‘Fantastic opportunity’ for most at-risk rare breeds in new championship classes

  • Rare breeds of the “highest concern” will be recognised at a show with new championship classes aimed at promoting the breeds’ high standards.

    For the first time the Norfolk Equestrian Show (28 July) will host Rare Breed Survival Trust watchlist classes, with the highest-placed horses and ponies going on to compete in the RBST championship for priority and at-risk breeds. The classes follow the release of the 2021/2022 RBST watchlist published last month with updated categories; priority, at risk, UK native breeds and Irish breeds in the UK. Previously the categories were critical, endangered, vulnerable, at risk and minority.

    Cleveland Bays, Dales, Dartmoors, Eriskays, Exmoors, Hackneys and Suffolk horses appear in the priority category. Clydesdale horses, Fell and Highland ponies, New Forests, and Shires have been classed as at risk.

    RBST chief executive Christopher Price told H&H the watchlist classes will give dedicated owners and breeders of rare native horses and ponies the chance to demonstrate their “amazingly high standards”, and show the great potential of the breeds.

    “We hope this will also encourage more people to get involved in the work to ensure rare native equine breeds such as Eriskays and Suffolks can thrive long into the future,” he said.

    RBST chairman Gale Sprake added that with competitions so severely limited over the last 18 months, the trust is delighted to provide this “fantastic opportunity” to celebrate rare breeds, as well as the people, organisations and communities that support their survival.

    “Each of our native pony and horse breeds has its own characteristics, unique features and history and each has played an extraordinary role in our nation’s history,” she said.

    “The new RBST priority and at-risk classes at the Norfolk Equestrian Show will really show why they are special.”

    Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association chief executive Mark Nicholas said the organisation is “thrilled” to be welcoming competitors.

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    “We are particularly pleased to be working in partnership with RBST and helping them to promote the importance of breed diversity and survival,” he said.

    The show’s organisers hope that holding the “streamlined” show behind closed doors in 2021 will support the planned return of a full Royal Norfolk Show in June 2022. The schedule includes in-hand and ridden classes and retains Horse of the Year Show qualifiers from the cancelled Royal Norfolk Show. Entries close on 30 June.

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