The breeding program describes the strategy to realize the formulated breeding goal. A breeding program consists of the following components.
1. Description of the information on which the selection is based
2. Method of estimating the genetic aptitude for the breeding-goal characteristics for individual horses in the population
3. Systems for selection
4. Evaluation of the selection response
The objective of a breeding program is to make progress not just in the short term but also in the long term. It is therefore important that the breeding policies preserve sufficient genetic variety in the population. Especially for a closed studbook such as for the Friesian horse it is important to limit the increase in inbreeding. Even more so, because inbreeding is the cause of the occurrence of hereditary defects and decreased fitness (fertility, resistance to diseases, life expectancy, etc.)
To be able to select for the characteristics specified in the breeding goal it has to be determined on which data he selection is based. The requirements for the selection criteria are the following.
1. The characteristics are the breeding-goal characteristics itself or have to be strongly correlated to it.
2. The characteristics have to be able to be measured or evaluated in detail.
3. The characteristics have to be sufficiently hereditarily determined(h2)
In some cases indirect sources of information are more useful than direct information. Movement in hand is, e.g., evaluated as an indirect information source for sport aptitude. The characteristics are reasonably correlated and much more information becomes available much sooner for movement in hand compared to data from competitions in sport. For the same reason aptitude tests for the user characteristics are very important as an indirect source of information.
The evaluation of the exterior plays an important role in the breeding of Friesian horses. The exterior is evaluated for all age groups, from foals to older horses. Exterior evaluation is the basis of studbook entry for mares, is determining for premie ratings, the designation of registers and awarding of predicates, and is an important component of the stallion selection. The evaluation of and selection on exterior serves the following components of the breeding goal.
1. Breed characteristics: the evaluation of the breed characteristics fo a horse takes place at the exterior inspection.
2. Sport aptitude: exterior characteristics provide information about the sport aptitude of a horse. The basic gaits, evaluated at the exterior inspection, are of importance for a sport horse. In addition a horse is evaluated for (pertaining to sport) functional characteristics, especially the build.
3. Durability: various exterior characteristics (build and legs) provide information about the durability of a horse.
The exterior evaluation consists of the description of 22 linear characteristics and the rated evaluation of five main characteristics. The ratings of the five main characteristics (breed type, build, legs, walk and trot) determines the premie rating of a horse and the related register designation. A concise description of the manner of exterior evaluation is written down in the guidelines for linear evaluation of the exterior. The regulations pertaining to exterior inspections are written down in the inspection regulations.
1.1.2 sport aptitude
The direct information pertaining to the aptitude for sport use consists of the results of competitive sport. These date are utilized by KFPS for, among other things, the selection of older stallions for breeding (regulations for short version of the testing), evaluation of offspring of studbook stallions (regulations stallion selection), evaluation of pedigrees to aid in the seleciotn of young stallion, awarding of the performance predicate for mares, etc. The data have a relatively low h2(big influence rider/driver) and become available at a relatively older age. For the breeding of Friesian horses goes moreover that the number of horses shown in competitive sport is (still) relatively small. For this reason the various aptitude tests play a big role in the breeding of Friesian horses. This information has a relatively high h2 (ABFP) and becomes available early on. The KFPS uses the following aptitude tests.
1. The central testing: a performance testing of 70 days for stallions as a segment of the selection process for stallions. The horses are evaluated on the basic gaits (walk, trot, canter) and suitability as a riding, driving, and show-driving horse.
2. The ABFP (aptitude and usability test for Friesian horse / aanleg-en bruikbaarheidtest voor Friese paarden): a five week long test for horses from age three with which the horses are trained and evaluated. The horses are evaluated on the basic gaits (walk, trot, canter) and aptitude as a riding, driving or show-driving horse.
3. The IBOP test: horses are evaluated in a test, for which can be chosen from a riding test, driving test or show-driving test. The horses are evaluated on the basic gaits (walk, trot, canter) and suitability as a riding, driving or show-driving horse.
Character can be divided into largely two aspects:
1. Willingness to work: this pertains to enthusiasm, persistence, and the willingness to perform what is asked.
2. Ease of use: this pertains to honesty, reliability, etc. of the horse.
Both characteristics are evaluated during the Central testing and the ABFP test. In this manner an insight is obtained into the personality of a stallion and later on his offspring.
Both aspects are expected to be negatively correlated. The danger exists that with more intensive selection for sport aptitude this could be at the expense of the ease of use of the Friesian horse.
1.1.4 Health characteristics
The collection of and selecting for health characteristics is full force in development. Over the coming years the health characteristics will be playing a larger role in the breeding policies.
Overall the health characteristics can be divided into:
• Vitality (durability and not maturing too early)
• Fertility (stallion and mares)
• Resistance to disease
• Hereditary defects
Health characteristics are partially related to inbreeding. For the health characteristics two-prong policy is in effect. On the one hand a selection is made for these characteristics and on the other hand the breeding policies are focused on reducing inbreeding.
Characteristics currently part of the selection are:
|Testing on X-Rays
||Ossicifaction of the hoof cartilage
||Mane and tail eczema
1.2 breeding-value estimation
Differences that are observed between groups of offspring from stallions (or mares) are only for a part genetic in nature and only for half going back to the sire. It is known that some stallions have more and better chances than other stallions. To obtain a good insight into the genetic aptitude of a horse (usually stallions) the raw data has to be corrected for non-genetic factors. This is the essence of the breeding-value estimation The estimation model applied by KFPS for the breeding-value estimation is the so-called BLUP model (best linear unbiased prediction). When estimating the breeding values of stallions a coorection is made for the quality of the dams of the offspring. Other effect that are included in the estimation model are:
Every horses in the population has a breeding value. For a foal the breeding value is on average between the breeding value of both parents. Later on the horse’s own performances are included in the breeding-value estimation and later on the information on its offspring. The more evaluated offspring a stallion has the less the information of the horse itself and its parents come into effect. BLUP breeding values are estimated for the linear and rated exterior characteristics ( based on the information from the linear scores) and for sport aptitude (based on the information from the ABFP tests).
The essence of selection is to select the parents that have to produce the next generation of foals. A distinction om tjos has to be made between stallions and mares. Factually only for stallions selection takes place. Only offspring of approved stallions can be registered in the main registry. For mares indirect selection takes place by means of a premie and predicate system in which the better mares are more often used for breeding.
1.3.1 Stallion selection
The stallion selection consists of two phases. In the first phase the stallions are approved based on their own merit, during the Stallion Inspection and the Central testing or by means of the short versions of the testing. In the second phase the approved stallions are tested on offspring.
1.3.2 Stallion Inspection/Central testing
The stallion inspection consists of three viewings. After the third viewing the stallions are selected for the Central testing. During the whole process the stallions are tested to the standards of the selection.
After the last segment, the Central testing, a decision is made whether or not to register a stallion in the studbook register based on the overall impression of all, during the whole process evaluated criteria. The regulations concerning the stallion selection are written down in the stallion selection regulations. The various components of the stallion selection are depicted in illustration 1.
||street / cage / In harness/saddle test
||Exterior / movement
||Under saddle / in harness
||Basic gaits/ suitability as riding, driving, show driving horse/ character
||Pedigree, exterior, sport aptitude
|Testing on offspring
22.214.171.124 short version of the testing
With the objective to improve the sport aptitude in the population the regulations provide for a separate selection process for registration in the studbook register for (minimally 8 years old) stallions with very high achievements in sport. The regulations to this end are written down in the regulations for the short version of the testing.
126.96.36.199 Testing on offspring
Although the approval of (young) stallions takes place based on the at that moment best information (pedigree and own performance), this does not guarantee that these stallions will also actually pass on their traits. In order to obtain a good impression about the actual genetic aptitude of a stallion a sufficient number of offspring needs to be inspected. The testing on offspring consists of the evaluation of offspring (both foals and adult horses) on exterior, sport aptitude (20 offspring are evaluated in an ABFP test), possible hereditary defects, etc. Based on the testing on offspring stallions may be disapproved. The data produced by the testing on offspring offers valuable information for stallion selection.
1.3.2 Mare selection
Factually there is no selection of mares in the direct sense of the word. Of all mares registered in the main register the offspring are also registered in the main register no matter the quality of the mare (provided the foal is sired by a KFPS-approved stallion). Indirectly there is a selection of the mares. By means of a system of predicates and premies mares are differentiated in quality. The predicates are based on the quality of the mares (exterior/ sport aptitude) or the quality of the offspring (exterior/ sport aptitude). The better-quality mares will produce more offspring. The description of predicates is written down in the regulations studbook registration.
With a closed population like in the case of KFPS inbreeding plays an important role in the breeding policies. Fact is that the inbreeding within the population of Friesian horses has greatly increased over the past decades there are two main reasons why making inbreeding manageable is essential. In the first place a strong increase of inbreeding means that the genetic variation decreases. Genetic variation is the basis to make genetic progress. Selection and the striving for preservation of variation will therefore have to go hand in hand. The second main reason is the fact that inbreeding is the cause of the occurrence of hereditary defects. Defects as hydrocephalus and dwarfism are directly related to inbreeding. In addition inbreeding has a proven negative influence on the so-called fitness characteristics such as fertility, resistance to disease, etc. A distinction has to be made in the policies between inbreeding at the level of the individual horse and inbreeding at the population level.
1.5.1 inbreeding at horse level
Members are advised by KFPS to avoid too much inbreeding when selecting a stallion. As an aid it is advised that the inbreeding coefficient of a combination should not be greater than 5%. This inbreeding coefficient is calculated within five generations. Factually this is an under-estimation of the reality as calculated over more generations the inbreeding percentage is much higher.
1.5.2 Inbreeding at population level
In order to limit the increase in inbreeding at population level two tools are being utilized by KFPS. In the first place breeding limits are set for stallions to limit the influence of individual stallions. In addition the relationship-percentage index is used for stallion selection. The relationship percentage reflects the degree of relationship with the population. Stallions with a low relationship percentage have an advantage for being approved. The KFPS strives for an increase in inbreeding of the population that is lower than 1% per generation.