In Spain there has never been any doubt about the abilities of the Hispano-Árabe and the role it has in
the agricultural market as a versatile working stock horse. In the same way that equine breed
regeneration programmes here in the UK have looked at the modern commercial viability of endangered
native equines and targeted their market to help perpetuate demand and thus support the survival of
the breed, so the Spanish have looked at the adaptability of the Hispano-Árabe. The evaluation system
the Criá developed selects the breed to be bred and produced for the appropriate commercial market
according to its functional use as a horse in modern times, and the market that they identified is that of
the Sports Horse.
Here in the UK unlike the USA and Australia we do not have an agricultural use for the Hispano-Árabe
stock herding cattle over vast countryside. Our interest in them is for the versatility of the Hispano-Árabe
to be an all around sports horse in the leisure riding industry. It is from this area of non-professional
horse riding that nearly all our successful professional competition riders started out, learning and
developing their skills with the assortment of Native breeds and part-breeds capable of multi-sport
Despite the UK having the highest number of horses than any one European country, it lags far behind
these countries in the development of the sports horse. Our horse industry is strangling itself by
funnelling all its effort into breeding for the tiny minority of competition riders wanting expensive horses
designed with high level capability in one area of performance!
There are excellent horses being bred and produced for the specialist competition market, and the stud
fees and young stock selling costs reflect the high performance achievement of the stallion used and
the potential or expected career attainment level of the progeny.
The insanity that holds back the development and growth of the non-horse-racing industry is the belief
by some stallion owners that all stallions regardless of breed or ability should command the same
phenomenal fees as successful proven performance horses.
The Hispano-Árabe is not a high performance 'mono-sport' horse; it is an extremely versatile, intelligent
all round riding horse. The UK horse industry ranges from professional through to leisure with many
semi-professional riders in between. Of the 2.5 million plus horse owners, nearly 80% of these participate
as owners and riders interested in the leisure industry side of horse owning; i.e enjoy simply riding,
hacking out and attending shows at the non-professional level of competition. Research a few years ago
also showed that a quarter of t horse owner’s annual household income was under £10,000.
While not discounting the fact that it is not cheap to breed and rear horses and the old adage is that it
costs the same to breed a good horse as a bad one, breeders and owners do have a responsibility to
be realistic about the costs they are expecting when taking into account the capability of their horses
and the market into which their horse belongs.
In the case of the Hispano-Árabe, fortunately, there are sensible owners of both Arabian and PRE
horses that understand the need for co-operation to negotiate sensible stud fees (taking account both
the type of market these horses are to be produced for and the necessity for expansion of the breed)
to aid in the regeneration of the breed through the first generation out-crossing programme.
In this country we have seen just about every one of our own native horse breeds at some point teeter
on the edge of extinction and in every case the owners and breeders have pulled together constructively
to save their horses from extinction. They have not been confronted by the vulture mentality of owners
delighting in claiming 'rarity' as a justification to bump production costs up and drive the knife of
extinction further into the heart of the breed!
Before a foal is even born the mare owner has to invest in veterinary fees to swab and clear the mare
fit for breeding, this can be in the region of £200. There is then the stud fee to the stallion owner, if AI
is involved the mare owner is looking at another £200 in insemination and veterinary costs. It is easy to
see that before a live foal is even produced a mare owner if having to pay out extortionate stud fees is
looking at nearly £1,000 outlay. Add to this the transportation and keep fee costs for the mare and the
outlay can easily rise to nearly £1,500.
If you then factor in the cost of maintaining the mare till foaling, any veterinary fees that may arise if
there are foaling problems vaccinations for foals, then there is breed registration with DNA typing and
micro-chipping which can cost around £400. It is easy to see how production costs in the breeding
industry can mount up, but while certain expenses can’t be avoided, the extortion rates of stud owners
for non performance untested stallions can be avoided when breeding for the leisure market.
If the stallion owner takes time to think constructively about the horse industry, they will see that the high
money spending market is very limited so while they may get a few mare owners able to lay out high
stud fees for riding horses, the bigger market in the long run is the 80% leisure industry.
The stallion owner has to have the common sense to assess the quality of the mares being sent to stud
no matter what level the fee. The decision to turn down unsuitable mares and be selective is far more
likely when the stud fee is not prohibitive and the market bigger. Mare owners having the funds to pay
high stud fees has no correlation to the quality of their mare, the market is full of horses boasting
outstanding paternal pedigrees but the resultant stock exhibiting nothing of that stallion in conformation
The intention that we strive for, is the expansion and production of good quality Hispano-Árabe riding
horses for the leisure industry; and perhaps one day its influence being seen in the development of the
UK sports horse. We are not interested in the production of horses no one can afford to buy and whose
production is for the novelty 'rarity' value.
The future of this breed in the UK is very much in the hands of the breeders, not just in being competent
to selectively breed for good sound animals but to apply a sensible profit margin when pricing the
services they offer or the value of the resulting animal being sold. It is too easy to destroy the future of
a whole breed by failing to apply commonsense when considering its commercial viability. There are
many examples of this ‘death by greed’ already occurring in the UK equine market so it is sincerely
hoped that those venturing into the breeding and ownership of the Hispano-Árabe do so for the right
reasons and not with the intention of ‘milking’ the market due to ‘rare/minority’ status of the breed.
March 2010, Derbyshire UK
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