitate to announce my dwarf for the above reasons. As I noted on another thread before Tink was born, without a test right now all bloodlines in a known carrier's pedigree are implicated. But having said that, I have to hope that people that read this thread understand that right now there is no way to know where the gene came from in either the sire or dam's pedigrees, and even once there is a test we will not be able to trace the genes beyond living carriers. If only one parent of either was a carrier, then either horse would be as likely to have full siblings that are non-carriers as they would be to have full siblings that are also carriers. Any of Tink's siblings could be non-carriers. Taking this into consideration, and also considering that John has said in the past that dwarfism is "intertwined" through virtually all of the popular lines and is currently believed to affect a majority of the gene pool, I don't think acknowledging any carrier, from any bloodline, is really a revelation.
You are a classy lady, Tiffany. I am so sorry that this has happened and i support you 100%. I am another that believes in John Eberth's research. Oh I can not wait until there are tests!

I understand how heartbroken you must be and i am so very sorry. It is honest people like you that will help us move forward, no matter what others may say. Hugs, hugs, and more hugs. Give miss Tink a kiss on the nose for me. She is such a doll!
First of all, your foals are beautiful, and thank you for sharing all of them!

Second, as a decidedly non-breeder, only owning geldings and only planning on ever owning geldings, I can only imagine how hard your decision was. That said, I want to applaud you for standing by what you believe and for putting so much time and thought into it. It could not have been an easy decision, but I admire you for sticking by your beliefs!

Have fun with the babies - they look like they all have personality plus!

If we continue to promote breeding as the primary benefit of our minis, how on earth can we sustain a market for them? I don't judge anyone for breeding, or even for breeding carriers when they make an effort to do it responsibly, but I do think it's a no-brainer that we need to decrease the emphasis on minis as being fun to breed and increase the emphasis on minis being fun to own, show, drive, etc. Maybe if we built our market around the usability instead of the breedability of our horses, there wouldn't be so much concern about how the carrier status of a horse affects its value.
You stated so eloquently something I think about frequently. Our horses are meant to be handled, loved, enjoyed and worked each according to their interests. Thank you for a beautiful post.
Nice post...comes from the heart, I like those kind of posts.

Nothing wrong with enjoying what you have and deciding on passing on the breeding...I love my two geldings. I prefer to leave the breeding to somebody else. Nothing wrong with wanting to keep a quality horse that you don't breed. Same with dogs. I never understood why people felt that because they own a high dollar quality dog that they felt they had to breed the dog. Nothing wrong with wanting a quality animal for yourself that is beautiful to look at and not breed. Stepping back and self evaluating and making personal decisions based on what you find is valuable... sharing with all of us is priceless. Would love to see photos of tink growing up and learning more about dwarfism on this forum... thanks
Very well stated, I wish more people were as forthright and honest as you.

Even with 200 foals on the ground it cannot be categorically stated that DD has no dwarfism gene, though. The litmus test would be to breed him to a few mares that have had dwarfs........

That however is a whole different story, and not ours to tell.

A test is badly needed, I think we are all agreed- the biggest question I have is how many people will use it (and I do not mean you and me here!) when it arrives.....

Thank you for posting your very well thought out post. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience with such honesty. I think it should help others to better understand dwarfism. I certainly hope that a test becomes available(according to Jon Eberth I think he has one developed or is very close to it) but as others have state it will be interesting who uses it and then actually puts the results into a positive action. Your foals are some very nice foals and lil Tinker sure looks like she has attitude...lol! Enjoy your foals and I wish you the best of luck in your new chosen path.
What a great post, and I am sure one that wasn't easy to write. Looking forward to seeing more of Tink and siblings. You raise some incredibly important issues. One of the issues you and Attwoode touch on is - without a test - how do you find a mini that ISN'T a dwarf carrier if you decide to go on breeding? Plenty of food for thought here, and as you say, each breeder has to make his or her own decisions.

I am one that welcomes the test and feel it should not mean never breeding carriers at all, just not breeding 2 carriers together, like with LWO. Yes, you would not remove the gene from the population, but unless we find that the gene in recessive form (but not a dwarf) is detrimental, I don't see that that is a huge issue in the short term. Eventually, using the test in this way would reduce the dwarf gene in the population while potentially removing dwarfs completely.

As to what to do with minis if you don't breed, I think that may be the crux of the issue! We do a lot with ours and have started a 4-H Club with our minis to share our knowledge and the fun you can have with them. I highly recommend it! Our group consists of a range of ages and abilities. Check it out on our website.
I can't tell you guys how much I appreciate the support, but at the same time I want to be clear that I don't expect any back-patting for my decision. I know many, many people disagree with me, including people with far more experience, and I respect their opinions too. In fact, judging by earlier reactions to my announcements outside the forum, I would even say that the people that disagree might be a silent majority. This raises another question for me. If most of us accept that dwarfism affects a majority of the breeding population (and all of the people that openly told me they use carriers did believe that), then why is it still so taboo to acknowledge a carrier? If it's so prevalent that most breeders can't avoid producing a dwarf at some point, then why does the industry as a whole want to pretend it's not happening? No one that contacted me privately about my dwarf was in any way surprised that I had one, and most of the people that contacted me had had several, so if most breeders now accept it as an inevitability, why is the stigma against acknowledging it still so strong?

Mary, I did check out your website! I was part of a horse-specific 4H club as a kid and got the first mini class added to our county fair, and I'd love to get involved with 4H again. I'm going to talk to our extension as well as some of my old big horse friends and see how I can do that. Thank you for the idea, and I hope you don't mind if I contact you for advice in the future!
Thank you for the courage you've exhibited in expressing your thoughts on a difficult topic.

Starting a dialogue about these issues is an important step. As lovers of these wonderful animals, we all have a responsibility to make the best decisions now, so our animals will have a prosperous future.

In my area of the world, there are so many horses being bred with no homes apparent for the foals. Prices have plunged not just because of the economy, but because of the ease of breeding our equines without thought of the cost of maintaining them over their lifetime.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

Julie Mc
By all means contact me about 4-H with minis, but you should know that 4-H rules vary from state to state. I was in 4-H with my big horse over 50 years ago and still have fond memories.

Back to the dwarf issue: I think this might be a good time to re-post the results of the poll I did here in 2007 asking breeders if they ever had a dwarf foal or an aborted dwarf fetus on their farm. There were well over 100 responses and 42% said yes. So clearly it is NOT uncommon among breeders on this forum. And knowing what we know about Type 4 and 5 dwarfs - the lethal forms causing early abortions - I wonder how many dwarfs are not even known about but are "slipped foals" or early abortions that happen in the pasture?? Or that mare that takes two or more cycles to get bred??? So for those who think the percentage of dwarf carriers can't be very high or we would see a lot more dwarfs, remember that some types (or combination of types) produce early abortions not live dwarfs.
Tiffany I can tell you have put a lot of thought into your post and your decisions and that it comes from the heart. A very good post, and I LOVE your babies. I can tell the decisions you have made were not easy. I know you did not post this for a 'pat on the back' as you said, but I must say kudos to you for posting, sharing your info and your thoughts.
Thank you for posting such a taboo topic, problem is, I don't understand why it is so taboo when it happens all the time as there is no way to predict without the test.

We havn't bred mares in several years simply becuase of the cost of bringing them into the world, and the bad market, and influx of horses that are already unwanted. I did breed four mares this spring to take to a sale, and ended up bringing one home since bids were so low, so I may neet to eat my words and foal out a mare next spring.

Seems like everyone that has minis feels the need to breed! I'm not knocking breeders, I'm one myself, just saying in my part of the world the market is sour, and many are being rescued. Last year was a bad hay year, and the cost of upkeep keeps rising. So I would just as soon, not bring anymore into this world until times get better, or maybe ever.

Yes I have a mare that delivered a dwarf, it was her third or fourth, don't remember, all the others were normal. The dwarf is still with us, bless her heart and everyone that sees her loves her. Your will be much loved too.

If someone starts a poll as someone stated before, I would like to know if the dwarfs born were from AMHA/AMHR, or AMHA only, and maybe even add AMHR/ASPC, though I've not seen any from ASPC.

EDT: Maybe istead of registry it should be height of mare and stallion bred too, as my mare is 30" and the stallion was 29"
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First off, I'd like to see another pic of her as I really cant tell from that one pic that she is a dwarf. Next, we bought a very pretty palomino pinto mare last fall bred to a gorgeous LWO stallion. He has produced foals for this lady two years in a row and all that I have seen have been gorgeous including a buckskin filly I bought at the same time as the palomino pinto mare (half sisters too). I had also seen pics of her previous 3 fillies. Imagine our surprise and shock when she went into labor and delivered a dwarf. This poor little girl had extremely twisted legs and the bottom half was just cartilage, there was no way she'd ever stand on her own so we had her put down immediately. It was very devastating for two reasons, one we paid a good price for the mare bred to this stallion and now we know she and him both carry the same dwarf gene. And second the heartache of losing this poor innocent filly that had no chance and now knowing the mare carries a dwarf gene made us question to breed her again or not. Most people will say to just not breed those two horses together again. I did contact the previous owner and though she was sympathetic she was not willing to even give us a good price on a filly from one of her other stallions as compensation for this foal. I have no idea if she will disclose to any buyers of other foals from him that he is a dwarf carrier. After much consideration we have decided to breed her to one of our stallions to see what they have. If its normal, great, if not she will never be bred again. She has a very nice trot and would make a great driving mare if we dont breed her again. I also have her 1/2 sister sired by that same stallion. She is just a yearling but looks pretty normal so far. We are now scared to breed her as well because we worry she is a carrier. I do know that the thought in the past was always to geld the stallion and never breed the mare again. I know it has changed to just never breed the same again (some still will). I would never breed the same pair again if it were me. Obviously this stallion has produced quite a few very nice foals but is obviously a carrier. I find it very easy to understand your decision to not breed again. I know some people frowned upon my decision to put the foal down thinking that all dwarves can live a healthy life. Well, not this one. I would never hide it either. I posted on my website what happened with this mare and what she delivered.

There are a lot more things to do with minis than just breed too and anyone who thinks otherwise really shouldnt be breeding them in my opinion. They are your horses, you can do what you want with them and to not breed them isnt a stupid thing. Just cuz they can be bred, doesnt mean they have to be bred!

Good luck! I hope the little foal lives a long and healthy life for you.

When I did the poll in 2007 (which you might be able to find with a search) I did not ask details but many people posted comments. The one I remember most is "I bought the mare bred and she had a dwarf". So clearly that is not an uncommon occurrence. So sorry this happened to you Marsha. I think of all the possible things to do after a dwarf is born (breed same cross again, use a different cross, not breed ever gain, geld the stallion, etc.) this is one option I do not support.

ETA link to poll in 2007: I was off by 1% (or else there were more answers) it ended at 41%

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Targets mom, I would be very interested to see that exact poll but newer.
I'm so sorry that you had to go through making such a difficult decission,

We had what I thought could be a very minimal dwarf some years ago maybe 2006 we bought the mare in foal and

the foal had an underbite of about a tooth width which we had never seen before other than that she completely seemed normal.

We have had a slight overbite in a yearling which corrected itself by 2 yrs old in a colt born in 2005

We sold her to a pet home as a companion and also sold the mare to a non breeding home.

That was the only scare we've had so far but we only breed for 4-5 foals tops

and last year none this year 1-so we have not really pushed the odds very much. We started breeding in 2004

But that said there is alot to be said about not breeding alot less costly, alot less stress, more sleep LOL

and just enjoying your horses showing, driving, playing..............................

I hope you are happy as possible with your decision. And do keep us updated on Tink. And I commend you for posting about such a taboo topic .... I do wish they would make the test available to the public if there is a test. It would mean so very much to the improvement of the breed.
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