Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lavender Foal Syndrome - An Arabian Horse Breeders Nightmare

First off I have to say I'm sorry that I've not kept my posts current these last few days . I have been ill and things have been hectic here. I had planned on catching you all up on all the chaos here but instead feel compelled to post on the tragedy of one of my online breeder friends.

This morning I awoke wondering if one of the Arabian mares I have been watching for a while now had foaled. She looked really promising last night but my illness won out and kept me from hanging in there to watch. Feeling a bit like a traitor I finally hit the sheets about midnight reluctant to miss out on the birth of this special foal.But Shina was the first thing on my mind as the cobwebs cleared. (And I don't mean the cobwebs on the cam for you marestarers who are now laughing at me!)

I went to the computer to check her thread to find the title had not been changed. I assumed the mare had not foaled but a quick browse to catch up turned up that was not true. The mare had recently foaled. Even as I was trying to get current, newer and newer posts suggested there might be a problem with the foal.

That sent me straight for the webcam I had monitored last night where I found an empty stall. Knowing this mare, I brought up the second farms outside webcam and sure enough Snina was outside.Her owner had given up on trying to get her to foal in the barn after her long night vigil At the mare's feet was a Lavender Foal. I knew instantly and my heart broke.

I have been researching Lavender Foal Syndrome ever since I started this blog which is right about the same time I discovered the existence of this unusual genetic disorder. I've always been fascinated by genetics, they are just so complex and compelling. They are the key to our very existence. Guess since I can get a little deep it's no surprise I'd get caught up in the intrigue that genetics has to offer.

I came across Lavender Foal Syndrome accidentaly. Someone sent me a link to a thread on Arabian twins that turned out to be not so direct a link. I followed it backwards trying to find access to the twin foal information and in the process came across a thread on Lavender Foal Syndrome.

Certainly just the title was enough to get me hooked. What in the heck is a Lavender Foal? Well, it is just that! A lavender foal is one with a dilute colored hair coat that has been described as lavender, very pale chesnut, a very pale pink or may have a silvery sheen to its coat.

Unfortunately the odd color is not the only trait of the lavender foal. This rare genetic disorder causes a foal to be born with extreme nuerological problems and is always fatal. Foals can be born unable to attain sternal recumbency (which means sit upright on the sternum) or stand. Legs can be rigid, neck arched back with head up continuing the line of arch in the neck. Foals may also have rolling eyes, twitching or running legs, and seizures. These are the only symptoms the experts are sure of to date. As more data become available, more symptoms may be added to the list as particular to this disorder.

Part of the problem diagnosing this disorder has been its rarity and the fact its discovery has been relatively new. Many veterinarians are not familiar with the disorder and can apply a misdiagnosis because the neurological symptoms mirror other neurologically based disorders. Because of this misdiagnosis the cases go unreported and valuable date is lost. The thing that sets these foals apart is their unique coloring (and of course, their breeding). Any Arabian foal having extreme neurological difficulties and the unique coloring should be suspected of Lavender Foal.

What is known to date is the disorder is restricted to the Arabian horse.An recent article in the Arabian Horse magazine published by the IAHA stated that the syndrome occurs in Straight Egyptian (SE) or Straight Egyptian related horses. However, there has been some emotional discussion about whether or not that is true. I can say to date, the only documented cases are in SE or SE related horses.

The complete specifics (such as genetic deficits or other causes) and the exact extent of the disorder are as illusive as the disorder itself. Because it is so rare, there are few cases to study to garner data needed to establish reliable information. Anyone having or who knows someone who has had a lavender foal is requested to contact researchers to help find and isolate this killer of Arabian Foals.

For more information on Lavender Foal Syndrome

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  1. Oh my gosh, I never knew or heard anything of that. That sounds just horrible.

  2. That is really something! Poor little guy. What was the outcome of the watched foal?
    As a side note, we had a large litter of collies where one was lavender and did not live more than a couple of days.

  3. Oh, what a disappoinment! It's been years since I've had any friends in the Arabian horse world, so I'd not heard of this before.

    We had a barker foal once; yet another rarity where the foals lose their natural reflexes, which includes nursing.

  4. BTW...I need your addy so I can send you the t-shirt you won (did you know you'd won???) desperatehorsewife at

  5. How aweful! Horse genetics are interesting, a friend of mine has horses and she tells me some of the odd things that can happen.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog! My daughter LOVES horses, and she's fearless on them. (which isn't really a good thing, but she has a good seat)She gets to ride at my friend's house. Horses are by far her favorite toy, and animal!

  6. Thanks for stopping by my Blog I feel for that poor foal and mama.. It sounds as if nothing can be done, is that true?

  7. Oh my, I had no idea about Lavender Syndrome. I was actually reluctant to comment, being that I'm Lavender Chick - didn't want you to think this odd. But, I wanted to thank you for the education. I've been around horses my whole life, but not Arabians. I think they're beautiful.

    So sorry to hear this,

  8. I never heard of Lavendar Foal Syndrome before. How awful. I've always loved the straight Egyptians, so that is sad to hear.

    Anyway, hope you feel better soon!

  9. I wanted to thank you for visiting my blog. Texas in itself can be challenging because of our varied climate. Texas is so big. Varied climate can mean feast or famine as far as rain. I do love Texas though, especially where we live in the hill country. And I love my Arabian cross, Khanalee. He's 3/4 Arabian, 1.4 Qt. Horse. His mother went as far as Intermdiare in dressage. His grand sire is Khemosabi, and you can tell.
    I am so sorry about the lavendar foal. Very sad.

  10. I have come upon a post today in a forum where a lavender foal was born of a part arab mare, the father was most likely part arab. So if its on both sides - from the arab part - then there is a chance for it in part arab, just less chance than of a pure I would think. SO to clarify its not a genetic disorder than can effect straight arabs, but their descendants. SO this genetic disorder could exist in any breed descended from arabs, just even rarer than it already is in purebloods.

    1. If you re-read the post. It says that it effects Straight Egyptian Arabians and Arabians who are descended from Straight Egyptian Ancestry or as MiKael stated " the only documented cases are in SE or SE related horses." Therefore, there's a very good possibility that the part-bred Arabians who speak of are of Straight Egyptian Relation or more accurately Straight Egyptian descendancy or Ancestry. Therefore, yes any horse or horse breed who's ancestral roots are of Arabian Ancestry could potentially have a lavender foal. However, to date the only documented confirmed cases of Lavender Foal Syndrome have been foals of Straight Egyptian parents or Straight Egyptian lineage/decendancy/Ancestry.

  11. Kilynn, I think you have oversimplified this. The disease does not occur in just any Arabian blood. Lavender Foal Syndrome seems to be restricted to straight Egyptian breed horses. That is a very specific group of horses within the Arabian breed.

    You are correct however that it can affect either purebreds or partbreds with bloodlines from what is considered today to be SE.

    The Lavender Foal born on my friend's farm was a partbred that indeed traced to SE bloodlines.

    The researchers working on this disease are involved in pedigree research as well as DNA. By looking for the commanality in the pedigrees of afflicted or suspect horses they will be able to isolate specifically which horses this disease stems from. Although it is my understanding there is or was a specific SE farm that had LFS that told their clients which bloodlines should never be crossed. That indicates that suspect horses were identified at least by their deduction if not by scientific methods.

    The only thing holding up the research is the rarity of the disorder. Then sometimes when afflicted foals are born, those dealing with them do not know the protocol for the research. By the time that is learned, it is no longer possible to provide the samples for the labs. The lack of verified specimens makes the DNA tests all the more difficult.

  12. You may be interested in the News Item from the University of Pretoria in South Africa which states that their Onderstepoort Veterinary Genetics Laboratory has identified the genetic mutation responsible for Lavender Foal Syndrome and their Laboratory can now test for LFS. The URL for their news release is:

  13. Sorry if this shows up twice this blogging thing is new to me...LFS I have an SE/AK mare I wanted to breed to an outside SE stud does anyone have any info on the affected bloodlines.

    1. Sheila, I don't know specifically but did find information when I was researching this that a SE breeder many years ago would advise clients purchasing certain mares from his program that they should never breed to horses from a specific line. The post didn't name the lines but did name the breeder. I would suspect if you could locate that information you would have a good starting point. The other place that might be useful would be Mare Stare.

      There is an Arabian breeder who uses that site for multiple foals a year. She had a foal suspected of being a lavender foal and ended up sending samples of all related horses to the geneticists who where working on finding a test. Her horses were not SE but SE related. I think you could locate her by searching LFS on Mare Stare and I believe she would tell you the bloodlines in question in her program. If you cannot locate her, let me know and I will see if I can locate her information for you.

    2. If you would like to contact me directly, there is an email link of my blogger profile.