It was disappointing to see that, of the four horses selected for the latest British Eventing (BE) Nations Cup team, three were Dutch-bred.
Perhaps while there is an expectation that dressage horses and showjumpers are bred abroad — although more and more are bred here — there is still a feeling that event horses should ideally be British, because that is what they used to be and what we were good at breeding.
But things change, and one of the changes must be in where and how British event riders and owners source horses.
I was pondering this after Badminton, especially in view of the fact it was not a vintage year for British horses or — with the notable exception of the winner — riders.
Just four British riders and four British-bred horses (not necessarily together) made the top 20. British-bred Redesigned and Pippa Funnell (12th) were the highest placed British combination. He is by a selle Français with a bit of thoroughbred out of a mare with a good dose of Anglo Arab — still, for some bizarre reason, not yet widely used in the UK despite the fact we have proven bloodlines.
Of the other British-bred horses, Indian Mill (14th) was bred for the track, while Beltane Queen (19th) and Classic Moet (20th), both mares, are by thoroughbreds, Queens Soldier and Classic respectively, out of part-bred dams.
The right type
Those two in particular could probably be described as traditional event horses of the type we used to breed. And type is the key word, as both the Badminton winner Chilli Morning and second-placed Horseware Hale Bob are of similar types to Beltane Queen and Classic Moet.
Although both are German-bred, they are by thoroughbred stallions out of warmblood mares with another dose of thoroughbred and are not quite three-quarter bred. And they are not accidents of breeding. Hale Bob was specifically bred for the sport and Chilli Morning came from Brandenburg, an area of Germany that still breeds this type — they procured the thoroughbred event sire Stan The Man.
And in a year when dressage and showjumping proved influential, their warmblood lines came in useful.
Where are they?
So where do we find these three-quarter-bred types of the sort we used to breed and compete to great effect? Well, during a visit to Royal Windsor Horse Show, I found them — in the show ring.
I was interested to see just how many horses were of what I would call event breeding types and how many were British-bred. The fabulous riding horse champion, Trenavey Rational Choice (pictured) (bred in Devon) must surely have been bred to event, being by the thoroughbred Weld and out of Endeavour II — a mare by Welton Apollo out of the Ben Faerie daughter Minerva (the dam of Welton Envoy, Ambassador and Edwina).
The champion Anglo Arab was another by Classic. And there were plenty more. So how and where do the showing fraternity source horses to get there before the event riders — or do event riders and owners not even look here anymore?
I know many event riders would rather ride bareback round Badminton than watch a showing class, but maybe time out to view some young horse in-hand showing classes, or at least a read of a few major show catalogues, might reveal the whereabouts of some more potential British-bred event horses of the right type.
There is no time like the present, now that the British county show season is in full swing. See you at the ringside?
Ref: Horse & Hound; 4 June 2015