Cleveland Bay supporters are warning that, despite a “slight improvement” in numbers reported by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), the breed is still under threat.

Last month the RBST released its watchlist report, in which Dales ponies and Dartmoors had dropped into more serious categories due to falling numbers of breeding females, which is what the list is based upon.

“Many of the breeds are still decreasing in population, although some, like the Cleveland Bay and Suffolk have seen slight improvements in numbers compared to 2014 population estimates,” said Tim Beeston from the RBST.

The RBST said it used 2011–2013 registrations for the 2015 list, as not all breeds had complete data for 2014.

However, Cleveland Bay breeder Zoe Woods told H&H she believes that this is a “rosy” outlook on the situation.

“The statement is very misleading as the plight of the Cleveland Bay is dire,” she said.

“It gives the impression that while species in crisis continue to struggle, the Cleveland Bay is one of the exceptions.”

Lorraine Chapman of the Cleveland Bay Horse Society (CBHS) confirmed that only six pure-bred fillies were born and registered in the UK last year.

Overall in 2014 there were 25 pure foal registrations, down from 35 in 2013.

“We have been advised that around 45 fillies a year need to be born for the breed to be secure,” Ms Chapman said.

“We have an average of 32 registrations per year worldwide, including the colts. We know that less than half of each year’s crop of filly foals will go on to breed their own replacement, so these low numbers are very worrying.”

She added that Cleveland Bays are also struggling because a number of long-standing breeders have now retired, similar to the problem cited by the Dales Pony Society in H&H’s previous news story.

“The value of the Cleveland Bay as a ‘really useful horse’ seems to have been lost in our fast-moving world,” added Ms Woods. “It is the ideal horse for the recreational rider. How do we get this message across?”

Ms Chapman added: “We need to reiterate to mare owners is that there is genuine interest in the breed now.

“We need to let people know how critical this breed is and encourage them to give Cleveland Bays a chance.”

Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 March 2015