The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland A New Era for Warmblood Horses in Ireland?

By Caroline Ironside (Nov 09)

WSIdirectors_HBM

Left to right:
Dawn Kelly (Studbook Administrator)
Claire Wood (Inspector)
Tom Reed (Breeding Director & Inspector)

2009 saw the inauguration of a new Studbook in Ireland....namely The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland. Caroline wanted to find out more about the background to the Studbook and its future goals, and Tom Reed the Breeding Director was willing to give us an insight into this interesting new development for warmblood breeders in Ireland.

Discussing Studbooks, what made you decide on the concept of The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland, you must have thought there was something missing within Ireland?

Ever since 1999, when I began looking for a stallion to build Morningside Stud around, I have been critical of the policies and direction of the Irish Sport Horse Studbook. Back in 2000 – 2001 I wrote articles that predicted the continuing decline of the studbook and breeding of showjumpers in Ireland. I predicted that within a decade the ISH studbook would be out of the top 10 showjumping studbooks – and I was correct. I predicted what studbooks would leap ahead of the ISH studbook – and I was correct. Now that does not mean I can predict the future; the writing was on the wall! As Dylan said, you don’t need to be a weather man to know which way the wind blows.

Finally about a year ago the Irish Horse Board and Horse Sport Ireland announced that they would stop approving stallions. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. We submitted an application for the Warmblood Studbook of Ireland to the Irish Minister of Agriculture on 28 December 2008. A process that usually takes 4 – 6 years took less than three months for us: we gained EU approval in mid-March 2009.

With regards to breeding of sportshorses in Ireland, how do you see The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland taking this forward?

The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland (WSI) will always be a small studbook relative to the ISH studbook and the studbooks on the continent. This is by design. When we went through the process with the Department of Agriculture that resulted in the WSI gaining status as an EU-approved studbook, we clearly told the Minister's staff that the WSI will be small. In fact, we told them if in 5 years time we are registering more than 200 or 300 foals a year we will have failed in our mission. Judge our success by what percentage of the foals we register go on to be international showjumpers, not by how many foals we register. The Minister's staff understood us.

Looking through the goals, we notice the Studbook wishes to prohibit Irish Draught Blood. Why has the Studbook taken this stance considering the uniqueness of the breed?

The WSI permits no ID blood in approved, licensed, and recognized stallions and no more than 50% ID blood in approved mares. The reason is simple: we believe that to breed the modern international showjumper one needs to use modern international showjumping genetics. The ID is 20 – 30 years behind the times. In general they do not have the damlines, elasticity, jumping technique, canter, and rideability we are looking for.

What aspects of your Rules & Procedures have you taken from other European Studbooks, if any?

The rules of the WSI are essentially the informal rules, procedures and rubrics I have developed in my own breeding program with Morningside Stud but elevated to the studbook level. My own breeding philosophy has been strongly influenced by German, Dutch and Belgian breeders and their studbooks, and these influences permeate the WSI's rules.

For example, like the KWPN we require continuous assessment of stallions and their progeny until lifetime approval may be granted to a stallion. We also have a Watch List for stallions that are at risk of losing their approval. But I believe we are the first studbook to have a Watch List for mares.

For breeders in Ireland, what do you think defines The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland against other Irish Studbooks?

I cannot speak for Irish breeders. The WSI is really not an alternative for most breeders in Ireland because their mares could not be approved. As we told the Minister's representatives, only about 5% of the mares in Ireland are worth breeding to if the goal is to produce international showjumpers. So we are not attempting to recruit mare owners because we think it is immoral to recruit them to an inspection and take their money when we know that 95% of the mares have no chance of being approved. So we let mare owners come to us and we advise them on a one-to-one basis.

Who are the members of the Stallion Selection Committee?

Three people run the WSI. Dawn Kelly is the studbook administrator. I am the breeding director. Claire Wood and I are the inspectors.

According to your Rules & Procedures, stallions are marked out of 10 for several characteristics. What are the minimum scores needed to attain Approved and Licensed status at initial grading?

We do not have a minimum score that must be met for approval. Taking everything into account – his inspection scores, his results in sport (if an older candidate being considered for approval), his veterinary and radiographic examinations – we make a determination as to the pros and cons, the benefits and costs, the weakness and the compensating differentials that a stallion would bring to the genetic pool of the studbook.

If a stallion is not interesting to us from a genetic point of view we politely advise the owner that he is probably not a good fit for the studbook and advise them not to proceed with an inspection. We have done this already about a dozen times. We believe it is better to be frank with the stallion owner rather than go through the process, take his or her money, and then deliver the bad news.

How does a breeder find the results of stallions that are Approved and Licensed by The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland, and are you intending to make the x-ray results known?

Members of the WSI are eligible to receive from the Studbook the results of stallion inspections and their health and radiographic exams. Of course individual stallion owners are free to disclose their stallion's inspection scores and health and x-ray results.

With regards to pedigrees, The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland is unique in that it gives a score of up to 10 for pedigrees of both the sire and dam. How do you attach a value to this and what would be the minimum requirement for a mare owner?

We assess the pedigree of every stallion and mare presented for approval and the basis of the evaluation is the extent to which international showjumpers have been produced by the sireline and damline.

Let's take as an example a mare that is presented for approval. We evaluate the mare's pedigree two ways. First we assess her sire's pedigree and we give up to 5 points for the quality of her sire's sireline plus up to 5 points for the quality of her sire's damline. Then we total those two scores to assign the inspection score for "sire's pedigree".

Then we assess her dam's pedigree and we give up to 5 points for the quality of her dam's sireline plus up to 5 points for the quality of her dam's damline. Then we total those two scores to assign the inspection score for "dam's pedigree".

We do it this way because we want to emphasize to everyone that the quality of the damline in both the approved stallions and approved mares is very important.

When do you hope to have your first Stallion Selection?

We have been approving, licensing, and recognizing stallions since the Studbook was approved in March 2009. There are now 18 stallions in the Studbook and several more may be added for the 2010 season.

For breeders thinking of joining The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland what would be your advice for them?

We have two kinds of people that have joined us as members.

The first kind are people in 10 or 11 countries around the world who support what we are doing and want to be involved, even if they probably will never register a foal with WSI. For an annual WSI membership fee of euro 50 members receive a free subscription to Horse International magazine. This is a great benefit because the magazine would normally cost them euro 60.50 or euro 105 depending where they live. So they are able to support WSI and get a free subscription to a great magazine for only euro 50.

The second kind are people who want to breed within the WSI and register foals with us. My advice to them is to read two important documents (rules & procedures and the goals, standards & policies, which may be downloaded from www.irish-warmblood.com) and decide if our process makes sense to you. We are not for everyone and as I like to say equifinality rules in horse breeding: there is more than one way to reach a goal. But if your goal is to breed international showjumpers, and you are willing to take our very disciplined approach, we invite you to join us.

What advice would you give to anyone looking at putting forward a stallion for selection?

Read the same documents mentioned above. Look at the stallions the WSI has already approved, licensed or recognized and ask if your stallion is of the same quality. Make sure the stallion's damline has produced multiple international showjumpers. If the stallion's damline has not produced multiple international showjumpers we would have no interest in the stallion except in extraordinary circumstances described in the documents: he is a TB, he has a TB damline, or he has outcross genetics that we want in the studbook despite his weak damline.

Where do you see The Warmblood Studbook of Ireland in 10 years time?

We will be small, registering a couple of hundreds foals a year. And we will be a top 10 studbook in the WBFSH rankings.

We would like to thank Tom for taking the time to speak to us. With his drive and zest for producing top class equine athletes we are sure that he will achieve his future goals, and we will watch the developments of the WSI with great interest.

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