Horse Breeding

What Is Horse Breeding? And What Does It Hope To Achieve?

What differentiates the conscious act of horse breeding from owning horses and allowing them to reproduce at their own leisure, it the intention behind the selective breeding process. The breeder chooses which horses will mate, according to their characteristics, talent and breed. This is done in order to create a superior breed of horse by interbreeding only the prime specimen. The trend towards creating the perfect horse is so popular a sought after breeding horse will earn its owner more during its career as a sire (male breeding horse / the father) or dam (female breeding horse / the mother) than it would as a successful race horse. Breeding horses is an international business and sees animals transported great distances in order to arrange specific mating meets.

In principle and in simplified terms, horse breeding looks to create a 'purpose build' horse - although this may sound cynical. The Arabian horse for example had the natural ability to survive long journeys in the desert, travel at speed and with great endurance; through interbreeding it also became highly trainable. The heavy-set, gigantic horses working on farms in northern Europe were bred with smaller, more agile animals; essentially in a bid to breed a 'tank' for the battlefield. It resulted in a horse that could carry enormous weight and take great punishment in battle but was also rideable and quick enough for some manoeuvring. Naturally, the merging process might not be completed or perfected within one generation. However, with enough determination and planning it is possible to breed the perfect horse for any occasion.

Famous British Horse Breeds

Thoroughbred

The British Thoroughbred Horse as we know it today is the fruit of careful interbreeding, starting in the 17th and 18th century. The Thoroughbred prototype resulted from the crossbreeding of native British mares and imported Arabian stallions. All modern Thoroughbreds can trace their lineage to one of the three stallions who arrived in the United Kingdom during the early days of crossbreeding; the Byerly Turk (1680s), the Darley Arabian (1704), and the Godolphin Arabian (1729). Through the breeding process the Thoroughbred emerged as a great success. It has the speed and stamina of its Arabian ancestors, but with added height, longer legs and greater strength inherited from the British side - a genetic combination making it the predestined breed for horse racing.

The Thoroughbred is also a popular candidate for controlled crossbreeding in order to create new or improved breeds. Thoroughbreds have contributed to the creation of i.e. the Standardbred, the American Quarter Horse, and the Anglo-Arabian. As one of their reigning, most prestigious breeds of horse in the world today, we have almost accepted the image of the Thoroughbred as the image of the ideal horse, or even the original horse itself.

Cleveland Bay

The Cleveland Bay horse is one of the oldest original horse breeds in the United Kingdom. A solid and very strong horse, related to the Chapman horse, the Barb and an type of Thoroughbred, the Cleveland Bay is a popular carriage horse. Unfortunately the Cleveland Bay lost its popularity in the wake of the Yorkshire Carriage Horse, which was much faster and replaced the Cleveland as top dog when it came to the carriages. It was not until the 1960s, when the Cleveland Bay was almost extinct, that the Her Majesty The Queen decided it was a breed of horse worth preserving. Largely due to the Royal family's reintroduction of the Cleveland Bay to the breeding scene their numbers have been rising steadily ever since; and as the preferred type of royal carriage horse the breed has regained some of its olod respectability.

Welsh Cob

This warm blooded horse is the perfect fit in most situations. Described as 'fleet of foot, a good jumper, a good swimmer and able to carry a substantial weight on his back' the Welsh Cob was used for farm work, as an infantry horse, and as means of transport for doctors and tradesmen. In fact a commonly taken 'test route' for a travelling salesman looking to purchase a Welsh Cob, was to make the animal trot from Cardiff to Dowlais - an exclusively uphill distance of 35 miles. A competent Welsh Cob would reach its destination around the three hour mark. Descended from the race of Welsh Ponies, the Welsh Cob is today favoured as a great hunting horse and successful competitor in equine sports.

Anglo-Arab

Athletic and intelligent, the Anglo-Arab horse is the result of the crossing of the British Thoroughbred and the Arab horse. While it any horse being foaled by pure-breds of these breeds will be considered an Anglo-Arab horse, the trend leans towards pairing an Arabian stallion with a Thoroughbred mare. In this combination the foal tends to inherit the Arabians' endurance, stamina, refinement and bone, paired with the speed and scope of the Thoroughbred. In the reverse - Arabian mare and Thoroughbred stallion - the offspring seem to be smaller and therefore less valuable, although they will make for an excellent pleasure horse. The Anglo Arab is well suited for show and dressage riding, and a joy to train.

Hackney Horse

The Hackney Horse is Britain's answer to the American Standardbred. With origins dating back to the 1300s, this strong and good-looking horse is a natural trotter, making it an ideal candidate for the harness races. While it was originally developed as a 'general purpose' horse, with breeding beginning in earnest in the 18th century to create the 'Modern Hackney', the Hackney is closely related to the Yorkshire Trotter and the Norfolk Trotter. These breeds of trotting horses were the offspring of native mares with excellent trotting skills and the Oriental stallions imported for the breeding of Thoroughbreds. However, both the Yorkshire and the Norfolk Trotter are extinct today, having been integrated to form what we now know as the Hackney Horse. The Hackney was saved from extinction by its pleasant looks and natural ability for show riding and harness races, allowing it to switch from its main purpose as the work and transport horse into the entertainment sector.

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