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SPARKS INTERNATIONAL 2023

INTERNATIONAL GUIDANCE NOTES ON THE USE OF SPARKS KINSHIP TABLES

Introduction

The Shire Horse Society (‘the Society’) has adopted SPARKS from 2023 to tackle inbreeding in the Shire horse population. Inbreeding leads to loss of genetic diversity in the population. In turn, this threatens the health of individual horses and the health and sustainability of the Shire breed as a whole, because it has the following consequences:

  • increased infertility
  • increased foal mortality (deaths)
  • increased likelihood of harmful genes accumulating in the breed
  • increases risk of inherited diseases and deformities
  • reduced overall fitness of the breed and resistance to diseases

A powerful way of tackling inbreeding is by managing ‘Mean Kinship’ through selection of mare/stallion pairings.

What is Sparks?

SPARKS is an advisory scheme that helps manage Mean Kinship and inbreeding. It is a computer programme that calculates Mean Kinships for every living pure-bred Shire in the Society’s Stud Book, measuring how related any one Shire is to all others. SPARKS also calculates the potential inbreeding of foals resulting from specific mare/stallion pairings.  Based on this analysis, SPARKS produces Kinship Tables for mares.


What are Kinship Tables?

The Kinship Tables are a tool to help breeders manage Mean Kinship and inbreeding via their decisions on which stallions to put to which mares.

Each Kinship Table is specific to an individual mare. The Table for each mare is three pages long. In every Table, the name of the mare is shown on each page, together with her date of birth, Stud Book number, Mean Kinship coefficient and Inbreeding coefficient. Based on the Mean Kinship coefficient, the mare is assigned to a Mean Kinship Band. Mares in Band A are of lowest Mean Kinship, i.e. are least related to the rest of the population, and those in Band H are the most related.

International Kinship Tables have been produced for pure-bred Shire mares that are registered in the breeding section of the Society’s Stud Book as (i) alive, (ii) located in a country other than the UK (except Russia, which is excluded), and (iii) born in or after 2003, up to and including 2021. International Kinship Tables for mares born before 2003 are available on request; see Section 5 below for more information.

In each International Kinship Table, there is a list of pure-bred Shire stallions. These are stallions that are registered in the Society’s Stud Book as (i) alive, (ii) located in a country other than the UK (except Russia which is excluded) and (iii) Approved under the Society’s inspection process, AND who have been used for breeding in the last 5 years, according to the Society’s records.

The list of stallions includes those who are waiting for their 2nd inspection in March 2023. Please note - if a mare owner wants to use one of these stallions, the mare owner must check that the stallion has passed the inspection and has been approved before mating takes place. Checking this is the mare owner’s responsibility. If the stallion does not receive approval, the Society will not be able to register the resulting progeny in the Breeding section of the Stud Book. For any queries, contact info@shire-horse.org.uk 

Please also note that the locations shown for stallions are not guaranteed - some stallions may be in a different location for the 2023 breeding season.

The following information is given for each stallion: name, Stud Book number, colour, Inbreeding Coefficient, Mean Kinship coefficient, Kinship Band, Co-ancestry Coefficient of Progeny, Region and Location.

The ‘Co-ancestry Coefficient of Progeny’ is the level of inbreeding that the resulting foal would have if the named mare is mated to the named stallion. The lower this coefficient, the less inbred the foal would be. Co-ancestry coefficients of below 0.05 are considered acceptable, and those of 0.05 and above are not.


How are Kniship Tables used?

The Kinship Tables are published on the Society’s website and can be downloaded free of charge.

Use of the Tables is voluntary. The Tables are an advisory tool that are intended to help mare owners to select a stallion. The Tables do not relate to the physical attributes of any mares, stallions or potential foals, and breeders should continue to use their own best judgement in this regard. The Tables are an additional tool to add genetic health to dam/sire pairing decisions.

To facilitate help with interpretation of the Kinship Tables, the potential matings between mares and stallions are ranked into four Tiers in every Table. Tier 1 represents the best genetic pairings, and Tier 4 the worst. These are coded as ‘traffic light’ colours as follows:


 

Tier 1


The mare and stallion are from the same or an adjacent Kinship Band AND the mating would produce a foal of lower co-ancestry coefficient than the Mean Kinship of the Mare. These matings are said to be ‘SPARKS compliant’ and are coloured green in the Kinship Tables. THESE MATINGS ARE ENCOURAGED.          

Tier 2


The mare and stallion are from the same or an adjacent Kinship Band BUT the mating would result in a foal of higher co-ancestry coefficient than the Mean Kinship of the mare but still less than 0.05. These matings represent ‘The Best of the Rest’ and are coloured yellow in the Kinship Tables. THESE MATINGS ARE THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE IF A SPARKS COMPLIANT OR ‘GREEN’ MATING DOES NOT EXIST OR IS NOT DESIRABLE.     

Tier 3


The mare and stallion are from widely differing Kinship Bands and Kinship Coefficients less than 0.05. These matings bring together genes in a way that puts less common genes at greater risk of loss. They are coloured orange in the Kinship Tables and ARE DISCOURAGED. 

​Tier 4


These matings, coloured red in the Kinship Tables, are highly inbred and increase the probability of deleterious genes/harmful traits being expressed in future generations as well as accelerating the loss of genetic diversity. THESE MATINGS SHOULD BE AVOIDED.

   

 


Please note:

  • The tiers are an assessment of the merit of the pairing of the mare and stallion. It is not an endorsement or a criticism of the genetic makeup or physical characteristics of either the mare or the stallion.

  • The traffic light colours are shown on the names of the stallions, but do not represent the level of inbreeding of the stallions themselves. They represent the level of inbreeding that the foal would have if the stallion was mated with the named mare.

  • For red matings, the red traffic light colour is highlighted on the Co-Ancestry Coefficient of Progeny figure as well as on the stallion’s name.  This is to help distinguish between orange and red matings, because the two colours may look similar on some computer screens.


Important notes on using Kinship Tables

Kinship Tables are valid for one year only because the Shire horse population, and therefore the kinship relationships within it, change each year. The Tables are therefore updated every year. The year for which the Tables are valid is shown at the top of each one. Please use the correct Tables for the year concerned, e.g. the 2023 Tables for matings to take place in 2023.

Kinship Tables for a mares born before 2003 are available on request. Please contact the Society office with your request, quoting the mare’s name and Stud Book number. Allow plenty of time because it may take three weeks for the table to be produced and sent to you.

To help breeders identify where horses are located, the International Kinship Tables identify three big Regions, named Australasia, Americas and Europe. The Australasia region is sub-divided to Australia and New Zealand. The Americas region is sub-divided into the USA, Canada and South American countries. The Europe region is sub-divided into all other countries (except UK).  The countries are called Locations.  The Region and Location is shown for every mare and stallion in the Kinship Tables.  


How to find a mare in Kinship Tables

Kinship Tables are produced as ‘PDF’ electronic documents.  The International Kinship Tables are organised into PDF documents as follows.

There is one PDF for mares in EIRE. This includes stallions in EIRE and in the UK. Mare owners wishing to use a UK stallion must ensure that he has a Service Book for 2023 before mating takes place, otherwise the progeny cannot be registered in the breeding section of the Society’s Stud Book.

There is one PDF for mares in Australia and New Zealand. This includes stallions in those countries, plus stallions in other non-UK countries. The stallions that are registered in the Society’s records as located in Australia and New Zealand are named first in each Kinship Table, followed by the stallions located in other countries.

For mares in all other countries(except Russia, which is excluded), there are too many Kinship Tables to put them all in a single PDF. Therefore, these mares are organised into 8 PDFs, alphabetically by prefix. For example, there is a PDF for mares with prefixes beginning with the letters A and B, another PDF for mares with prefixes beginning with the letters C and D, another PDF for mares with prefixes beginning with E, F and G…… and so on through the whole alphabet.

The pdfs for each group can be downloaded from the Society’s website. To find the Kinship Table for any mare:

  1. Go to the SPARKS International page on the Society website, and select ‘Kinship tables international’ in the drop-down menu
  2. Select the download link for the PDF for the mare you want to find
  3. Download the PDF from the link
  4. You can now search the PDF for the mare. You can do this by scrolling through the PDF, but it may be easier to search as follows:
On your keyboard, hold down the Ctrl key press the F key. You will see a search box has opened at the top of the page. Release both keys. Type the mare’s Stud Book number, or her prefix and name, into the search box. If using the name, spell it exactly as it is spelt in the Stud Book, including any hyphens or apostrophes. The pdf should jump to the Kinship Table for that mare. Because Stud Book numbers are unique to individual horses, this may be the most efficient way to search. The pdf may jump to part-way through the Kinship Table you are interested in. You will need to scroll up to get to the top of the Table.

If you need phone help on downloading and using the Kinship Tables and finding mares in them, please contact one of the Society’s volunteer SPARKS helpers. Their names and phone numbers are at the end of this document.


Correction and Anomolies

The information in the Kinship Tables is only as good as the information in the Society’s Stud Book, so the more up to date the Stud Book, the better. Therefore, if you see a mare in the Kinship Tables that you know has died or changed location, please notify the Society office, sending in the passport if you have it. Likewise, if you see information that is not or might not be correct about any horse, please let the office know.


Contact, and Help

Shire Horse Society, The Old Dairy, Rockingham Castle, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 8TH

T: 01536 771611 E: info@shire-horse.org.uk


SPARKS volunteer helpers

Libby Archer+44 (0) 7713 413494
Denise Badger+44 (0) 7966 505848
Tony Brown+44 (0) 7798 778148
Oliver Chaffey+44 (0) 7900 204241
Caroline Eagle+44 (0) 7977 537823 (only after 3.00pm please)
Deb Green+44 (0) 7590 914422
Edward Tudor Jones+44 (0) 7967 022304
Mark Richardson+44 (0) 7703 559080
Yvonne Simmons+44 (0) 7739 644032


Notes for researchers. The data provided in the Kinship tables are highly filtered from the SPARKS database and should not be taken as an accurate representation of the current Shire horse population. As such, they are not suitable for research purposes.


SPARKS is endorsed by the UK’s Rare Breeds Survival Trust

Rare Breeds Survial trust


 
 

 

 

 

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