Vets warn that ‘extreme breeding’ could harm horses

The El Rey Magnum is close to perfection, according to its breeders in Washington state

Vets are warning that the” extreme breeding” of ponies could harm their health and welfare after pictures emerged of a young Arabian horse with a drastically concave profile. Claimed to be already worth “several million dollars”, El Rey Magnum is said to be ” close to perfection” by its breeders at Orrion Farms, an Arabian horse specialist in Ellensburg, Washington state.

But British vets and equine experts have told the Veterinary Record the nine-month-old colt represents” a matter of great concern ,” as its deformed skull could potentially cause exhaling difficulties. The Guardian has been refused permission to publish pictures of the pony, but the creature can be viewed here.

Tim Greet, an equine expert, told the Veterinary Record:” I find the whole thing unbelievable. Arabians have always had a rather’ dished ‘, face but this takes things to a ridiculous level .”

According to Greet, such “deformity” is more significant for a horse than for pedigree dogs such as pugs, which are able to suffer breathing problems. Dogs can breathe through their mouths, but horses can only inhaled through their noses.” I suspect exercising would definitely be limited for this horse ,” said Greet.

Adele Waters, the editor of Veterinary Record, said that every professional veterinarian she had shown the images to had found them shocking.

She said:” My first believes were,’ Is this the work of CGI trickery ?’ Many specialist horse veterinarians have had a similar reaction. But the truth is this is a real pony and it has been bred to meet the demands of a specific market that likes a specific appearance. Where will it aim? Is it genuinely so bad for a horse to look like a pony and not a cartoon character ?”

Waters questioned the morality of such fashion-led breeding, in the wake of similar fears over the health and welfare of flat-nosed puppy breeds such as bulldogs, French bulldogs and pugs.

” The real original Arabian horse’s head was very beautiful but they are now being bred strictly for that[ concave] look. There is no functional value in a pony having a face like that. Veterinarians believe that if you distort the skull like that there’s a risk you affect the airways and the breathing capacity of the pony .”

Dr Madeleine Campbell, an equine reproduction specialist, expert in animal welfare and ethics and director of the Equine Ethics Consultancy, told the Veterinary Record:” Whilst it is obviously impossible to comment on an individual animal based only on photographic proof, as a general principle, any tendency towards breeding for extremes of form which might adversely affect normal function must be condemned, on welfare grounds .”

Doug Leadley, a farm administrator and primary breed adviser for Orrion, claimed that” this horse is a stepping stone to getting close to perfection “. He rejected criticisms of the horse:” I think most of those people don’t breed ponies, or show them or aren’t very involved- those are people who don’t understand .”

American veterinarians have recognised El Rey Magnum as an example of an extreme breed, and one vet has said that the pony has no medical or respiratory issues.

Since launching a promotional video earlier this month, the farm has received interest from across the world, including the UK. According to Leadley, the young pony is already worth several million dollars.

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