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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Thoroughbreds to finally be recognised at Olympics

ABOVE: Vicki Roycroft and Apache, whose breeding went unrecognised.

THE Thoroughbred has given so much to Olympic competition either by competing or as breeding horses.

The announcement that at next year’s Paris Olympic Games, Thoroughbreds competing in any of the equestrian disciplines – dressage, show jumping and eventing – will, for the first time, be recognised in the starting lists and results is not before time.

In past Olympics, Thoroughbreds competing were listed only as “breeding unknown”.

How rude!

This has meant the breeding of many great Australian horses going unrecognised.

Jeff McVean’s Claret by King Pharoah and Vicki Roycroft’s Apache by Agriciola have been acknowledged.

Many of the Roycroft family’s Olympic horses were Thoroughbreds from Sir Alec Creswick and the great partner of Neale Lavis, Mirrabooka, was a station-bred Thoroughbred.

Blythe Tait’s Ready Teddy by Brilliant Invader competed in three Olympics, winning gold for New Zealand at the 1996 Summer Games, and took two golds at the 1998 World Equestrian Games.

He was the first eventing horse to win individual gold at both an Olympic Games and a World Equestrian Games.

ABOVE: Blythe Tait and Ready Teddy.

The issue arose because, under a Memorandum of Understanding between the FEI and the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH), only member stud books of the WBFSH have historically been credited, and the WBFSH only has members that specifically breed horses for the Olympic disciplines.

So, until now, even if the dam of an Olympic gold medallist was a Thoroughbred, sired by a Warmblood whose dam was a Thoroughbred, that part of the breeding was not acknowledged and the breeding was claimed by the relevant registrar.

The change in stance follows discussions between the European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation, the WBFSH, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) and the International Stud Book Committee (ISBC) and will extend also to all FEI competitions.

General manager of the WBFSH Nadine Brandtner said it was time the extensive influence the Thoroughbred has had on sport horse breeding and development was recognised.

“Undoubtedly the Thoroughbred deserves recognition,” she said.

“The initiative to encourage second careers for retired Thoroughbreds is a vital effort to maintain the social licence to operate. We believe that it is the entire equine sector that must stand together to face this challenge, and so it is natural that the WBFSH would support this.”

In the introduction to ‘The International Warmblood Horse: A Worldwide Guide to Breeding and Bloodlines’, author Jane Kidd writes that the warmblood horse has never been a pure breed.

“It has always been defined by area—Swedish, Dutch, Holstein, Westphalian etc and a foal is usually registered where it is born,” she said.

Kidd goes on to explain that the breeders of each particular region/nation have sought to produce the best possible riding horses for their region, valuing qualities such as athleticism, soundness and good temperament.

“Therefore, because warmbloods of a particular region are actually a “breed population” (as opposed to a “pure breed” like the Tennessee Walking Horse or American Quarter Horse), warmblood breeders are able to selectively incorporate outside stock into their registry in order to improve the foals being produced for their intended purpose.”

ABOVE: Neale Lavis and the station-bred Thoroughbred Mirrabooka.

Recognition of the Thoroughbred as a breed has been welcomed by Dr Paull Khan, secretary-general of the European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation and a member of the steering group of the International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses.

“Much effort is made around the world to encourage the owners of retired racehorses to explore second careers for them,” he said.

“This recognition will both further the message that Thoroughbreds do go on to compete with distinction in other equestrian disciples and prompt more Thoroughbred owners to consider this retirement option for their racehorses.”

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