by Maressa Taylor Levy / Matters he time has come — you’ve waited 11 long months to meet your foal. Your mare labors normally and has an uncomplicated birth, but something isn’t right. Your newly born foal’s tiny pasterns are like jelly, unable to support his weight, and his skin tears at the touch. Hopeless, he’ll need to be euthanized a few hours after birth. When the results of the genetic testing come back, you learn that he was born with Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome, or WFFS.  This dreaded syndrome was discovered 12 years ago but has only been on many breeders' radars since last year after a case of a live foal born with WFFS was widely publicized. Major studs have begun systematically testing for carriers and awareness groups have formed on social media. Prominent stallion owner Paul Schockemöhle, on the other hand, has insisted that cases are exceedingly rare (so much so, that he will pay 10,000 euros to any client who can prove their foal died of WFFS).  At a simplified level, WFFS is a fatal genetic defect of connective tissue. Disease markers include thin, fragile skin that tears easily and hyperextensible joints. An estimated 6-11% of warmblood horses are carriers of the gene, but WFFS appears to be a recessive mutation, meaning that for a foal to have WFFS, both the sire and dam must carry the recessive gene that causes the defect.

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