Seemingly out of the blue and with immediate effect, the FEI is going to charge the owners of horses that have prefixes added to their existing name a commercial rate of £979 for an FEI passport. Birth names — including prefixes — will incur no extra charge. Who saw that coming?

However, the subject is hardly new. The addition of prefixes has long been a bone of contention with breeders, especially as their own name often gets lost once this has happened. Prefixes confuse people as they can easily presume the horse with a prefix to have been bred by the owners of the prefix. Why wouldn’t they? After all, there are many studs that have their own prefix.

There will now be plenty of disgruntled producers who will possibly lose their identity on their international and flagship horses. And they could possibly argue that they have had the horse longer than the breeder, put in the work and made the horse a success. Who would have heard of the horse otherwise, they may add.

Yes, there are two sides. But, in general, the whole business of horse sport nowadays involves several individuals or groups and behind many successful horses is a breeder, a producer, an owner and a rider. And while the last three can change — often more than once — during the life of a horse, the first one, the breeder, will always remain the same. Yet so often they are forgotten, or left out of the equation altogether.

Why should the prefix of a producer, who buys a horse, adds a prefix and then sells it again, sometimes within a very short time (I have heard of this happening within a week) stay with a horse for the rest of its competitive career? For many years breeders have had the thin end of the wedge, but as people are becoming more interested in breeding and provenance then perhaps anything that helps point people in the direction of the breeder has to be a good thing.

It will also help breeders to find their horses, who so often get lost through name changes and additional prefixes.

Ultimately a horse is a product created by the breeder. In no other sphere can someone buy another person’s product, change the name and market the same product under a new name.

Standing up for better welfare

Another important statement, but one that you might have missed, is the one issued by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs sub-committee to the effect that it will be holding a series of short inquiries on animal welfare (link below), with the first focusing on domestic pets, which includes horses.

The particular bit up for discussion that caught my eye was, the ‘effectiveness of the Animal Welfare Act 2006’ combined with enforcement of current legislation.

I have so long argued that this act is rarely acted upon. For me the first and third of the statements, of the ‘five freedoms’ that is the need for; a ‘suitable environment’ and the ability ‘to exhibit normal behaviour patterns’ rarely seem to be applied. Witness the many dejected single horses that live in minute, muddy patches, without shelter, surrounded by electric tape.

Written submissions are invited but there is little time as they have to be presented by 17 March. I know I am not the only one concerned at the seeming lack of effectiveness of this bill, so now is a chance to have a say. The British Horse Society will be writing but maybe the breed societies and studbooks ought to galvanise themselves into action. The more the better.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 March 2016