First, let me share a link to the main description of dwarfism that is offered on the web; if you explore the Little Beginnings forum further you can find a lot of discussion to learn more. Dwarfism:
As I have been making my crosses to incorporate smaller size with the admired traits of feather and temperament that are hallmarks of the gypsy cob bred by the Romany people; I have reasoned that there are rather stable size ranges in horses…I don’t know that there are any studies to explore this observation but after I heard that there is definitely a different size gene in small dogs vs big dogs, it just makes sense to me that there are separate genes at work or at least modifiers that make some horses the size that they are. One of these size genetic factors that is widespread in miniature horses and which merits becoming more educated about it, if you are considering raising mini gypsy horses, is dwarfism. There is cause for concern to avoid loading the dwarf gene into the creation of the mini gypsy, yet I don’t think we will be able to avoid it and simply will come to learn to manage it. In fact there may be some advantage gained as long as the overall program becomes monitored for dwarf factor in a similar way to LWO (lethal white overo) which I am sure will eventually move into the color palate. I was told that there was testing being developed to identify carriers of dwarf gene. The fact is the dwarf gene is known to bring the size down in the animal about six inches, with a normal featured animal resulting.
So the way I look at the size variation in the gypsy cob is according to the horse breeds and types that are available in UK to allow development:
D = Draft; over 15 hands
C = Cob; in general most stable at 13-14 hands (this designation is more mysterious but in reality reflects the native pony stock which is ages old in development most notable are Fell/Dale/Highland and some Welsh)
P = Pony; ranging 10-12 hands
M = Mini and Shetland/Falabella varieties; under 10 hands
I believe that my first small stallion, “Lexington” AKA Cold Fusion, had genetics for size that reflected more the D/P combination, according to what he looked like and what he produced, when bred to my little mares.
My 2012 crop of foals from The Executive leads me to believe his size genetics is probably C/P combination since he produced some babies that were much smaller than the previous stallion with the same mares.
Furthermore, I believe the size trait is inherited completely separately from the other physical traits that people breed for in horses of all types. For example, I saw a picture of a miniature horse stallion several months ago that was being praised because he was from an American Shetland breeding program, but looked like a miniature Hackney and was an extremely fine boned animal of 30″ tall. He was considered valuable because he was developed from the bigger show stock which chose for refinement, action, a rather “arabian” look that was being introduced and crossed into the existing horses who are under 30 inches tall and retain still the heavy bone of the foundation stock.
So to me, traits are individually passed and chosen for….if I like a certain look, I could concentrate on keeping only those babies produced that have the traits I want to work with. My first 3/4 bred colt, Doc, has a very Shire type head. Now if people thought that was desirable to keep in the gene pool as the size in these little cob horses is reduced, you would hope that he would reproduce his skull shape in his get; and thus you could maintain that look down thru the generations. It has come down along with size so far; it is not far-fetched to imagine you could maintain that “look” if you wanted to.
Other traits commonly referred to are size and shape of ears, length and thickness of tail (separate from mane), and of course feather factor (of which I believe there are more than one genetic marker for…the feather types vary).
So using scientific method and Punnet square, you could chart for expectations for traits such as (horse factor D/C/P/M) or feather.
Let’s say I had two 13 hand range gypsy cobs; similar to Cold Fusion one is D/P and one is C/P; you set up the “traits” in a small graph like a cross. You can follow the traits in a line up each side or across top and bottom:
C | P : 25% of babies are going to be size C/P or 12- 13 hand range
D| P : 25% of babies are going to be size D/P or 13-14 hand range
\: followed down from vertical closest to margin, 25% will be C/D or larger than 14 hh
\\: following down second vertical colum reads P/P so that baby will only mature to smaller pony size.
Now, like I said, the feather factor is inherited separately from the size. We can call feather factor F and non-feather factor small f. The desired fully feathered gypsy cob should be FF. The cross in first generation outcross will always be Ff. Let’s look at what chances the 3/4 bred gypsy cross has of getting excellent feather:
F | F
F | f
When you read this “square” (sorry I am not clever enough to put it in a real graphic),
You can see reading horizontally you get a 50% chance of receiving “full” feather factor ;
Also, reading vertically you get a 50% chance of receiving “full” feather factor. I’m sure people will argue that it can’t be so. But I believe it follows this risk as well as any.
Let’s say you have two “half-leggers” and you breed them together:
F | f
F | f
Reading horizontally you see you have 50% chance of getting another “half-legger”;
Reading vertically you find a 25% chance of getting full feathering; but also you risk 25% chance of losing the feather factor altogether.
Okay! Now let’s look at what I am hoping a new investor will take advantage of in 2013 by purchasing a starter package from my herd: We have already discussed the chances for feather, but what about size?
I have Doc who I believe is P/P for size and FF/Ff. He is valuable for putting the feather factor into babies from mini mares for P/M, F/f generation fillies to keep for breeding.
I have Tiny who is amazingly small to mature 36″ and his half brother Lil Lex who is maturing more towards 11 hands, and I would call these two both P/M, F/f . They have individual qualities that I believe are valuable for breeding to good 3/4 bred mares, or small purebred mares. Most of the F1 colts from a cross program are not to be considered breeding stock for the most part; they will make lovely family or show ponies.
If you had either a half or a 3/4 bred (F1 and F2) breeding stock, that you determined were say, P/M both for size, you would have the chance of getting 25% P/P, 50% P/M and 25% M/M. The exciting thing about this is seeing the feather factor then in that generation also being at least 25% chance of becoming fully feathered in a miniature size. By investing in breeding stock I have produced, you are looking at chances of getting that perfect little feathered miniature horse from a package that you purchase from me! I have put all of the preliminary plans into work for your very reasonable investment!
Once we have only a few more people involved in carrying out these short-term preliminary crosses, we will have wonderful opportunities to continue to sculpt the miniature gypsy horse that is a true reflection of the gypsy cob. If you don’t have any reference point in a picture to compare the horses’ size to, you should not be able to tell how big that horse is.
Attention should be paid to keeping or striving to produce heavy boned females. It seems to be from my observations somewhat easier to see the heavier bone come out in the males produced. Heavy boned mares will bring added value to any program. We want the miniature gypsy horse to maintain “cob” qualities and be a miniature draft horse. Some believe that the feather factor “clings” to the bone factor genetics and likes to be passed along together. Which is good because we want both together!
I hope that this explains some of my hope and excitement for the near reality of more and more truly miniature gypsy horses in the next few coming years. I know I am excited by the 3/4 crosses I have made already; in 2013 I expect six 3/4 bred babies to mature in the expected size range from 11-13 hands tall.
These babies will most likely be almost all offered for sale as weanlings; the prices will be ranging from $2000 to $5000 depending on sex, size and overall quality.