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In its 50th anniversary year of being re-discovered, the Caspian breed is at risk again after the closure of two large studs in the UK.

“It would be an awful shame for 50 years of work to die out in England,” Brenda Dalton, chairman of the International Caspian Society told H&H.

The Darkhorse stud in Yorkshire closed 18 months ago after its owner Debbie Thomson was banned for keeping horses for 10 years for causing unnecessary suffering. The horses were all rehomed.

Meanwhile the economic downturn was partly to blame for the closure of the Henden stud in Wiltshire last November and owner Ron Scott moved to Norfolk. Most of the stud’s ponies were relocated to other breeders.

This means there are three large studs left in the UK with several stallions, another three medium-sized studs and a small number of owner-breeders.

New studs are being started up by Harry Thirlby in Leicestershire and Alison Brown in Yorkshire, but Mrs Dalton said the closure of the two large studs has limited where people can go to find the horses, which are a rare breed originating from the Caspian Sea in Iran.

“We have to get new young people interested in buying them as children’s ponies,” Mrs Dalton added.

This September Mrs Dalton will be speaking at an international conference held on the shores of the Caspian sea by the Equestrian Federation of Iran to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the re-discovery of the ancient breed which dates back to 3,000 BC.

In 1965 Louise Firouz, the American-born wife of an Iranian aristocrat, found a dark bay stallion on the streets of a coastal market town in northern Iran.

She encouraged other breeders around the world to join her in preserving the breed, which was thought to have been extinct.

In 1971 a mare and stallion were given to Prince Philip and several more were exported to a stud in the UK.

Averaging only 11.2hh, the animals make “gentle, willing mounts for children”, said Mrs Dalton who set up her stud with one of the original mares that came over from Iran.

She estimates there are around 500 Caspian horses in Britain and has fears for their future following the recent stud closures and the recession. “We are desperate to get more owners and breeders,” she added.