Carole Mortimer: Our ‘British’ horses are not British *H&H VIP*

Opinion

There were some fantastic British team performances at the recent World Equestrian Games (WEG) and it was great to see British-bred horses holding their own in dressage and showjumping — congratulations to the breeders of Hawtins Delicato (Diamond Hit x Regazzoni), Super Nova II (De Niro x Weltmeyer), Hearts Destiny (Heart Throb x Rabino) and Billy Buckingham, by the Billy Stud’s stallion Billy Congo.

But it was disappointing that our winning eventing team did not include one British-bred horse, albeit there were three British-bred representatives overall, including Padraig McCarthy’s individual silver ride for Ireland, Mr Chunky, one of two by Jumbo.

The disappearing British-bred event horse is becoming a great mystery. We know they are there; they are registered and appear at the Futurity and in the show ring. On face value, an increasing number of individuals and studs are breeding horses for eventing. And many do well in the early young horse classes; the Burghley young event horse final has highlighted some cracking British-bred horses.

However, even by the five-year-old final, the numbers, of mares especially, have begun to drop at the expense of Irish, German and Dutch-bred geldings.

A look at the young horse championship age classes seems to confirm the drop-off with the results of the six- and seven year-old championships at Osberton providing little cheer. Only around 20% completing in the seven-year-old class were British-bred — albeit including the winner, Sarah Bullimore’s Corouet. It was a similar statistic for the six-year-olds.

Searching the results of the eight- and nine-year-old class at Blenheim for British-bred horses was simply dispiriting as there were so few — hurrah for fifth-placed Super Cillious.

‘Brits’ abroad

British Eventing (BE) has just released names of the “British” pairs selected for the young horse World Championships at Le Lion D’Angers, the foremost and most prestigious international event for youngsters.

One of the aims of this competition is to highlight the breeding of young event horses and it is, in fact, a studbook competition, which not many people know. It’s the studbook of registration that counts. So how disappointing that out of the 15 combinations travelling to France, just two horses are British-bred. Are there really no suitable British-bred six- and seven year-olds eligible for selection? Why are they not making the grade?

All of this raises issues, and two questions come to mind immediately. The first is, don’t British event riders and owners buy or ride British-bred horses and, secondly, where have all those previously successful potential event horses gone?

Where are all those three-, four- and five-year-old British-bred horses we’ve seen at the Futurity, the Burghley young event horse and the young horse championships at Osberton?

If anyone can provide any clues, I would love to hear from them. We should have British-bred event horses representing British teams.

Ref Horse & Hound; 18 October 2018