British Eventing’s latest initiative to boost breeding became a reality yesterday as the first BE breeding championships took place at Tweseldown Racecourse, Hants.

The 50 top points winning five-year-olds of the year were invited to contest an open pre-novice while the six-year-olds fought out their championship in an open novice section.

“The whole day went better than we could have hoped for,” says Patrick Rolfe, BE breeding committee member. “We were trying a lot of different things for the first time, and really breaking new ground for the sport.”

The result was excellent for British breeding with UK-bred stallions taking both the five and six-year-old classes.

“Fleetwater Opposition and Star of Orion, sires of the five-and six-year-old winners, took part in the stallion parade, alongside Welton Ambassador, Roviris, Weld and Mill Law,” explains Patrick.

“There was also a parade of competing stallions which included Viceroy, who was third at Blenheim; Weston Justice, who has just returned from Boekelo where he was a member of the British team; Prinmore’s Pioneer who is a full brother to Prinmore’s Pride and Christine Hardinge’s ride Crown Derby. The parades enabled people to see a concrete link between sires and horses performing.”

Patrick stressed that the emphasis of the whole day had been on breeding: “The event was very well attended and one of our overall aims is to massively increase the information people get about horses’ breeding and competition records.

“There was a commentary team for the dressage and show jumping as well as cross-country and they plugged the horses’ breeding all day.

“When each combination was in the start box the commentators gave a complete run-down of the competition record of not only this horse, but also the horse’s parents. The programme also included each horse’s breeding going back three generations.”

Despite 50 horses being invited to contest each section, there were only 24 starters in the six-year-old championship and 31 in the five-year-old section.

Holly Farr, who organised the championships on behalf of British Eventing, said there was no one reason for the low numbers: “Some horses were a bit sore from the extreme conditions this year, or the riders thought they had done enough. Some riders didn’t attend as they were competing elsewhere.

“I think if we have the dates at the start of next year rather than in the middle of the season maybe people will work towards the championships.”

Stars of the future

Dan Jocelyn (pictured) and Opposition Heracles won the five-year-old championship, in which the quality of the field was evident with 18 horses finishing on their dressage scores. Emma Walker and Kristalle took second place, and Phillipa Shanks and Criminal Girl were third.

Dan told HHO: “I started Opposition Heracles eventing at pre-novice this year, and he has been consistent with wins and placings throughout the season. He is everything you want in an eventer.

“I think it’s a very good idea to have a focal point where people can see young horses competing and see stallions all together, as well as their progeny. I’m sure the initiative can only get better.”

In the six-year-old championship 20 horses recorded no cross-country jumping penalties, with Sacha Pemble and Woodlands Unique Comet taking the top honours ahead of Clayton Fredericks riding Nullabor and Nigel Taylor with Irish Gent.

Angela Tucker and Irish Jester took the four-year-old invitational class, finishing on their dressage score of 26.6. This competition consisted of a combined training event, with the show jumping including some portable cross-country fences.

Next year four-year-olds will contest an intro section and horses in all three age groups will qualify for the championships through a series of qualifiers, which will hopefully maintain the public’s interest throughout the year.

“This is the first time British Eventing has run age-restricted classes, and next year these will run throughout the year,” says Patrick.

“The four-year-old qualifiers will not start until mid-season and each horse will be restricted to running in a maximum of three qualifiers. We’re not against four-year-olds competing in principle, but we don’t want to encourage people to over run young horses.”

  • Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s full report from the BE breeding championships in the 23 October issue.