On January 26th 2008, the Board of Directors for the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse announced that it was inaugurating a new breed Registry founded upon PRE horses in America and “worldwide”. This follows their December 10th 2007 announcement that the Foundation would no longer be associated with ANCCE, the Spanish Breeder’s Association that has been entrusted with the care and management of the Studbook (LG) for the Pure Spanish Horse (PRE) by legal motion of the Spanish Government. The new Foundation Registry, called PRE Mundial, is open to all currently papered PRE horses and their offspring (with or without inscription in the Spanish Studbook), as well as any horse without PRE papers that can prove PRE parentage, and their offspring. The Foundation press release cites the need for a new Registry to “protect” the PRE in the United States and its marketability.
The motive behind the creation of a new American registry is to encourage an exodus of PRE horses from the official PRE registry in Spain, and this is being done by means of circulation of a passionate smear campaign against ANCCE. Before the misinformation reaches any higher levels, I feel obliged, as President of USPRE, to share with our members my thoughts and the views of your Board. It should be made clear right up front: The Foundation Registry is a full renunciation of the Spanish PRE Studbook and a clean break from ANNCE, the Studbook (LG), and the legal management of the PRE breed. Inscription and revision services will no longer be conducted by representatives of the PRE Studbook, and all offspring of horses registered in the Foundation Registry will not be included in the PRE Studbook nor recognized by Spain. Inscription and revision, as well as all other matters of breed oversight and selection, will be now in the hands of a small group of Foundation Board-appointed individuals who will make up an entity they call the Registry Oversight Committee. This group will rely on the consultation of a yet unnamed group of “former Cria Caballar officers”, headed by Dr. Alberto Rojas of Mexico, who have agreed to assist the new American registry to facilitate revision and morphology competitions. The Foundation press release claims that they have the blessing of the College of Judges in Spain, but this has been disputed by its President, D. Diego Marin Fidalgo.
Any announcement that has a potentially negative impact on the progress of the PRE breed in the United States has an impact on the membership of USPRE, an organization that maintains its loyalty to the Spanish Studbook and ANCCE as the administrative entity of the Studbook. USPRE is a breed-associated organization, dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of the PRE horse and the education of its members-owners and breeders-as well as the equestrian communities where the PRE has its greatest potential. Although not a registering agent for the Spanish Studbook, USPRE values its relationship with Spain, will maintain its loyalty to the PRE horse as recognized by the parent studbook, and provide assistance to PRE breeders and owners alike.
The inevitable outcome of the new Foundation Registry essentially will be the creation of a sub-breed or a new breed altogether, albeit based on the bloodlines of an existing breed. The Foundation leadership is calling upon all PRE horse owners to abandon their participation in recognized Spanish lineages and to adopt the rules and values of its own oversight committee. American breeders have every right to start their own breed for their own purposes. However, USPRE stands firmly opposed to the Foundation Registry and takes strong exception to the Foundation Board’s exploitation of the name “PRE” or “Pure Spanish Horse”, as this is the established proprietary name of a recognized European breed as defined within the European Union and the world by its own studbook.
The Foundation Board knows better than to behave in a manner which they have condemned for the past ten years. The very premise upon which Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse was established was to preserve the distinction of the PRE breed in the United States, where another registry of horses of Iberian descent had been formed from the bloodlines of several studbooks. The current Foundation articles continue to purport that cause. They state:
The only horse that can claim to be a P.R.E. horse is the one that is registered with the Spanish Studbook in Spain and has a Spanish passport for equines which includes the “carta” or registration certificate within it. . . No other registry in any country in the world is recognized as having the authority to determine that a horse is a member of the P.R.E. breed (except those organizations as have signed a protocol with Spain, and who continue the process of registration and approval under their auspices).
As curious as the sudden personality change is, it is not surprising that the Foundation Registry will attempt to use the well-established name of the breed that they are deserting. The PRE horse is recognized world-wide as an equine product of the highest value and has significant economic importance within the equestrian communities of Spain and all countries where the PRE is bred. Since the Foundation Registry has been formed for “value in the marketplace”, it is in their own best interests to try to adopt the name of the PRE. We find this highly unethical and, until more formal appeal, we call on the Foundation to stand behind their own stated definition of a PRE and refrain from “borrowing” the name for their own purposes.
More importantly, it should not need to be said that the management of a studbook is a responsibility far greater than creating a database, handing out frame-able certificates, and collecting fees. The PRE breed in modern history goes back to the re-formation of the studbook in the 1920s, when new criteria and goals for the breed were established within the Spanish Military and stallion stations were opened throughout the country with top breeding specimens made available to private breeders for the improvement of their stock. Since the 1980s, the breed organizations within Spain have multiplied and have become active politically. The largest of these, ANCCE, became the primary venue for competition and breeder education, as the sponsor of over 100 breed shows annually, riding championships, and numerous services for the breeder of the PRE. The most visible success of ANCCE is its annual championships held in Sevilla every November in one of the world’s most massive breed shows, known as SICAB. SICAB draws over 1000 horses and 400,000 spectators (more than Equitana in Germany which claims to be the biggest horse fair in the world). At this week-long event breed champions are selected from finalists who have qualified through regional championships in Andalusia and throughout Spain, riding championships culminate a season of competition in the major saddle sports, and conferences for breeders, judges, vets, handlers, grooms and others are conducted by leaders in their fields. Last year, ANCCE was granted the administration of the Spanish Studbook for the PRE , formerly held by the Cria Caballar (Ministry of Defense), in an effort to comply with the European Union standards of breed studbook management. This transition began last year and is still underway.
Within the past twenty years, the PRE has become one of the world’s emerging and fastest-developing horses for sport, particularly for dressage. However, this latest incarnation of the breed is a result of decades of development based on a morpho-functional perspective of horse. At USPRE, we emphasize by our very existence that the PRE was bred and developed to be ridden for specific purposes, both historic and modern-be it bull fighting, doma vacquera, alta escuela, or dressage-riding traditions in Spain that are as old as the breed itself. Throughout the last century, the committees that have determined what should be emphasized in the show ring consisted of military officers, breeders and riders, among others, who understood that morphology is the fertile soil from which functionality springs. For example, the shape and placement of the neck has developed as a unique characteristic of the PRE horse not because it is beautiful -although it is-but because the strength and position of the neck can lift the withers to elevate the gaits and enhance collection, thereby producing a safer bull-fighting horse or a more correct dressage horse.
In addition to the influence of functionality as a result of Spanish riding traditions, the development of the PRE horse is continually enhanced by decades of veterinary and genealogical research through Departments of Genetics, Departments of Compared Anatomy and Pathology, Colleges of Veterinary Sciences, Schools of Farriery and many other fields of equine research at all the major universities in Spain, including Cordoba, Sevilla, Madrid, and others. Funds and grants have been provided for research by the Spanish government, by ANCCE and other breed organizations, by the Junta de Andalucia and other groups with an economic and humanitarian interest in the PRE. Breed-specific research relevant to selection and development, conducted on large herds of PRE horses, is regularly made available to PRE breeders in Spain (and often translated and printed in English for American breeders) through the publications of ANCCE and through breeder educational classes. In the past several years, a number of studies have been conducted on the biokinematic variables of gaits within the PRE breed and their heritability and genetic correlations for the purpose of selection for dressage performance. These and other studies serve to influence the selection criteria for judges for revision and morphology. In other words, ongoing scientific research on the PRE conducted in Spain will have a direct impact on the development and evolution of the PRE breed in the future.
In light of the enormous infrastructure that surrounds and supports the development of the PRE, those of us who own a PRE understand the significance of the carta that declares our horse a product of these efforts and are willing to wait to receive them if necessary. The rigorous standards by which this breed is defined is our own “protection” that our breed will succeed at the demands that we require of it, and we take comfort knowing that behind the revision and judging of our horses stands a network of experienced equine professionals-career breeders, veterinarians, riders, scholars, and judges, who have devoted their professional lives to the development of this horse. The recent recognition of the Spanish studbook by the European Union has opened doors to relationships between ANCCE and other leading European registries (such as the German Hanoverian Society) and, by association, new opportunities for modernization and promotion of the breed through even higher standards of judging and selection as well as a comprehensive marketing strategy of the horse within equestrian sport media and environments.
Now we ask: How can the Foundation Registry’s proposed ROC (Registry Oversight Committee)-with its part-time staff, pleasure breeders, and retired officers-presume to develop a breed of horses that maintains the standards of the PRE as developed in Spain and enhanced by ANCCE? On what research and experience will they base their breed standards? What are their stated priorities for the horse they purport to “protect” and for what purpose will that horse be judged? What services will they provide to improve the horse genetically and functionally? What benefit will they bring to their new breed that can be compared on any level to the resources that are available to owners and breeders of the PRE? Ultimately, can an organization be trusted that already once has reversed its prior mission and commitment to its members?
We suspect that the Foundation Registry will reflect the priorities of a small group of individuals who have established a regional market based on in-hand showing and antiquated movement. All progress made by the breed in the last 20 years under Spanish oversight is potentially at risk, through the circulation of bloodlines that are already over-bred in certain parts of this country, and the rejection of the current standards for PRE athleticism and movement. Furthermore, we do not find enough depth of credentials or professional qualification within the proposed Registry Oversight Committee and we expect that in a few short generations this American product will come to reflect the tastes of an unqualified and politically-appointed few. We fear that this new Foundation Registry may mislead present and new owners who desire to own a genuine product of the Spanish PRE studbook, and add to the already existing confusion surrounding Iberian breeds in this country.
It is our opinion that the Foundation leadership has acted independently of its membership, who have entrusted them with their relationship with Spain and the LG. Indeed, we have watched in amazement as members within the Foundation have been barraged with an anti-Spain, anti-ANCCE campaign. We also recognize what has been acknowledged by ANCCE to all Spanish and world-wide PRE owners and breeders: that the transition of control of the Studbook from the Spanish government to ANCCE has taken longer than expected, has created numerous administrative headaches, and is still in the process of being resolved. However, ANCCE will not take responsibility for the shortcomings of its former US agents.
I summarize the USPRE position on the Foundation Registry:
- USPRE stands with the European Union and the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture in defining the PRE (Pure Spanish Horse) as a horse that is registered only in the Spanish Studbook (LG) currently managed by ANCCE.
- USPRE is dedicated to the development and promotion of the PRE horse in sport and performance and will collaborate with ANCCE in its own goals to promote the same.
- USPRE, within the context of its definition, will encourage ANCCE to perform in a timely fashion for the benefit of PRE owners and breeders in the United States.
- USPRE will strive to make available to its members all of the benefits of its association with ANCCE and Spain, in order to guarantee that the progress of the PRE horse is consistent in the United States with its progress in Europe.
The dedication of USPRE and its Board to the PRE is the very same commitment that the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse once held and has now rejected. USPRE will remain consistent in this duty.
Kimberly Van Kampen Boyer