Carole Mortimer: Desperately seeking British event horses *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    It’s rankings time and, take what you will from them, they make for an interesting read. However, disappointed is the word that springs to mind after a look at the British Eventing (BE) top 20 horses of 2017. Just two of the leading international event horses are British-bred.

    Xavier Faer (Catherston Liberator x Catherston Dazzler), bred by owner/breeder Trisha Rickards, is the British flag flyer, ridden by New Zealand rider Tim Price to equal sixth. Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V (Urkel x Quickstar), in 20th, are the highest-ranked British horse/rider combination.

    There are many reasons why one horse has more points in a season than another, but even so, this list gives an interesting snapshot as to the origin of leading horses and a window into what riders and owners are buying — or have been buying — over the past 10 years. Dutch, German and Irish horses are seemingly the most popular.

    Dressage horses trump eventers

    So how does the origin of horses in the BE top 20 compare to those in the other two Olympic disciplines?

    Interestingly, both showjumping and dressage leaderboards produce a higher number of British-breds than eventing. There are six British-bred horses in the British Showjumping top 20, with four British combinations. In dressage, four of the British Dressage leading grand prix point scorers of the year are British-bred and all are ridden by British riders.

    Ursula XII (Ahorn x Papageno), bred by Mary Turnbull and ridden by Scott Brash, in third, is the leading British-bred showjumper, while Goodman’s Supernova (De Niro x Weltmeyer), bred by the late Eva-Maria Kirby and ridden by Spencer Wilton, is the leading dressage horse of the year. What is even more surprising is that three of the top five leading dressage horses are British-bred. Who’d have thought there would be more British-bred horses competing in international grand prix than leading event horses?

    Hope for the next generation?

    One might hope that the picture in eventing improves at the lower ages. An analysis of the programme entry at this year’s BE young horse championships shows that in the four-, five- and six-year-old classes, the numbers of British-bred horses were about the same, but the percentage was 40%, 30% and 25% respectively. This shows that, as the horses get older, more non-British-bred horses appear, so that by the age of six, just one in four horses at this final is British-bred.

    In dressage, the number of younger British-bred horses increases; 50% of the 20 highest point-scoring horses competing at lower levels are British-bred. Are dressage breeders getting their product right, do they market them better or are dressage riders more patriotic?

    I might bang on a bit as to the whereabouts of British-bred event horses. But we know through registration that they are being bred and event breeders, like dressage breeders, have been enthusiastic participants in the British Equestrian Federation Futurity.

    So where do these potential event horses go? And why, as the horses get older, are there more non-British-bred horses competing? Is there a shortage of British-bred horses? Do the professional riders and their owners prefer to buy young horses from Europe and Ireland? I’d love to know the answer to this mystery.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 23 November 2017

    Stallions at Stud