Aim To produce Scottish-bred horses and ponies capable of carrying our international riders to success at the highest levels. In the process, to bring about a corresponding increase in the quality of homebred animals available for riders at all levels of national and international competition. To raise the profile of Scottish-bred horses and ponies, generating recognition and reward for their breeders and producers, and creating a thriving market that encourages the best breeding practices. Introduction The breeding of horses and ponies in Scotland is support and coordinated by the Scottish Equestrian Breeders Association (SEBA).
This organisation brings together all the organisations involved in the breeding and promotion of horses in Scotland for both competition and recreation purposes (Table 1). While these organisations are involved with animals as diverse as the Shetland pony and the Clydesdale horse, they share the common aim of improving the quality of horses through successful breeding.
This core principle in turn allows for the implementation of common breeding and production policies, which are set out in this document. Table1 .
Member organisations of the Scottish Equestrian Breeders Association. Clydesdale Horse Society Irish Draught Society Scottish Icelandic Society Dales Pony Society National Pony Society Scotland Scottish Sports Horse Eriskay Pony Society Scottish Arab Group Scottish Welsh Pony & Cob Association Highland Pony Society Scottish/Borders Connemara Group Shetland Pony Society Objectives The overriding objective of this plan is to put in place policies and practices that enable Scottish breeders to maximise the genetic potential of their stock.
In short, this is to be achieved by breeding the best mares with the best stallions and then placing the offspring in the hands of the best producers of competition horses and ponies. But which are the best mares and stallions for specific equestrian disciplines? How can we ensure that the best really do breed with best given hurdles such as geographical separation of mare and stallion, and the fact that the competition schedules of elite horses often limit their availability for breeding? What can we do to shorten the generation intervals – ie how can we identify the best earlier in their competitive careers and then utilise their genetic potential in breeding programmes, as opposed to having to wait until they have proven themselves at, say, 8 years of age? These issues are dealt with by the detail of the plan and its implementation through SEBA, with national strategies that: encourage quality breeding for all disciplines, adopt international standards for the grading and certification of breeding stock, develop programmes for the early identification of talent, utilise modern technologies such as artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET), ensure rigorous record keeping and seamless communication between member organisations of SEBA, utilising databases that enable rapid tracking of success, educate breeders and producers, provide recognition and celebrate success. Encourage Quality Breeding The purpose of this initiative is to encourage breeding with top quality, rather than mediocre, horses.
This is ideally achieved using stock that has been graded by the relevant breed society or organisation and been granted ‘breeding licences’.
All of the SEBA member organisations currently have grading schemes in place for stallions and some have them for mares.
While the development of these schemes is outlined below, steps need to be taken to encourage breeders to make use of the grading system in planning their breeding programmes.
This requires educating them of the merits of the grading systems, ensuring that they submit their stock to the process, and then, wherever possible, utilise the top graded horses.
The possibility of providing financial incentives to encourage quality is presently being reviewed by SEBA. Target: To ensure that all members of SEBA have in place schemes that encourage breeders to use the best quality, most highly graded breeding stock.
To ensure that Scottish studs are encourage to participate in the British Equestrian Federation’s programme for certifying the quality of equine breeding practice. International Standards for Grading of Breeding Stock Grading processes take into account the major determinants of equine athletic ability, namely conformation, movement, soundness and performance.
These characteristics generally have a high degree of inheritability and so form the basis for the selection and approval of breeding stock.
While it is necessary the grading systems used by the different members of SEBA differ, reflecting diversity in the anatomical and sporting features of their breeds, it is important that the schemes used are internationally recognised and so provide accurate information on the quality of Scottish breeding stock.
This will, in turn, allow the identification of instances where genetic potential may be lacking and rapidly corrected by the importation of either semen for artificial insemination or actual breeding stock.
The purpose here is, therefore, to ensure that the grading schemes used by SEBA members match international standards for all breeds and are used for mares as well as stallions. Target: To ensure that all members of SEBA have in place internationally recognised and harmonious grading schemes. Programmes for Early Identification of Talent Early identification of talent is essential for matching the best horses with the best riders in the discipline most appropriate to their athletic potential.
It is also important for shortening the so-called generation gap.
The average age of Olympic-competing horses is 10 years – if these had been identified as elite athletes at 3 rather than 10 years of age and used in breeding programmes through AI and ET technologies, then some 7 years of genetic improvement could be utilised.
The Scottish Sports Horse already has schemes in place for testing the performance of horses for show jumping at 3, 4 and 5 years of age.
On a national scale, the BEF stages competitions for 4- and 5-year old horses in the three Olympic disciplines of show jumping, dressage and eventing.
While encouragement will be given to Scottish breeders to enter these schemes, it is important that the member bodies of SEBA establish programmes for their own early identification of talent, especially in disciples such as driving where there is no national scheme. Target: To ensure that all members of SEBA have in place schemes for identifying talent in 3 and 4 year-old horses . — Databases To help breeders in formulating their breeding policies, it is vital that data on breeding, grading and performance indices for mares and stallions are reliable and available.
This can only be achieved by accurate and rigorous record keeping and the utilisation of database programmes that allow easy interrogation of the information.
The importance of this is recognised by SEBA and this plan will see the establishment of such databases by each of the member organisations. Target: To ensure that all members of SEBA have in place databases that are harmonious with one another and integrated with the National Equine Database being developed by the BEF and DEFRA. Education, Recognition and Celebration Education will play a pivotal role in the implementation of this plan, encouraging quality breeding, the grading of stock and the utilisation of modern technologies.
This will be driven by respected peers in each of the SEBA member organisations and acknowledged experts, and will use a variety of media including regional meetings, publications, and web-based applications.
Success will be recognised and celebrated through these media and the Scottish Equestrian Association’s annual awards, which were inaugurated in 2003. Target: To ensure that all members of SEBA have in place a dedicated information officer charged with overseeing programme to educate, recognise and celebrate success.
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