Report on Breeding for Gold Symposium

An extremely interesting and informative Seminar on Breeding for Gold was held at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester on 9th March. It was attended by 120 delegates who had travelled from as far afield as Yorkshire and Cornwall to listen to the impressive line up of speakers. The day was particularly aimed at breeders of competition sport horses for the future but was of interest to all who wanted to see Britain improve its image in the world market.

Professor Chris Gaskell, Principal of the RAU, chaired the day and Dressage Olympian, trainer and breeder Jennie Loriston-Clarke set the scene with a history of breeding in the UK, how it was and how Britain excelled in the past and became the envy of the world with our bold athletic hunting and racing stock who produced numerous champions in eventing and show jumping.

Carole Mortimer, well known journalist and Chair of the Sports Horse BreedingGB breeding committee took over with an impassioned plea to all breeders to understand the necessity of registering the stock we breed with a British Stud book affiliated to the World Breeding Federation so that Britain receives the kudos of our horses’ successes. So many of these are wrongly attributed to being foreign bred because breeders assume they will be more valuable, meaning that several of our home bred horses are actually registered as foreign
and our breeders miss out on recognition.

Jan Rogers, the British Equestrian Federation’s Head of Equine Development gave a speech on where we are now and where we are going. This included information an all the initiatives taking place to help breeders through the Futurity and Equine Pathway series but there is a long way still to go. An interesting study was ongoing to evaluate the successes of those horses identified as future potential stars and how they actually perform throughout their careers.

Dr Ludwig Christmann, International Director of the Hanoverian Studbook, who had flown over specially to speak from Germany, gave a fascinating history of the breed and how it had evolved so successfully thanks to infusions of TB and other lighter breeds, as demands have changed from agricultural needs to a battle horse and then a sports horse. The controls on what was needed and when and how these were implemented were impressive.

Dr Emmeline Hill from Dublin University, founder of Equinome and a leading geneticist, gave a fascinating talk on advances made in this field. The knowledge to identify specific genes for specific purposes is there and while there is still much work to do in this field it is already being used in racing where the speed gene is an obvious prime target. The possibilities are endless and it will be exciting to hear more on this topic as research develops and becomes more widely available.

Following lunch, the sponsors of the seminar, B&W Equine Vets, Beaufort Embryo Transfer, West Kington Stud and Saracen Horse Feeds had a five minute slot each to promote their services in Promoters’ Corner before Richard Lancaster, Director of Shadwell Stud, gave an excellent talk on the Influence of the Arab in Sport Horse Breeding. His history of the breed and its specific influence in four main breeds was a reminder of the extraordinary dominance the Arab had on equine evolution and its relevance to today’s sport horse.

Ollie Crowe, a Director and Veterinary Surgeon at B&W Equine Vets gave a stimulating talk on Youngstock management for optimum conformation and performance and what can go wrong with the young foal. It was a timely reminder to carefully watch your youngster as it develops and act quickly if you see anything developing that is not as it should be. Leaving things to sort themselves may well be a disastrous decision for your youngster’s future. Ask the professional before you wreck your youngster for life was his message.

The day which was deemed a great success by all who attended, ended with a lively and entertaining Panel discussion on everything from ‘what effect would it have on the Equine industry if we left the EU’ to our perceived difficulty in finding appropriate riders to bring on and produce our young horses. Also, how do we deal with teenage riders who call themselves professionals, having had short term success on expensive horses or ponies bought for them by rich parents!