Despite five of the 12 equine breeds on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust 2020/21 watchlist being described as ‘critical’, H&H finds some positive news from those working for the breeds’ futures...
The latest figures on endangered equines “shine a light” on the efforts of those working to save at-risk breeds.
There are 12 equine breeds on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) 2020/21 watchlist, with five of those in the “critical” category, meaning there are fewer than 300 breeding females.
There is some good news among some of the more worrying figures, with several of the most endangered breeds showing positive signs of stabilising and, in some cases, increasing their numbers.
“This year’s watchlist shines a light on the great efforts of rare-equine breeders working alongside RBST,” chief executive of the RBST Christopher Price told H&H.
“It is great to see that, three years into our heavy horse campaign, their numbers are stable with some breeds such as the Suffolk showing an increase.”
He added there is also positive news for the Cleveland Bay, which has an estimated 98 breeding females registered in total.
“In 2019, 18 [new] females were registered, whereas in 2016 just five were registered,” Mr Price said.
“This is a really important improvement but the breed remains in a critical position and so our efforts to safeguard their future continue, in close collaboration with the Cleveland Bay Horse Society.
“These increases are heartening, but they are in the context of generally declining numbers of rare-breed ponies and horses over the past decade.”
In 2011, H&H reported the number of hackney breeding mares had dropped from 500 to around 300, which has more than halved again during the past nine years.
“The five breeds in our critical category have very low numbers, with hackney horse numbers declining further to an estimated breeding number of 129 and the Eriskay breed only registering four female foals in 2019,” he added. “The two endangered breeds – Exmoor ponies and Dartmoor ponies – have both decreased in number.”
He added the RBST has vital conservation programmes under way to save breeds most at risk and thanked all those who support this “crucial work”.
Barbara Stockton, of the Hackney Horse Society, has been exhibiting and breeding hackneys since the 1970s, judging for the past 30 years, and spent five years as the society’s chairman.
“Obviously the decline is incredibly sad,” she told H&H. “The picture we see as a breed society is possibly slightly different to the RBST – we are actually seeing [overall] registrations increasing slowly, but surely.”
She added there was one very low year in the past five years with about 25 new registrations, but the 2019 totals are around 62.
Gene pool mapping work is being done by the RBST and Mrs Stockton added one of the pluses of the breed is owners tend to keep the stallions entire, unless there is a reason for them to be cut.
“I have been a fan of the horses for so many years and I cannot understand why a horse with so many great attributes isn’t taken on by more people,” she said. “They are incredibly athletic, their stamina is amazing and are a naturally elegant, beautiful breed.”
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