Because she is a gray, it's hard to see Misty's classic frame overo markings except in her thin summer coat, but she has fairly large belly spots and a few lightening bolts on her neck and shoulders, as well as an apron face on one side--you can see the edge between black "flea-bitten" and white marking, just below her eye in this photo.
The resulting colt, Dodger, was solid black, except for his blaze. He likely didn't get the overo gene from either parent (being a dominant gene, overo can't "hide" for a generation, although it can be minimally expressed in, say, a wide blaze and high white stockings--that's how a "crop-out" overo shows up from two solid Quarter Horses).If you remember anything about basic Mendelian genetics from high school biology class, you may know that the odds of getting a particular gene are:
25% no gene, solid
50% one copy (from either the dam or the sire), overo
25% two copies (one each from both the dam and the sire), homozygous/lethal white
Dodger was built so nice, and had such a nice personality, that we bred back to Max again. (At this point we had had three boys in a row, and I was trying for a filly to be the replacement for Misty, who was by this time 15 years old, and nearing the end of her breeding career.)
But I wasn't aware of the risk we were taking...
I must admit to not having educated myself adequately to the dangers of breeding overo to overo. But I also blame the stallion owner for not educating me--turns out she knew her stud carried the OLWS gene, and should have been able to counsel me that Misty probably did as well.
In the spring of 2004, we were ready for foaling. Misty went into labor, but was having some difficulty. She cast herself twice in the stall, so I finally just let her out into the paddock. Even there she wasn't making any progress--we had "two toes and a nose" but, after a half hour, nothing more, even with a few gentle tugs on those front feet. Allan was on the phone with the vet, relaying instructions, and I had my coat off and my sleeves pushed up, ready to reach inside the birth canal to see if there was something hung up, when Misty started another contraction. One does not want to be inside during that muscular effort, so the vet had me try pulling just a little more firmly on the foal's pasterns, and by golly, we got a baby!
She was strong! [Yes, she was the filly I had been waiting for.] She was on her feet faster than any other foal we've delivered!There is such a thing as an all white horse, but I knew in my heart that the filly wasn't going to make it, as soon as I saw her color.
I pushed her gently back up the slope to the barn, with Misty following behind.The filly nursed quickly and well, but it just exacerbated the bellyache she already was showing signs of: At first it almost seemed "cute" to see her lay down and roll, over and over again --until you realized that it was an effort to escape the pain.In between, she would rest.I sat with them all night, though there was not much I could do to make the filly comfortable. I took them in to the vet, first thing the next morning, and he tried a couple of things [enema, mineral oil tubing], but he found no evidence of it simply being a meconium impaction. We ended up putting her down before she was a day old. Necropsy showed the last several feet of her intestine to be no bigger around than your little finger.
The story of how she got her name is touching:
Knowing I would most likely lose her, I hadn't given the filly a name at all.
After the vet worked with her a while first thing in the morning, he got busy with his day's regular schedule, and, other than checking on her quickly from time to time, he did not have the time to euthanize her until late in the afternoon. I stayed with her and Misty in the outside pen most of the day, even though it was a chilly, blustery day, and in my rush to get to the clinic early, I had not dressed very adequately. So, just once, in the afternoon, I went inside the waiting room to warm up with a cup of coffee that was offered. During those few minutes inside, a neatly dressed man came in and asked if he could post a flyer on their bulletin board. When the receptionist inquired about what it was for, the man identified himself as the interim pastor of a local church, and said that the church was having a "blessing of the animals" that Sunday, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
It seemed that he had been sent to the vet's at that very moment for a reason.
I asked if he would be willing to come out back and bless one small horse that wouldn't be around until Sunday, and he immediately agreed.
As we walked towards the pen, he asked what the filly's name was. With absolutely no previous thought on the subject, I blurted out "Angel"--it just seemed so appropriate for the snow white filly that would too soon be running, pain free, in Heaven.
The pastor blessed her, and prayed with me for a quiet passing.
Not ten minutes later, Dr. Mark came out, ready to put little Angel to sleep. He asked if I wanted to be there, and I replied "Of course." We led Misty out to the trailer, so her calling wouldn't alarm Angel. But the fact was that Angel was too weak at this point to fuss much. And as much as Misty carried on as she was led away, Angel didn't respond (this is why I believe she was, in fact, deaf).
I held the filly in my lap while Dr. administered the euthanasia drugs. And then she was gone.
Such a beautiful, strong filly didn't deserve such a short, pain-filled life.
OLWS is the APHA's "nasty little secret."
It is not a genetic "disease" in the sense of HYPP or HERDA or CID. But it is a genetic flaw.
A flaw that is always fatal!
It is possible to test for the presence of the overo gene, so therefore the flaw is predictable.
And, because it is predictable, it is PREVENTABLE!
Some big time overo breeders say they are willing to take the risk, one going so far as to say that losing a few foals is worth the high quality foals that they get otherwise! (For me, one foal was 100% of my foal crop for the year--hardly economically efficient...not to mention the emotional toll on Misty and myself.)
Maddie is Misty's daughter, by a tobiano stallion. Visually, she would appear to be a classic tobiano........except for her apron face on one side--an overo characteristic.
I planned to use her as a broodmare some day (the replacement for her mother), so I had her tested. She is technically a "tovero", carrying both the tobiano and frame overo genes. I will never breed her to an overo stud unless he has been tested negative for the OLWS gene (in which case he would have to be either splash or sabino).
Jackson is Maddie's full brother, and his wide blaze and more irregular spotting pattern tells me he may very well be tovero as well, though APHA registered him as Tobiano.Because he will be gelded this spring, I will not have him tested nor argue with APHA on the classification.
Kate is by Angel's sire, Max Tardy, but out of Zoey, a breeding stock dun with nothing but tobiano in her pedigree.But Kate, too, carries the lethal frame overo gene, inherited from her sire, and will never be bred to any stallion that has not tested negative for the gene.