I am loving that British events have embraced livestream. Being able to watch Hartpury Festival of Dressage and Barbury Horse Trials —held on the same weekend — made it possible to stay in touch with both competitions on the same day. However, keeping up with who was riding when, at which venue, was a little challenging and it was all rather time-consuming — the weekend was not exactly productive otherwise.
The gala evening at Hartpury was particularly enjoyable, especially the young horse prix st georges class, in which Isobel Wessels did a great job as compère.
It was notable that, of seven finalists, the top four horses (Woodlander Farouche (pictured top), Tantoni Sir Soccrates, Dahling and Sheepcote Don Calisto) were all British-bred — and two of them were ridden by second-generation British-bred riders (Michael Eilberg and Lucy Pincus).
Great British results
So it seems that British breeders are doing a great job of breeding dressage horses — the four above all have grand prix potential.
Of course, breeding is only one factor in a successful outcome. A major reason why these horses have gone on to be successful is that they were all retained, at least initially, by their breeders, who invested in their upbringing and training. They have been brought through the grades and carefully produced while being sponsored — for want of a better word — by their breeder/owners.
And they are not isolated examples. There were plenty of other British-bred combinations doing well at Hartpury; Jon and Julie Deverill look to have a follow-up to their former team horse Half Moon Delphi in inter II winner Half Moon Dynasty.
British-bred Gladstone, whose sire, Cyden Bodyguard Moorland, stands in the UK, was the winner of the four-year-old Shearwater championship, and Hawtins Stud’s home-bred Fiorella also won a large potential young dressage horse class.
However, Barbury was not as encouraging. Of eight classes, five were won by New Zealand riders, three by British riders (two by William Fox-Pitt) and just one by a British-bred horse — namely Avebury, by Jumbo.
How times change
What bemuses me is how relatively quickly — about 25 years — a country of event horse breeders producing horses admired the world over, seems to have become a nation of dressage horse breeders (and riders).
Only one of the 12 horses selected for the British squad for the European Eventing Championships at Blair — Allercombe Ellie — is British-bred. Thank goodness for Jumbo — again. Seven are Irish sport horses, two are German-bred and two are Dutch-bred. Most are by jumping sires.
I have nothing against the other horses: they are all great, good-looking horses and excel at their job, but I do find it sad that we appear to have lost our way in breeding, finding or producing home-bred event horses. I have no idea why there are not more British-bred event horses making their presence felt.
Maybe we just aren’t breeding enough event horses, or even the right horses. Maybe event horse breeders have become dressage horse breeders. Who knows?
But, as with any product, in order to sell you have to have the right goods, although one specialist breeder tells me that riders come to him only after they have tried Ireland, Holland and Germany. Why? I suspect there is no single answer, but I for one would be interested to know from event riders what it is they want from an event horse, and why so many no longer ride British-bred horses.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 30 July 2015