Sacha Shaw’s breeding blog: Why can’t we get our act together?

  • British dressage and British dressage breeders have certainly hit the headlines in the last few weeks, firstly with the incredible success of Woodlander Farouche at the World Breeding Championships in Verden, followed by the gold medal winning team at the European Championships in Rotterdam.

    There has been plenty of talk on the internet about what a boost this is for serious breeders in the UK but how can this momentum be turned into hard sales — the area so many breeders are struggling with in the current economic climate?

    Recent Futurity results have shown that youngstock bred in the UK appear to have the basic credentials to go on to national and international success. Our top riders are showing that they can deliver the results when sitting on the right horse power. But it is the competitive amateur and the non-team member professionals that need convincing they can buy British and get the results they want.

    I know that marketing is a vital and oft-neglected tool; one I am guilty of failing to grasp myself. But as small-scale breeders it can be difficult and expensive to promote our stock in the most professional light so as to rival the mainland Europe marketing machines.

    With a lack of a traditional auction market place, most of us rely on word of mouth, reputation and adverts in the equestrian press and online. But there already some events that with some tweaking and a good advertising campaign could bring breeders and buyers together.

    The Futurity is a prime example. Here up to 80 youngsters may be presented for evaluation in one day, a really good opportunity for a prospective buyer to view and compare a number of foals bred for their discipline.

    So why don’t these days attract huge audiences? Is it promotion? Or is the structure of the day, with mixed age groups and mixed disciplines, not focused enough for a potential buyer? Is there scope for breeders to work with the BEF to make the Futurity series a better shop window in addition to being an evaluation tool?

    The strong traditional county showing circuit now often incorporates sport horse classes. If the right sort of judges were used (as in sport horse not hunter judges), and the right sort of horses entered (how often do you see a true dressage horse entered in a county show?), then could these classes not become a national series with marketing aimed at attracting prospective buyers to attend the shows and again view a number of purpose-bred youngstock in one location?

    These are just two examples of events that are currently established in the UK, that with a few adjustments could give British breeders a unique and viable sales outlet for their stock. There is passion and knowledge within the British breeding scene, and it is growing all the while. But in hard economic times every avenue needs exploring and if the momentum started by the likes of Woodlander Stud and the British dressage team is not to be wasted, British breeders need to club together and make the most of it.

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