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The Fell Pony Society (FPS) is offering free fell pony syndrome testing to its members if they have a sick foal or wish to license a new stallion this breeding season.

Around 25 foals are affected by the genetic condition — also known as foal immunodeficiency syndrome (FIS) — each year.

Scientists at the Animal Health Trust (AHS) pinpointed the gene responsible (news, 17 December 2009) and a new DNA test became available last month.

FPS chairman Mary Longsdon said: “This is a welfare issue. We want to encourage breeders to test sick foals as soon as possible. And if they have FIS, we will reimburse the cost of the test.”

The FPS will also test each colt or stallion licensed for the first time this year.

With carrier-to-carrier matings there is a 25% chance the foal will be clear, a 50% chance it will be a carrier and a 25% chance it will have FIS.

And the mating of a carrier pony to a clear pony gives a 50% chance of a foal being a carrier, but no chance of FIS.

“There is no need to stop breeding from carriers,” added Mrs Longsdon.

Breeder Sarah Charlton, of the Linnels Stud, Hexham, plans to test 12 of her ponies.
“If any of my ponies turns out to be a carrier I will be open about it,” she told H&H.

The test costs £40, including VAT. Hair samples are taken by a vet and sent to the AHT.
Sick foals’ test results can be fast-tracked within three days, otherwise it takes 30 days.
The AHS received 119 samples for testing last month.

➤ For a testing kit, contact the Fell Pony Society — www.fellponysociety.org.uk, the Dales Pony Society — www.dalespony.org, or the Animal Health Trust —www.aht.org.uk.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (11 March, ’10)