It Runs in the Family

I spend a lot of time scribbling lists of horses and drawing colour-coded family trees. Not (just) because I’m OCD, but because I strongly feel that one of the most important management strategies in wildlife, including the Pryor Mustangs, is Pedigree Management.

To clarify, what I mean by “pedigree management” is factoring in genetic diversity and bloodline representations when conducting removals and administering contraceptives. More complicated? Sure. Vital? Absolutely.

Horses are a fantastic model species for this form of management. Unlike deer, elk and bison, horses are highly individualized in appearance. A wide range of coat colours and a multitude of possible markings ensures that few horses look the same, and hardly any look identical to the familiar eye.

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Even though Millicent, Ketchikan and Oklahoma are all duns, they have individual characteristics that identify them.

It isn’t enough to simply look at the immediate parents. Pedigree management should also look at the representation of the ancestors, ie. the bloodlines, of an individual horse. The representation of the horse’s bloodlines must be considered when it comes to management decisions.

Thankfully, this form of management is considered, to a degree, in the Pryors. A notable flaw, however, is that Paternal lines are rarely given much weight. This is very dangerous when it comes to preserving a species. I understand that, without genetic testing, it is nearly impossible to guarentee paternity (just think of all of those milkman jokes), however, in many cases it is almost certain. Not only is the Pryor Herd closely monitored, but many mares are very loyal to their stallions. And a stallion in his prime isn’t going to let another stallion breed his mares without a serious fight. Some stallions “stamp” their offspring, others pass on rarer colour genes. Some offspring just simply look like Dad.

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Only so many horses in the Pryors could possibly be Nimbus’ sire with that palomino colour! It would be pretty obvious where Nimbus’ paternal influence came from, even if Feldspar hadn’t been with Cloud for several years.

For an example of how important paternity can be, consider that Winnemucca has only foal left on the range. That foal is Doc, a stallion. If we don’t consider the paternity of Doc’s offspring, we could very easily leave Winnemucca with no descendants on the range after such a long, successful life.

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Handsome Hamlet is in the same boat as Doc. He is the only remaining offspring of both of his parents. He has sired one foal to date; I hope that foal’s paternity is considered when the next removal takes place. It may not be as the foal’s dam has two other offspring.

Sadly, we live in a world where artificial management has become necessary. What we must strive for is to minimize the negative impacts of this management.

6 thoughts on “It Runs in the Family

  1. I agree with you so much. So many horses on the mountain are like that. Such as Sante Fe who carries on Twilla’s lineage. There is also Echo’s lineage. Her only foal is Bristol, and he only has sired Nova. Then there is Atlantis who only foal Galadriel who has only had Oceana. There is Tacoma who only foaled Seattle and he sired Hawk, Johnston, and Chief Joseph. That may seem like a lot of foals to have sired, but not when not of them have a band. Then there is Winnemucca who foaled Doc. Then there is Garay, who only sired Patriot and Petite Colour (lets hope they aren’t removed). There is Pierre who only sired Hamlet. There is Eclipse, who only sired Inali. There is Big Foot who only sired Duke. There is Sitting Bull who only sired Inniq. There is Tony who only sired Garcia. There is Hamlet who only sired Penn. There is Looking Glass who only sired Baja and Brumby. Baja and Brumby only have 3 in all on the mountain. There is Mescalero who has only sired Quintana. The last is my second favorite lineage. Aztec, is out of Beauty and Black Beauty. Both horses only have one foal, Aztec. Aztec only has Jasmine and Hailstorm. Both have never had a foal (yet). Sadly, I feel like this is just the beginning. Even with all these people fighting for them, Twilla’s lineage will be lost. (Unless Sante Fe somehow sires another foal since they removed all of his others)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Liz! There is certainly a terrifying number of horses on the mountain whose bloodlines depend on one, or a small few, of descendants. Happily, Santa Fe does have Mandan on the range (he’s also Demure’s only offspring-talk about pressure on the little guy!) but I have always resented the fact that Santa Fe was left with so few offspring on the range, even though he has sired many healthy foals.

      Bristol is so lucky to have Nova! He’s also the sire of Johan, but who knows when, if ever, Johan will be able to sire any foals. One of the scariest things about the poorly represented stallions in the Dry Head are how few mares there are to “go around.” Not to mention, a stallion has to have the right mare at the right time PZP-wise!!

      It is especially frustrating to me when a stallion or mare is put in this position due to artificial management. It would be one thing if the horse wasn’t able to produce successful offspring, but we are messing with the whole concept of “survival of the fittest” by removing offspring. In the most extreme instances, that leaves horses that otherwise would have had descendants with nobody on the range. For example, Gaelic Princess has reproduced, but she has no offspring on the range because Kelly was removed. I am worried that Hailstorm won’t foal as well 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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