Silver Shetland ponies?

I’m often involved in discussions of silver Shetland ponies and presenting the facts we know about the subject for sure, often leads to either the original post to disappear on Facebook or people sending private messages asking why I hate silver Shetland ponies and telling me to stop hunting them and commenting about it. Well in my blog I have free speach about it and after this I have a place to link to when ever then next person asks what I know about silver in Shetlands.

Lets start by saying, I do not hate silver, anyway I don’t when it is found originally in Shetland. In breeds where it belongs it is lovely, I must admit I was pretty disappointed when the test of our Finnhorse came back negative. What I don’t like is the fact that the people, could one say responsible, of taking silver into Shetlands, do not stand up in the discussions and tell the facts about how Silbersee’s Luxus (with relatives from the same maternal line) in Germany, happens to be the only known silver coloured ponies registered as Shetlands and where the link in these ponies to a proven silver ancestor in the UK/Shetland islands is. The only answers people who ask gets is: ”He is registered as Shetland pony, accept it” and end of discussion – or be deleted.

So why is this answer not enough? For example, for many years you could not in Finland register ponies born in East Germany as Shetland ponies if they did not have proven Shetland pony bloodlines, why? Because it was a well known fact that in Germany they mixed breeds and were not as exact with keeping the breed pure as in other countries so ”Shetland ponies” from DDR could be mixed with other smaller of bigger breeds. Germany still is the only country with a partbred Shetland breed (as far as I know the only country) and I have seen official studbook papers of German ”Shetland ponies” which have partbred ancestors in the 3rd and 4th generation – still registered as purebred Shetland ponies, which would not be possible in any other country. So for example a miniature horse with silver mixed in an ancestor and added forward with purebred Shetlands a few generations, to make a silver purebred Shetland is still possible. To make a long story short, purebred Shetland ponies from Germany are convincing only when you can trace their bloodlines to UK ponies – or at least Dutch. If it ends in German ponies, it just is unreliable. So to start with, if the only silver Shetlands was found in Germany, the first thing to do is to be 100% sure of their purebred bloodlines!

With Silbersee Luxus the problem is, that the colour is traced back through the maternal line and mares Lady – Lona – Lori and ends in Lobelia and Linda without any information of her pedigree. Lori is by a UK stallion Birk (of Woodhall) and the story is he is the silver carrier that came to Germany. The problem is, if he ever had silver, he also has a lot of relatives in UK, all gone through carefully and not a single suspected silver in them – as a dominant gene that affects black and as unique as it is, it would have popped up in UK eventually – but it did not. It is totally unconvincing he had silver, a simple explanation though, as he was chestnut, which of course doesn’t show silver… But he have lots of black relatives and no silver there so it is a dead end.

So the silver jumps in from the maternal line. As it happens it is known that some of the mares on the maternal line where owned by a breeder who also had American miniatures – where silver is present – and some ponies from these individuals (both the miniatures and the Shetlands they had) are also registered as Deutche Partbred Shetland Ponies and some as purebred Shetland ponies.

The fact is, we cannot be sure that Luxus maternal line is purebred Shetland. As long as there is no silver Shetlands in UK, I would say quite the opposite: the colour itself reveals that he is not purebred as there is no silver in purebred Shetlands.  And I accept the opposite immediately there is a silver found in a purebred Shetland from UK, said it since I started participate in the debate – and would still not use a German silver in my breeding after that.

The situation is what it is, Silbersee’s Luxus is in some studbooks now as a purebred Shetland pony, which has lead him to be widely used in Denmark and Germany, also some offspring in Sweden and Norway. One foal exported to UK is said to be denyed access to SPSB due unsure pedigree that does not trace enough to UK lines. That is also the right thing to do by the society who guards the pure Shetland pony. Personal interest should never ever go pass the benefit of the breed.

In a way, it really is no point for me to participate in the discussions of silver as accepted in breeding he is, there is nothing to do about it anymore. But I must admit I am a bit angry that just for the fancy colour something that is not pure is mixed to one of the oldest breeds in the world. The decisions of a few breeders, to take in something in the breed which by the best known facts so far, doesn’t belong there, is not fair nor ethical as there is more to silver than just what you see on the outside.

Someone argued that no one knows if silver in fact where in Shetland ponies in the early days as it of course is known that they might be close relatives to Islandic horses which have silver. That might be true but then we can question why the harsh nature of the Shetland islands and the true evolution of the years gone by, lost the colour? Well, ponies with problems in eyesight would not have lasted very long there, not to talk about blind ones? Maybe they just walked off the cliff (joke… might be true though?)

”The gene responsible for Silver dilution has been identified as PMEL17 with a mutation in exon 11 being responsible for the dilute phenotype described above. Research has also confirmed the Silver dilution mutation to be associated with Multiple Congenital Ocular Abnormalities syndrome (MCOA), a wide range of ocular defects occurring in the anterior and posterior segment of the eye. The severity of the syndrome is dosage related, thus horses with 1 copy of Silver have less severe signs than those with 2 copies of the mutation. To avoid producing offspring with severe MCOA, breeders should not breed 2 Silver dilute horses together.” UC Davis Veterinary laboratory webpage linked.

From here forward every ethical breeder owning a chestnut foal of these lines, should gene test them for silver to know if the pony is carrier as no carriers and silver ponies should in the future ever bred to another silver to avoid unnecessary harm for the ponies. Also every pony’s eyes should be checked before breeding on them. I hope you who wanted the colour, also takes on the responsibility.

Shetlands have wonderful various colours originally, even with many many special shades in all the base colours as well as light to dark versions of creams and duns to mushrooms… They really did not need nor deserve to be added with one more along with risk to MCOA. That’s my opinion and of course everyone has their own and every breeder makes their own decisions and I understand it is not a big deal for some, not everyone thinks alike. I just don’t think it was worth it.

EDIT: I must add, that some say it is not forbidden in the breed standards, stop whineing. True, as they would not have understood which genes they had in the breed a century ago… Some take andvantage of it, others don’t and that’s the way it is.


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