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Selective breeding ensures the best features continue

WITH news of the recent awards scheme for Scottish-bred ponies and horses started by the Scottish Equine Breeders Association (SEBA) it comes as little surprise that the initiative has come from the association's chairman, Dougal Dick, whose life-long service to the pony world continues.

It was only last month that the National Pony Society Council recognised his contribution to their society by making him an honorary life member along with two others stalwarts, Jenny Seymour, who many Highland pony breeders will know, and Pat Campbell, a well known exhibitor and judge.

The awards were made for the first time in the society's history to mark the presidency of Mrs Olwen Bryant.

Mr Dick must have been well pleased with the standard of nominations forward for consideration for the SEBA award, and as he says: "It represents the tip of the iceberg of top class equines bred in Scotland which for too long have gone unnoticed."

Already potential winners for this year have been making a mark on the national scene with the Lanarkshire-bred Romanno Bedriska taking the first of the Horse of the Year Show Cuddy qualifiers at the Ponies UK West Midlands Spring Show.

The three-year-old bay warmblood filly came through the card at Malvern via the riding horse section, although she has been bought by southern exhibitor, Mark Armstrong, as a potential performance horse for himself.

Sired by the Olympic dressage stallion, Quando Quando, which has only recently returned from Germany to his owners in Australia, Bedriska is out of a well bred Oldenberg dam, Bellevedere, a state premium mare carrying a great deal of Thoroughbred blood.

"This is probably why Bedriska has the appearance of a show horse and not of your typical warmblood," stated her breeder Jennifer Gilchrist, "However, the horses I breed must be able to do everything so I'm delighted that she is destined for both the showing and competition rings."

Mrs Gilchrist's stud at Elsrickle, near Biggar, has produced many top class horses and ponies over the years, although Bedriska is the first of her horses to make the Birmingham final.

The showing and performance world recently lost a great supporter with news of the death of Peter Warcup, who sadly passed away a few weeks back after a long illness which he fought bravely.

Former chairman of the Hunter Improvement Society (HIS), he oversaw its transition to the Sports Horse Breed Society of Great Britain in 1998. As an assessor, he did much to advance the importance of the dam of potential performance winners through the society's mare grading scheme.

He was a great stickler for good conformation; it was after such a grading in 2004 that he commented: "As everyone knows, a mare with good conformation will in general perform better. Conformation adds to performance although there are exceptions to the rule."

He was both a very well known and well respected judge of horses both inside and outside the ring although few people would remember his success as a breeder which was remarkable in itself.

I well remember one of his home-bred horses, the beautiful show hack, Dubois, shown so successfully by doyen show producer, Robert Oliver, who rode the small Thoroughbred to many victories including the championship at Windsor as a four-year-old; in addition he won at the Royal International Horse Show as well as other countless county shows.

On speaking to Robert recently about Peter and his horses, he reminded me that he bred one even better, in his view, the clean-bred Andyguy.

A winner not only of lightweight classes but also working hunter champion at the Horse of the Year Show in 1981, the same year that the HIS changed its name to the Hunter's Improvement and National Light Horse Breeding Society.

Here was a case of a show animal going on to do well in performance classes as Andyguy was later rode to international victory in the event world by Richard Meade.

It must be the year for initiatives as Grandstand Media has recently announced three new showing awards for the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), one of which is specifically aimed at acknowledging the success of the breeder based on results achieved during the 'outdoor' season.

Using a points system from qualifying results, another category to benefit on the breeding front will be that for leading sires.

It is no surprise that former sponsor of the in-hand final at HOYS, (when named breeder's challenge) Gail Chapman, is keen to be involved and once more enters HOYS sponsorship in 2012 when she also launches her online breeders guide, which she describes as "an invaluable marketing tool for the smallest breeder." We'll have to wait and see what that is all about and if it does.

Leading breeders and leading sires are not the only ones to be included. Adopting the concept of a league table of results for all sections, the third award aims to add to individual victories at HOYS by rewarding the most consistent ponies and horses throughout the season.

They will compete in a new series named Tagg La Liga. Grandstand managing director, Helena Pettit adds: "We want to recognise those people who support Horse of the Year Show qualifiers throughout the season and these competitors' achievements deserve to be rewarded."

This announcement flies in the face of recent criticism of the new computerised entering system that show organisers have been requested to adopt by Grandstand for all qualifying classes for the Horse of the Year Show.

The reality of the new system ensures that an accurate database of all qualifiers and show results will be created on which the new series can be based.

And according to Ms Pettit: "The awards are only the first of many new initiatives we have planned for using the Grandstand online entries system data." So it's a case of watch this space.