In early 2012 blood samples from Bella, Maylea, her half-brother, and all

my other ponies were sent to UC Davis along with samples from 30 other
New Zealand Connemara ponies. Bella is one of the 18 affected ponies
submitted for the initial research. She has been confirmed as being
homozygous for the genetic mutation that we now call HWSD.
Crossiebeg May’s Bellbird
(Bella)
Photographs of Bella’s feet at 5 years of age in January 2012.
Her hooves have never been trimmed. This is about the worst her
feet have appeared due to wet, dry, wet, dry weather conditions in
preceding months.
From left to right: Front right, front left, hind left, hind right
Bella is moderately affected. Her hooves have never been trimmed and
she has not had any treatment for the hoof condition. Fortunately, she
lives in a damp coastal area where most of the time the ground is moist.
At worst she will appear slightly sore.
Bella has had one filly foal who appears unaffected at 18 months of age.
All her foals will be HWSD carriers. However, now there is a test her
sons and daughters can safely be bred to ponies tested as non-carriers.
The test for HWSD means that Bella, Maylea and her daughter Pippit, and every
Connemara mare can be mated safely to stallions tested free of the HWSD
mutant gene without any chance of the foals being affected by this hoof condition.
No more foals need be born with this condition. To achieve this every mare and
every stallion must be tested before mating. In time the condition can be bred out
of the Connemara Pony population.
Noweddie Maylea (imp. Australia)
with
Crossiebeg May’s Bellbird (iiu) at foot.
Back in 2005 the New Zealand Connemara pony population desperately needed new bloodlines. Noweddie
Maylea, in Australia, fitted the bill perfectly, so it seemed… Her foals were better than her. Her pedigree
with no Carna Bobby and Carna Dun just once back in generation 5 was an outcross for New Zealand. She
was in foal to Wychwood Snowbird, he’s no show pony but big, strong boned and with a great
temperament, and an outcross for New Zealand too.
Bella was a big healthy foal – buckskin going grey. But over the first few months I noticed that she didn’t run
around to play like foals usually do. Sometimes, she looked like she was walking on hot bricks…
On the internet I’d seen comments from Canada regarding Connemara ponies with a hoof condition that
they thought was inherited. Eventually when Bella was 1 or 2 I really started to consider whether she might
have the same hoof condition. Her hooves kept breaking back and sometimes fibrous strands were visible
between the hoof layers. Photos were sent to Canada and it was quickly confirmed that her symptoms were
the same as breeders there had experienced. For several years after this I spent a considerable amount of
time wondering if there would ever be a genetic test for this condition, was I doing the right thing by
keeping her, what stallions would it be safe to mate her to…