It has been a long while since I wrote a newsletter, and that isn't because nothing has happened, far from it. We had 3 lovely foals this year, but more importantly there was the KNN conference in Denmark.
So this newsletter will contain a report on the conference plus some pictures Anabel and Jon took at the stallion show.
I'll catch you up with our news in the next newsletter.
Report on the KNN conference
The whole conference was well organized, we were superbly fed, and came away with so much information it is hard to assimilate it all. The conference was extremely well organized and well done and congratulations must go to Ena Sparre, Kristin Engerstrøm, Poul Gerhard Pedersen, Tina Pedersen, Jenda Sanderson, and all the others who worked so hard to bring this about. We thank you and congratulate all of you on a job very well done.
The conference was attended by a wide array of folks from all over; we had representatives from USA (myself and Raven Walters), UK (Annabel & Jon Firmin, Teresa Vimmerslev), Italy (Francesco Fusi), France (Kristina Waern & Pascal Darrouy), Sweden (Kristin Engerstrøm), Germany (Heinz & Thomas Hackmann) and of course Denmark. Annette from Norway could not attend but sent us a letter.
We had presentations on the History of the Knabstrupper and its origins with some of the legends and stories and lots of old photographs from the archives of Merete Norring.
The most salient point here being that over the centuries the Knabstrupper has been bred to produce the kind of horse that was wanted at the time for various purposes. There really is no typical Knabstrupper type for all time. Like most old horse breeds the type and build of the Knabstrupper has been changed to meet the needs of the times.
Very spotty and incomplete record keeping at the various stud farms plus the loss of records in several bankruptcies that followed various wars meant that there were many horses lost to the archives.
Thus it was decided, when the first registry of spotted horses (that went to become the KNN) was formed, to include all horses that showed the spotting pattern into a new registry. It was felt that horse that showed the spotting pattern were most probably horses of Knabstrupper decent who had been unrecorded.
In the 50's and 60's the advent of the tractor and the gasoline engine for cars meant that the use of the horse in farming & transport dropped and like many other working horse breeds the numbers of Knabstrupper dropped precipitously.
In the 1960's it was decided that the breed was in danger of inbreeding due to low numbers. 3 stallions of Appaloosa breeding were selected to introduce new genes into the gene pool. These 3 stallions carefully selected by the Board of the KNN are the ONLY Appaloosas that have been included into the gene pool.
As the Appaloosa existed (at that time) only in America, mares (in Europe) of unknown breeding that showed the spotted pattern were most likely to be of Knabstrupper descent and thus could be included in the registry. This is NOT the case today. And as there are only 1200 purebred Knabstruppers in the world and many thousands of Appaloosas, there is severe danger of swamping the breed with Appaloosa genes if they allowed unfettered registration of Appaloosa mares into the Main Stud Book.
However the KNN recognize the need for inclusion of these mares at some point. Thus the compromise was reached that Appaloosa mares (that show the spotted pattern) can be registered into a pre-registry called the Appendix, and after 3 generations of approved parentage the great grand progeny can then enter the Main Stud book.
We had a presentation on the Stud Book, how it is organized and divided. The reasons for the rules and the allowed crossbreeds. How inspections and gradings are done and organized and how they are scored.
The Studbook now has two parts.
In the Main Stud Book
We were introduced to the HesteData database and how to use it to get information on horses.
A presentation on preservation of genetic diversity in small populations. (Dr Torkild Liboriussen). The most salient point Dr Liborissuen made was that with such a small population there was a need for outcrossing. His suggestions was "to use the inbred (whiteborn) males on outcross females" that was the way to bring in the outside genes but to keep the color. Dr Liboriussen also supported the current purebred breeding program that the Danes are implementing.
A presentation on preserving genetics in small populations. (Francesco Fusi). Dr Fusi explained the Hardy-Weinberg rule and showed us how by judicious outcrossing and then rebreeding back to the purebreds we could both introduce new genes, keep the gene pool viable and yet retain the characteristics of the breed. The system he explained is used in the Trakhener breed another old breed with low numbers, & wide distribution and also in danger of being swallowed up into the larger pool of warmblood horses. The system was called the F1-R1 system, where each first generation outcross (F1) is bred back to a purebred to produce the R1 generation who has some of the new genes but a preponderance of the old genetic material.
This system prevents the problems found from repeated outcrossing over several subsequent generations as then there is danger of the original genetic material being overwhelmed, the example of this being the Appaloosa horse, who's original type and genes were lost by the unfettered outcrossing to Quarterhorses, thus resulting in "a Quarterhorse with spots". Dr Fusi felt that with the unfettered outcrossing to warmbloods the Knabstrupper faced the danger of becoming "a warmblood with spots".
And a presentation on the degree of inbreeding in 3 Danish horse populations (including the Knabstrupper). Janne Thirstrup.
Ms Thirstrup showed us inbreeding charts for 3 indigenous Danish breeds, the Knabstrupper, the Jutland Horse and the Fredericksborg horse. Of the 3 populations the Knabstrupper showed the least amount of inbreeding due to the open studbook. Thus the Knabstrupper has a wider range genetic variation than the other breeds and was considered the least 'at risk'.
Then each representative from each country gave a short presentation on the situation in their country and what stage they were at.
On the Saturday we attended the stallion grading and had the chance after the show to ask the judges questions as to why they decided what they did and to discuss the various horses presented. We have pictures from that show, taken by Jon Firmin. I hope you enjoy them.
For those of us in the USA the most important bit is the changes in the registration rules.
So the lesson I take home is; while it is possible to use Appaloosa mares and over 3 generations of breeding them to approved stallions end up with Main Stud Book horses, it is a lot quicker if you use an approved (whiteborn) stallion over approved outcross mares. That way you have Main Stud Book horses in the first generation, plus you can be sure of color. But there is a route of entry for those with Appaloosa mares.
In all the conference was a great learning experience plus a chance to meet fellow Knab breeders from around the world. The common denominator here was our love of these spotted horses.
Congratulations to the organizers and all who worked on this. I had a great time and was glad to meet fellow Knab lovers.