Six years ago, when The Arabian Magazine in print evolved to The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine, the focus became on the breeders. While shows are the events that bring many people together, it is the breeders who are at the true heart of the Arabian ‘industry’ – although I hesitate to call it that. Not everyone who owns Arabian horses does so with making money in mind; rather, it is about celebrating, and preserving, this extraordinary breed that has made our world a very special place.
For many, owning Arabian horses is not about making money or reaching the giddy heights of the World Championships. Instead, it is about that unique bond that we have with our equine family. How many of us treasure beyond anything else those moments in the barn, lights out, and all you can hear is the contended sound of horses munching their hay, or a mare gently nickering to their foal? Or when you return from a trip, and your horses race across the paddocks to reach you, the true Bedouin spirit of the Arabian horse that we all know and love so much, having read about it in history, but alive and well in front of us?
Switching the focus of this magazine to the breeders made complete sense to me. Without them, we would have nothing. Over the years, there have been so many great breeders, from State Studs and big farms to private breeders, including those who maybe only breed one or two foals every year or two, but whose impact in this world is vast.
Since I changed this focus, I have spoken to more breeders than ever. And every time I do, there is a theme running through the conservations. The same concerns, the same worries, the same hopes, the same dreams. I have spoken to a true cross-section of breeders from around the world, yet the common themes remain the same.
Credit Sax Arabians
The main concern seems to be around the shrinking gene pool – how a select group of stallions is being used for breeding all around the world. Artificial insemination has helped in utilising bloodlines that many would, perhaps, not have access to. But now, a breeder in Tasmania, a breeder in Ireland, and a breeder in Wyoming all have access to that same group of stallions, and breed to him because it is the fashion and what will sell. The concerns that many have shown of the adverse effect this small genetic breeding pool will have on our Arabian horses further down the line are now being realised.
These concerns are the increasing number of faults within the new generations of Arabian horses being bred. This is a serious issue, and yet one that is overlooked time and time again by all but the bravest of judges when these horses finally make it to the show-ring, be it in halter, ridden, or pleasure. With each new generation of foals, a characteristic that defined the Arabian horse is slowly being eradicated. As one breeder said:
“A world without dedicated breeders will collapse, because there will be nobody to resort to when the breed is completely messed up. If there are no alternatives to bad ears, small eyes, underslung necks, straight shoulders, bad bodies, crooked tails and legs in the quest for dolphin heads. If there are no alternatives, collapse is exactly what will happen.”
These may be strong words, but this concentrated breeding over the past decade or more has resulted in such a shrunken gene pool that losing the true qualities of the Arabian horse is now a real risk.
One more interesting thread that I continue to hear is how breeders feel they are an afterthought. When you look at the shows, it is the trainer and the owner who get all the glory. And in many ways, that is right, but the breeder is still a part of that history, that moment in time. They are the ones who have planned, bred, and been patient, breeding each next generation before they reach their own vision, their own dream. To overlook them in this magical moment crushes their dreams; we have all seen it happening.
And finally, everyone is looking for that next big thing, the new stallion who doesn’t feature the tried, tested, and overused blood that we seem time and time again, wherever we are in the world. Yet it also seems that when such a horse is found, people may be too scared to use him…
Credit Sax Arabians
However, despite all this, there is hope. Universally, a great many breeders are just as determined as ever to keep on following their passion – one that burns brightly and is filled with belief in their own programme. While many are turning their backs on the showing world, many continue to breed foals with a clear, dedicated purpose in mind. It may be a particular bloodline, a particular discipline, but there are many who have faith in what they are doing, and they continue to make plans for the years ahead.
Just as The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine has raised the concerns that so many have, it has also shown that there are still so many people who truly care about the Arabian horse. They care about its future, and they want to respect its past. And with that in mind, we know that the Arabian horse remains in safe hands all around the world.
Lead photo credit Johanna Ullström