Sport horse breeding
Carole Mortimer suggests ways to help bridge the gap between British breeders and buyers, and warns against a lax attitude to training foals
TO my mind, one of the aspects of the former British Equestrian Federation (BEF) breeding programme that was most needed was the Equine Bridge. Sadly, the scheme — designed to connect young horses, previously identified as talented, with riders — never got off the ground.
It was a shame, as any initiative to get more of our lovely British-bred horses teamed up with British riders is welcome if we are to get them and prospective owners to shop at home and not hop on the next plane to the Netherlands.
While the new Elite Stallions Foal Registration Tour is a great initiative and I have no idea what will turn up in the any of the proposals to resuscitate the BEF breeding programme, it would be good to see something that would highlight young horses that are ready to be sold.
The main reasons riders say they go abroad are: a) they don’t know where to look for young unbacked horses, and b) there is no one place where they can save time and mileage by seeing more than just a handful at a time. I see their point. Breeders are scattered all over the country and we certainly don’t have the large-scale studs as can be seen in Europe. And it has been proved over time that riders don’t like buying Britishbred horses at sales.
So one suggestion; how about the sporting disciplines getting together to host viewing days? Breeders could bring the youngstock they want to sell — and fully documented passports with verified breeding — to a suitable centre at no cost to them. Would breeders be up for something like this? Would riders and owners support it?
However, in the meantime I do think riders could help themselves and be more proactive. How many have ever attended a breed society show for example, where the best youngstock are on display, and where they may spot a future star? Many of the societies and studbooks have annual shows, which provide a shop window and a place to meet breeders.
Maybe the societies could start marketing their shows more creatively towards buyers and riders.
TRAIN WITH RESPECT NOT CUDDLES
THE British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is currently running a campaign, “Don’t Break Your Vet”, to help raise awareness of the risks that vets face when treating horses that are less than cooperative.
I never knew there were so many needle-shy horses. Training a horse in basic manners should start early — just after they are born — with confident handling, including legs and feet, as well as headcollar training and leading.
What is alarming, however, are the videos that regularly pop up on social media promoting the idea that cuddling and kissing foals is cute. It is not.
It is the start of potential problems. Foals, even small ones, that have been allowed
(or trained) to become overfriendly become big, potentially dangerous yearlings when their previous “training” is spurned.
Responsible breeders train foals with respect (for teeth and feet) and understanding of equine behaviour, not by lying down with them in the straw. In the meantime, for those with a horse with less than impeccable manners, the how-to videos created by BEVA are well worth a watch.