Anna Ross: ‘The world won’t wait for us’ *H&H Plus*

  • Anna Ross on business plans and why passports shouldn’t dictate progress

    The third Covid lockdown, combined with Brexit, is an interesting time with the best-laid business plans and competition goals going awry. Those who have solid contingency plans will survive. We need to push out of our comfort zones and embrace new concepts – the rest of the world won’t wait for us to get organised.

    With confusion around international travel rules for horses, it’s a good thing that there will be plenty to do in the UK later this year. The Nexgen Young Horse Series, which proved a great showcase for young horses, breeders and riders last year, is back again in 2021, with an added section for seven-year-old horses.

    Seven used to be a fairly boring year for horses, who were out of young horse classes but not ready to step up to small tour and FEI competitions. Not any more.

    I prefer my horses to wait to start at small tour aged eight, even if they then only do one year before going grand prix. I favour the “end game” approach over pushing for championships before time.

    It frustrates me when I hear connections talk about what horses “should” be doing at a certain age. After all, each horse matures differently. Eye and feel should be used as the guide to the work a horse should be doing, not their passport details.

    Likewise, “brought on slowly” can be a phrase used by those who don’t ever train horses on, and “given time” shouldn’t mean that the horse looks like a llama chewing a wasp under saddle until it’s 10 years old.

    Young horse championships are also an opportunity for up-and-coming riders to lay out their shop window. Young riders need opportunities to showcase their work.

    British breeding

    Our horse sales business, Elite Dressage, came to fruition two years earlier than expected when the ideal property came up, and we have been waiting for our breeding programme to catch up. Our first large group of home-bred youngsters comes through under saddle this year and includes a daughter of double World Champion Woodlander Farouche.

    This comes at a useful time as confusion around Brexit and potential import duties on horses from Europe could limit opportunities to buy abroad. We have prepared for this by extending our breeding programme two years ago, so that we now have more horses to offer in the UK.

    Elite Embryos is our newest venture and it’s off to a flying start. It’s a new concept where clients can purchase embryos by choosing one
    of our sports mares and a stallion of their choice, using a “Build-A-Bear”-style feature on our website. It’s a great way to breed from a top mare that you don’t own and it’s proving insanely popular, especially as it’s a “remote” concept.

    With Brexit in mind, there’s a brand new state-of-the-art breeding laboratory under construction just up the road from us at Newton Stud. It’s the first of its kind in the UK, providing advanced reproduction services including intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – where fertilisation takes place outside the body, with the injection of a single sperm into an egg.

    Previously both the egg from the mare and the semen had to be exported to Europe to be fertilised and the embryos imported back again at great cost. This new laboratory will be a revelation, allowing the whole process to be undertaken in the UK as we depart the EU.

    We are very lucky to be able to ride and care for our horses, with all the mental health benefits that this brings in these turbulent times. It’s important that we stay positive and as ever with horses, keep thinking forward.

    Ref: 14 January 2021

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