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Well, we didn’t see that one coming did we? That is the removal of funding, by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), from the British breeding arm of its own organisation. Yes, a loss of income necessitates the need to save money and difficult decisions, but to pull the carpet from under the feet of a really small part of the federation was an easy answer. It also suggests a disinterest from the national federation in British breeding and means that British breeders will have no encouragement or initiatives to support what they do, from a major authority.

In my last column (6 July), which wasn’t exactly holding out for the future of breeding in the UK, I bemoaned the lack of progress since the publication, 20 years ago, of a report to produce a strategy for the breeding of British sport horses. I included a quote; “As well as the need for a strong, lead organisation that could speak to government with a single voice, it had to represent a horse industry that presented a united front.”

 Where is the leadership?

The withdrawal of funding that financed just a few of the original recommendations means we are now no better off than when this report was first written. The lack of quantifiable support for British breeding from any lead body, including the Olympic sporting disciplines, never ceases to disappoint. As to the report’s major findings that “fragmentation is the major problem facing the British non-racing horse industry”, how can there be a united front if there is no “strong, lead organisation” to unite it?

If anything, the sport horse industry is even more fragmented now than when the report was written; seemingly few people or organisations are proud of our British-bred and British-registered horses. We have no single body to promote the British-bred and British studbook-registered horse. Riders don’t seem to mind what the origin of their horse is and many even seek out horses from other country’s studbooks while many British breeders register horses with foreign studbooks; practically unheard of 20 years ago. In essence, without a leader everyone makes and follows their own paths.

Lack of support

Other countries have a national body that supports their home-bred horses; Horse Sport Ireland, for example, will be funding entry fees and a travel bursary to three six-year-old and five seven year-old horses registered in an Irish studbook (recognised by the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses) that will be competing in this weekend’s World Breeding Championships for Young Event Horses in Le Lion d’Angers (19-22 October). And, yes, all the Irish riders are riding horses registered with the Irish Sport Horse studbook. And you can bet your bottom dollar that at Le Lion, the Irish won’t be the only riders mounted on horses bred and registered in their country of origin and proudly supported by their federation.

At the time of writing and in light of the withdrawn funding, we await news of any future development that might support British breeding, although many British breeders have long given up any hope for support and recognition and have literally given up. Yet the horse is fundamental to our sports. Isn’t it about time that a governing body showed some leadership and substantial support for the British-bred and registered horse?

Ref Horse & Hound; 19 October 2017