Carole Mortimer: Can free enterprise go too far? *H&H VIP*

Opinion

It’s extraordinary that much of the British horse world is unregulated in any official way. Anyone can buy or keep a horse, run a livery yard or sell feed and tack. Anyone can call themselves a trainer and give lessons. Anyone can run a show, judge a horse and present a certificate. Anyone can buy a stallion, start a stud and breed horses.

Yes, within all these industry sectors there are qualifications to be gained and rules to adhere to, but not a lot is compulsory.

The result is that we have a confusing plethora of societies, clubs, shows, studbooks, passport issuing organisations, and systems within systems. While diversity and free enterprise is to be encouraged, you can have too much of a good thing — can’t you?

One of the biggest ironies is that most British horsey people admire the way things work in Europe. But why is everything so much better in Europe?

It is the product of a regulated system and if you don’t like it you can’t join. Riders have tests and don’t compete until they have passed a certain standard. Trainers are assessed and have certificates. Horses are graded — before they breed — and are DNA-tested with bloodlines recorded in a national studbook.

In France, if your horse doesn’t have a full three-generation pedigree it can compete only to riding club level. Try telling that to someone here. They’ll likely just set up another studbook/show/register for horses of unknown breeding, with the result that the many small groups just get smaller, and each becomes less effective and economical.

To anyone new or looking in from the outside, these many aspects of equestrianism must be a confusing maze to be deciphered. While I’m not a fan of Brexit, could it provide a timely opportunity for us to have a critical look at ourselves and somehow start sorting the wheat from the chaff?

Don’t scrimp

It’s that time when we all start scrabbling to get this year’s foal registration papers to the studbooks before the end of December (foals must have a passport on or before 31 December of the year of birth, or by six months of age, whichever is later).

A request: for those who know the breeding of their foals (that should be everyone), please get them DNA-tested and have their breeding verified into a studbook. Seemingly, an increasing number of breeders are opting for cheaper identity-only passports.

Unless breeding is verified — confirmed and approved by DNA testing — breeding is officially recorded as unknown and, for example, will not be recognised by the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) database. DNA testing costs about £60 and will take about three weeks. Therefore, passports that are produced in a matter of days cannot have verified breeding.

There seems to be a growing trend to save money on passports, especially for geldings because “they won’t be used for breeding”, but this is going to reduce future information on bloodlines. Geldings, through performance, provide crucial information on sire and dam lines.

Ultimately, not fully documenting and verifying the breeding of your foal — or mare — through DNA testing, is not much better than that we already call indiscriminate breeding.

Ref Horse & Hound; 22 November 2018