Thursday, September 16, 2010

Final Words on Solidare and DSLD

Over the course of the spring I posted a couple of blog posts Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis and then
More on DSLD, Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis
about the illness known as DSLD. The motivation of my posts had very much to do with people's criticism of my breeding my mare, Solidare, who had dropped fetlocks. It's been clear from the start that dispite information to the contrary many people assume any horse with dropped fetlocks is a victim of that disease and therefore should not be considered a breeding horse. I had hoped more information might educate people so I put myself out there but pretty much things did not change. Most kept a tight lip, their beliefs to themselves and continued to believe that Solidare was a DSLD mare.

As a breeder I take my job very seriously and would never consider breeding an animal I thought would contribute harmful genes to the breed or maybe even worse yet, produce animals that would be unable to perform the purpose for which they have been bred because of a heritable disease. Not only can I not afford to make such a mistake, I believe it is unethical to engage in such practices. My belief about Solidare was based on my experience with the mare and had nothing to do with some thick layer of denial shielding me from the real truth.

I remember my first encounter with that accusation that I wouldn't see something right before my eyes because of denial. It was about the condition of my daughter, Lindsay, after her brain surgery. Those doctors in the rehabitilitation division of Seattle Children's discharged Lindsay when she was still in a wheel chair and required 24 hour a day care. My insistance that Lindsay had way more progress to make was met with closed minds on the part of the professionals. I was the one accused of being closed off and unwilling to see reality. Yet today, Lindsay is my number one help around this place. She has so far exceeded the expectations of any of those "experts" they don't even know what hit them.

I guess the current question about my beliefs would have to do with Solidare's condition and my supposed denial about that as well. Were Solidare's dropped fetlocks really due to the ill fated pregnancy so many years ago as I believe, or were they because of disease? The only way to answer that question would be examination after death. DSLD which has been renamed Equine Systemic Proteoglycan Accumulation can only be determined by visual inspection of affected organs and tissues. For a diagnosis of the disease it takes the presence of excessive amounts of proteoglycans in affected tissues. "Abnormal accumulation of proteoglycans between collagen and elastic fibers rather than specific collagen fibril abnormalities is the most prominent histological feature of DSLD"

Being a person who challenges my own thinking as a way to keep myself on track, I felt I should have this question answered despite my beliefs. With three daughters of Solidare's that I very much want to breed and now a colt who looks like he will be stallion quality, it's pretty darn important I not make a mistake. I'd made the decision early on when the time came, Solidare would be examined to be absolutely sure I was on the right page.

Unfortunately on Solidare's last day, I was a basket case and the thought of examining my mare for this disease was the farthest thing from my mind. It was NOT, however, the farthest thing from my vet's mind who knows me well enough to know what I would want. Solidare was carefully examined to the specific cause of her dropped fetlocks.

My vet found that Solidare's achilles tendon had migrated. Specifically the achilles tendon is the combined superficial and deep flexor tendon. Not only can trauma occur to cause issues with the legs but the tendon is susceptible to luxation where it comes out of normal track and runs over the calcaneus (this is the back bone that forms the hock). Although this situation indeed happened at the end of the pregnancy where Soldiare went well passed her due date and was over saturated with the hormones responsible for relaxing the pelvic area readying the birth canal for the passage of the foal, it is hard to know if the relaxation itself caused the problem or some external force on the tendon in it's relaxed state caused it. Either way it is considered to be an injury. The luxation (movement) of the tendon from it's normal track is the injury responsible for Solidare's dropped fetlocks.

In addition the tissues were examined and found to be normal and healthy showing no signs of the disease. Thus further supporting the fact the dropped fetlocks resulted not from disease to any tissue but from injury.

Fortunately, in this situation with Solidare, I was there to experience what had happened to my mare. Because I saw first hand the changes in the mare's body from the excess hormones I was able to understand how she ended up dropping in the fetlocks, as was my vet at the time. I think this is important because had it been different, Solidare might have never had another foal. Considering the quality of those foals I think that might be considered a loss to the breed as a whole as well as a loss to my breeding program.

I doubt that Solidare was an isolated case. It is safe to assume if she ended up in this situation from injury, others horses do as well. I would hope that people dealing with individuals with dropped fetlocks but have no idea how or when the situation developed might be opened minded to the possibility that DSLD is not always the only answer. It would be a shame to lose some individuals from the breeding pool for something that was "assumed" instead of something based on fact.

I've known for years that it is not uncommon to find old broodmares dropped in the fetlocks like Solidare. Following along the development of their produce has revealed no recurrence of this phenomenon. Mostly it's occurrence seems to manifest in mares who have had many foals or gone well over term. Some of those over term occurrences have been even more dramatic than dropped fetlocks. I have seen mares lose the strength in the straps to their backs causing them to drop dramatically. Just another example of what can happen when Mother Nature over does her job but important to know when you're a breeder trying to figure out what is good stock to breed and what is not.

NOTE: I didn't do this post to vindicate Solidare. In my mind she needed no vindication. I always knew she was a great mare. Nothing has changed. I did this for her foals, they deserve to be valued as the individuals that they are and not condemned based on misinformation and fear. They deserve the opportunity to contribute to this breed I love so much. I hope they get the opportunity to do that.

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  1. I'm glad to hear that Solidare didn't have DSLD. You're right she needs no vindication nor do you. You are a responsible breeder and shouldn't have to defend yourself or your horses.

  2. A good vet is a treasure and such a help to keeping a good breeding program going in the right direction. I am glad for your sake he verified your beliefs of your mare so that her foals can be useful breeding animals. So glad the colt can be a breeding animal as well.

    Our own knowledge of our own animals can be so much better in light of such discoveries. I wish you luck in moving forward without your princess. hugs to you.


  3. Well written , and another point made in not judging a situation in which you do not have all the facts. It seems to me that any breeder worth thier salt , so to speak , would not be likley to breed ar mare which would pass on a debilitating and painful congenital disorder. And the assumption that you would ,I find quite offensive. While I might have enquired if DLSD was an issue for your mare ,I most certainly esp after reading your blog for any length of time would not assume you wre wrong,or in denial .You have worked very hard at your breeding program and are to be congratulated

  4. Thank you for such an informative post. Knowing her history and seeing the evidence, you could correctly diagnose her but still you were very wise to get her checked for verification because it is such an important matter. She was a lovely mare and it is so important not to mar her legacy.

  5. Yea, what fern said.

    Seems way too many people, with very little actual experience, delight in taking on the roll of judge and jury.

    How ridiculous for people to say you were in 'denial' when you were right there and watched the entire situation transpire.

    And good for you for following up for the benefit of Solidare's future generations.

    Knowing what I know about you, I would have taken your word for it, lock, stock and barrel. Doesn't hurt my feelings though that there are others out there who are eating a little crow.

  6. Im glad to hear she didnt have it either, although Im sure you wouldnt have put the mare through all that if you had known either, hopefully more people will find out all the facts before assuming things in the future.

  7. Unfortunately, you know (As do I) there are many unscrupulous breeders in the Arabian (and other breeds - HYPP in Quarterhorses is a prime example) that will breed regardless of genetic defect, be it bad legs, or SCID and CA. And people will cast accusations on "competetion" in a heart beat. I have no idea why horse breeding is like this, but it is.

    So while you were certain in your beliefs, I think having the vet (an unbiased source akin to a blood test) confirm your assessment only adds to your credibility and like you said - the value of your Solidare's line.

    I hate that you lost your mare this way. But it sounds like her last gift to you might be one of the best. Hugs to you!!!

  8. Really interesting stuff - thank you for the update; I know it must've been hard to write.