HERDA: The Poco Bueno Legacy


Poco Bueno the first HERDA carrier

In recent years, the Poco Bueno sireline has raised a bit of controversy. As the bloodline associated with the genetic disorder hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA), they often get a bad rap. The disease is characterized by severe lesions and scarring along the back and withers. Affected horses usually present between 1 and 3 years of age when the horse is first being introduced to a saddle. There is no known cure or effective treatment. Due to this, affected horses are unusable as anything more than a high maintenance lawn ornament, most diagnosed animals are euthanized.

Fortunately, not all the Poco Bueno sireline has the disease. HERDA is a recessive trait. This means that a foal need to inherit the HERDA gene from both parents to be affected. A foal with only one copy of the gene will be a carrier with no symptoms, but will retain the ability to pass the defective gene on to future generations. Therefore, two carriers who show no symptoms have a 25% chance of producing an affected foal and a 50% chance of producing a carrier when bred together.

The Breeding Debate

Herein lies the debate. There are some who advocate that all carriers of the gene should be banned from breeding. There are other who contest that breeding carriers does not matter as long as the resulting foals are only carriers. These individuals insist that banning all carriers of the gene would limit the gene pool too much and drive some breeders who specialize in Poco Buenos out of business. This is an ongoing debate that does not look to be resolved any time soon.

Is it worth risking the loss of an entire bloodline to weed out one genetic defect?Click To Tweet

Personally, I believe that we should take steps towards eliminating HERDA from the gene pool entirely.

Let’s take a closer look at the horse that started it all.

Poco Bueno’s Life

Poco Bueno the first HERDA carrier

Poco Bueno is arguably one of the most influential sires of the mid 1900’s. According to the AQHA Hall of Fame, the brown stallion was foaled in 1944. Poco Bueno was by King P-234 and out of Miss Taylor. His name is Spanish for “little good.” At first it would seem a misnomer, but when taken literally it makes sense. Poco Bueno was only 14.2 HH, barely more than a pony, hence the “little.” I think the “good” part is pretty self-explanatory.

Poco Bueno was a late bloomer, so, in October of 1945, his breeder, Jess Hankins, hauled the yearling to San Angelo, TX and sold him to E. Paul Waggoner of the famed Waggoner Ranch. Waggoner bought the yearling Poco Bueno for $5,700 and shipped him to Three D Stock Farm in Arlington, TX where Poco Bueno began his show career.

Bob Burton broke the 2-year-old to ride, but Pine Johnson was the one to ride the brown stallion to cutting fame. Poco would go on to collect wins at the Denver National Western Stock Show and the Southwestern Exposition & Fat Stock Show among many other honors. The duo collected many trophies during their glorious career together. Poco Bueno earned his AQHA Champion title at the same time as his daughter, Poco Lena.

Poco Bueno died in 1969. He was famously buried standing up across from the entrance of Waggoner ranch. A 4-ton granite marker stands watch over the great stallion’s grave.

The Poco Bueno Legacy

Poco Bueno sired 405 registered foals. 36 went on to become AQHA

Modern Pocos, non HERDA carriers

Champions. 3 would be inducted into the National Cutting Horse Association’s Hall of Fame: Poco Mona, Poco Stampede, and Poco Lena.

Poco’s trainer said; “To tell you the truth, Poco Bueno was the greatest horse I’ve ever been with, and I’ve been around a lot of them.  He was easy to handle.  Gentle.  And smart.  Nearly all his colts were the same way.”

Poco Bueno was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1990.

The Modern Pocos

Modern Poco, non HERDA carrier48 years after his death, Poco Bueno’s legacy lives on. The Poco Bueno dynasty has grown to match that of other foundation greats such as Driftwood and Doc Bar.

The modern Pocos are known for their durability, talent, and heart. They can be stubborn and a little sensitive, but if treated fairly they will go the hell and back to please.

One of the Equestrian Writer models, Punzi, is Poco Bueno bred on the topside. She certainly lives up to the short and stocky stereo-type. She is my mom’s therapy horse, showcasing the gentler, more patient side of some of the Pocos.

My mare Moose, however, goes back to Poco Bueno through Bueno Chex, a son of King Fritz and Poco Bueno’s great grandson who was notorious for being bull-headed and difficult to get along with. I love Moose to death, but she seems to show some of the less desirable personality traits of the Pocos.

The Poco Bueno sireline is one of the most diverse that I have encountered. Producing everything from backyard kids ponies to world champion performance horses. There is certainly a Poco for every occasion.

It would be a shame to see such a versatile sireline die off in trying to weed out HERDA. It is my hope that we can find a way to preserve the line while ridding ourselves of this deadly disorder.

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