How the North American breeder has been stripped of our status and rights in the international rankings and marketplace and what we can do about it.
What is the the WBFSH? It is the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horse breeders, an organization that promotes and support the interests of the European Union sport horse registries.
The content of this article was originally published as an open letter to the North American breeders entitled: While You Were Sleeping (2015) and in material from Standardbred Sport Horses, chpts 34 & 36).
[The great German Thoroughbred Graf Ferry, is a successful bloodline in not just the German TB, but in their warmblood breeds. You may be surprised to learn that he is 1/2 American Thoroughbred, his dam Grave and Gay was imported to Germany during the Jersey Act, from England, as were many of our other horses, including Americus, the damsire of Lady Josephine, who was shuffled off to Germany and established a successful mare line in the Trakehner.]
While we have been sitting by, carrying on our business as usual, we have been systematically robbed of our status, history and place in the international sport horse community. Make no mistake, we have let this happen; we are naive and under-educated and under-armed for the battle that has overwhelmed us. Before we even realized we were in a war, we have been stripped of our heritage, our products and our market share. Somehow we did not comprehend that the planting of the WBFSH registries in our country was done to facilitate the capture of our breeding dollars. And what makes this situation far worse it it is us that has let the proverbial fox into the hen house, handed the fox the key and even helped the fox carry out our chickens.
The breeders of sport horses in this country are more aware of this plundering than the riders, competitors and owners---mainly because it is our breeders that have had their incomes slashed, their stock ignored, and their stallions by-passed in the rush to breed "European". Our industry has been devastated by this bloodless coup. In a cultural massacre carried out by our socialist European cousins, who have come here for the easy pickings, and they have walked away with most of what we have. And we welcomed them, and aided them, and continue to do so, and all the while they are mocking us and denigrating us and calling us stupid and uncultured. I am kidding---right?
[The brown-headed cowbird, photo taken and made available for public use by www.naturespicsonline.com]
While I was thinking about what has occurred here and how to present it to you I kept getting the image of a cowbird in my mind. A specie of bird, Molothrus Ater, the cowbird is categorized as a brood parasite. The cowbird at breeding time carefully watches other bird specie; it waits until another specie of bird has built its nest and laid its eggs, and when that bird leaves the nest to get some food, it is then the observant cowbird zooms in and lays its own eggs among the host bird's eggs. Cowbirds usually hatch early and have a size advantage from the start, so they get more of the food the host mother brings. The unsuspecting host bird does not recognize the danger to its own young, and so it feeds the demanding big chicks like they are its own. Before too long the cowbird chicks become strong enough to begin to push the other smaller young out of the nest to their death, thereby completely taking over the nourishment income. And the hood-winked host bird ends up raising the invader's young instead of its own.
There is a strong and remarkable analogy here in our American sport horse experience provided by the example of the cowbird. For it is into our domestic sport horse nest that the powerful foreign government owned and operated sport horse registries (WBFSH members) have come and set up bases, with the objective of taking over our breeding industry. The American breeds are in contrast less powerful not having that type of representation...the USEF could have filled that position but did not; instead our registries are run and funded by their individual members and fans.
Further our sport breeds, such as the Morgan, Standardbred, Saddlebred and many others, are generally pure-bred, and have had closed registries for over a hundred years, with the exception of our Hunter bred horses. All our light horse breeds are sport horse based, unlike the European product which was based on a farm horse, our breeds were always light horses, sport horses, and were always used in racing, hunting, riding. The European breeds had to build up into a lighter horse from a farm horse base (draft), and it took continual infusions of true sport horse breeds to alter their type to a true sport horse. And I don't think it occurred to us that other breeds could not be used in all manner of sport just as they are, like our own breeds could. We were unaware of the concentrated struggle the European had in order to participate in sport functions as they had to drastically alter their breed types to achieve things that came naturally to our horses.
Already armed with a government designed and sustained system to produce horses, like an assembly line, with everything mapped out in the horse's progress. They immediately proceeded to impose this system on us, even though we don't have the government support they enjoy and rely on. The European product has a systematic program, where a horse is examined to see if it physically fits their model, rating it by conformation and way of movement, and if it doesn't measure up it is culled...sold off for general use or for meat. The ones that pass muster are then put through a series of training and testing, with culling occuring along the way. The horses that succeed are awarded full breeding status, and are often sold off as ready made sport horses. The provinces generally have a 'state celle' or stallion station where government stallions are stood for the public and for overseas semen sales.
But in America we have no government supported system or stock...it is all individual efforts. Our lack of a government sanction program is seen by our guests as proof of our cultural deficit.
There seems to be a progression in their plans to take over the market. Back in the 1980s a American could breed their domestic mare to a foreign stallion and be registered. By the 1990s that period of openness had ceased. And it became apparent that part of their plan included criticism of our breeds, it was then I really began to notice that they were blocking them as breeding stock, and a campaign of negative comments about our Thoroughbred arose. It was then I heard regularly at their inspections and in their articles that the American TB was not quite the right type, as it was a 'sprint only' breed, and that it was built downhill. None of that was true, but they kept at it, and gradually I heard it repeated by our own equestrians.
At every opportunity, their articles, instructors, judges and journals would boast of their vast experience (centuries they said) in sport horse production, and in their systematic training and inspection process. The implication was Americans were totally unorganized and inexperienced in sport horse production--this narrative was swallowed whole by our younger equestrians. We just believed them, never realizing this was all part of a industry takeover, and we were awed that they had been doing this type of sport for centuries. But it was all lies, this was propaganda. But our senior equestrians, who should or did know better, went along with their presentation, publishing their hype, and repeating it. After decades of their impressive presentation, even our organizations, especially the USEF, began backing them and their ideas at the American breeder's expense. We just didn't or couldn't see the big picture--that we were being systematically boxed out of the Olympic style sports.
In our current era all this market manuovering has now gone a step further as a industry narrative has surfaced which contends that unless a horse is bred in according to the European registry model then it is not a true sport horse. For example, I was told by a Warmblood enthusiast that the Thoroughbred is not a breed suitable for Olympic style sport because it does not have a separate section of it's studbook devoted to breeding for these sports. Seriously, the breed that provided the majority of the sport ability to the developing Warmblood now is not a real sport horse?
It appears our domestic sport breeds have been cut off from the sport arena by the steam rolling marketing plan of the European governments. With the joining of the WBFSH and the FEI the structures are in place to block the American breeder and their domestic product from the international field and market place-- it is sickening to realize that they have accomplished this takeover with our own dollars.
So how did this come about? The World Breeding Federation for Sport Horse (WBFSH) organization began benevolently enough with an idea of England's princess Anne, when she began talks with the other sport horse breeding countries of Europe in 1988. The outcome of this was seen in 1992 when the "World Breeding Championships" came about. Do not, however, be confused by the name, as the 'world' in their titles means the participating breed societies in their organization. Words are powerful, and this title surely was picked to add to the establishment's influence and prestige. But do not be deceived, because in 1994 the WBFSH was firmed up with administrative rules which automatically eliminate you, the North American breeder of sport horses, from the 'world' rankings.
The WBFSH has joined with FEI (Federation Equestrian Internationale) , which is the official overseer of the Olympic Games and international competitions, and together they put on the "World Breeding Championships". Wait a second, a federation that excludes our sport horse breeds has joined with the organization that oversees all international sport and together they structure the 'championships"? That means our breeds are ineligible in the upper international competitions. Bingo.
Don't think that can be right? Read their rules. "The WBFSH only promotes the common interests of its member studbooks and acts as a representative body for the sport horse breeding sector." (www.wbfsh.org) . Your horses, American breeders, are not included, you are not part of their 'world' and will never be, not unless you either form an organization that they approve of and follow their rules, and of course pay them for the right to join their 'world', or if you sell your breeding rights to them by registering your American horse in one of their many registries we host here.
Your domestic sport breeds are not permitted crosses in those member breed registries. Over in their own arena of influence, all their European neighbor sport registry horses (warmbloods) and Anglo-arabs and Thoroughbreds are listed as allowed crosses... for instance, if you have a Rhinelander or Dutch Warmblood for instance, and you want to breed to a Hanoverian stallion, then it would be allowed. They used to ban Irish Horses, but since Ireland joined the European Union then they too are allowed crosses. And of course they can structure their breeds anyway they want. But when they plant their butts here in the States and use a double standard on us, by blocking our sport breeds, then they have revealed their predatory intent. Even though the highest rated show jumper of all time is in fact is in fact a Trotter: Halla, bred in Germany (Hessian), by a Standardbred sire out of a French Trotter dam (TB/Anglo-Norman), and she would not be eligible for registration today because somehow these breeds are no longer acceptable crosses. But that isn't all, because if one of them bred a horse with our Standardbred in it, like Leon Melchoir of the Zangersiede Stud did (Regina Z), then that horse would be welcome, even celebrated. And even Melchoir admitted when questioned about using trotter, that he can do what he wants because it is his registry, but even in his registry annex he planted here Standardbred or part-Standardbred would be refused as a mate for his stallions--they would be blocked from registration (see Standardbred Sport Horses for full story).
Even our Thoroughbred, which they have to allow because it is General Studbook registered, but in practice they strongly discourage its use as mentioned above, always promoting the German or French Thoroughbred as more correct. So, your Morgan, Standardbred, Saddlebred etc., breeds that are 100% sport genetics, and have participated in Olympic style sports for as long as these sports have existed, and have performed at international level, yet they are not allowed at all, not even a bloodline of them. These are big clues folks. The idea then is that we are to buy their stock and breed only from their stock.
In practice then, the result of their regulations and philosophies is that unless you (your breed registry) are part of their exclusive club, your horse is not included in the 'world' results. And their organization does not approve non-European model type registries as members either--go to their website and pull up their rules--your American registry does not qualify, even if it did in principle, it would still have to run the gauntlet of their administrators to be approved. Nor does your domestic bred stock, no matter its performance record. Therefore, if you do not play it their way, then you do not get to play at all.
And here is some news for the American breeder: they think we are fools. My first wake-up into how the registry members of the WBFSH viewed us was published in "Breeding News for Sport Horse" in April of 2003, which is the trade journal of this very same WBFSH. I was a subscriber at the time, and was shocked at the way the editors (and therefore the WBFSH) portrayed us. They said we were uncultured and warmongers; that we were a materialistic people, and we could not breed anything of consequence----BECAUSE we did not have the centuries of experience that they do, and because of our cultural defects we don't have the mindset to pull it off anyway. They said that we were disorganized and did little breeding, and to make up for this shortfall we just buy what we want, even implying we just appropriate the products of the countries that have taken centuries to build up their premier sport horses.How ridiculous was this attack on the American breeder? Well the warmonger label is laughable seeing it is delivered by the people who gave us two WORLD WARS. And the centuries of experience is a total fabrication...what they bred from the mid 1800s on was a coach horse...not a sport horse...the sport horse directive came only after the second world war...before that they bred farm horses. (See two articles written on the state of Europe's breeding in the 1800s here). And on the 'Americans don't know how to breed' point...the people who created the 3 greatest racehorse breeds in the world: Standardbred, Quarter Horse and American Thoroughbred don't know how to breed? And the most popular breed in the world is the Quarter Horse...so, is that fact just a lucky break WBFSH?
One of the many things I discovered from 30+ years of pedigree study is the undeniable fact that without the speed and athleticism supplied by the breeds of the British Isles and ours here in America, that the farm-horse based breeds of Europe would still be pulling a plow. Not quite the scenario that the WBFSH was pushing in their American breeder hit piece and the propaganda coming from their breed registries is it? And many would be surprised to learn the amount of American Thoroughbred and American Trotter, that have made their way into the European sport product that now shuns them (see Legacy of Lexington).
Using the word 'world' in their organization and in their published rankings is intentional, meaning to imply that their product is the best in the world, and so you will only buy their horses. And it has been a tremendously successful business strategy, as most now in our industry have fallen in to the trap of assuming that only the horse of the European registries are of any worth.
Our many pure-bred sport horse breeds, which have been competing in hunter sports for centuries and in international competitions since they began, are not accepted into the European controlled club. Any of your horses that have made international points are never included in these 'world' rankings--unless you have sold your rights to them by registering your American-bred sport horse in their registries.
It is because of our democratic system that we have hosted the foreign governments's sport horse breeding registries here, with no concessions required from them. This has allowed them to set up their registries, promote them, advertise them and gradually take our best stock and most of our breeding dollars from us---while we just stood there and not just let them, but like the host bird mother to the invading cowbird chicks in her nest, we have helped and nurtured them, and brought them along as our own. While the foreign registries all incorporate the various light sport horse breeds of Europe in to their 'allowed' strains, here in our sport horse nests, with the exception of certain Jockey Club registered Thoroughbreds, their studbooks have been closed to our sport breeds. So, they have taken and taken from our bounty and given nothing back...they came to our table, demanded the best and got it, and then systematically blocked our breeders from dining with them.
[A large cowbird egg deposited into the nest of the eastern Phoebe.]
So let's recap:
1. We host the WBFSH member breed registries
2. We allow them to compete and sell their stock here in direct competition with our breeders with no concessions required of them
3. We allowed them to alter the form of the 3-day event cross-country phase to accommodate their slower breeds
4.They ban our sport horse breeds as crosses into their breeds
5. we allow them to teach our equestrians their propaganda unchecked
6. They denigrate our sport horse breeds, our competition record and our history of sport horse production
7. they are now in charge of the international competition rules via their partnership with the FEI
So it is today, that it sure looks like we have been totally outmaneuvered by our remarkable European cousins, and basically shut out of the international scene. But, this is what the English thought also, when they so cleverly and slyly excluded our Thoroughbreds from their studbook, in order to put us out of the Thoroughbred business, and that we would only be able to participate if we bred solely from their stock (see Jersey Act). History is repeating itself, but now that we are waking up to this hijacking of our industry, we will fight back and reverse the rules that are unfair, and return an open market to the sport horse venue. It is the very essence of sport that the market be 'open"--it is unsportsmanlike to have it closed and controlled by a limited group.
So what can the American breeder do about this? This should be a no-brainer, but I need to say it: STOP REGISTERING YOUR HORSES IN THEIR REGISTRIES! Instead use an American registry. And stop using their stock, it hasn't really worked out well for you anyway, as it has generally proved unsound or lacking in talent. Instead cross real sport horses, and concentrate on bloodlines that produce sound talented stock. American breeds actually have centuries of sport performances.