The State of the PRE in the US: 2012
By: Kimberly Boyer, President, USPRE
First published in PURA RAZA Magazine,
Updated for publication on USPRE Website
The United States is home to the second largest population of PRE horses in the world, with close to 1100 active PRE breeders registered with the LG-ANCCE. At the present time there is more organizational support than ever for the PRE breeder, owner, rider and prospective purchaser in the United States due to the efforts of the United States PRE Association (USPRE).
The recent collaboration between LG-ANCCE and USPRE has strengthened the US breeders’ relationship with Spain through improved services and accessibility. USPRE’s renovation of its website, new facility and staff appointments have helped to make documentation and approvals a quick and simple process, and to allow pending issues with paperwork to be resolved in a manner in which time is of the essence. In recent years, USPRE has seen an increase in both individual ownership of PRE horses and numbers of active breeders. A measurable increase in the numbers of professional riders training PREs can be attributed directly to our work to promote the PRE horse within the equestrian sport community, and our marketing and show sponsorship programs have sent news of our horses’ successes around the country and the world, where now the PRE Horse is a distinguishable animal from the generic “ Andalusian ” label.
The largest segment of breeders of PRE horses in the United States consists of breeders for morphology, including those who breed for bloodlines and color. Morphology breeders range from small “back-yard” breeders (covering only one to three mares) to large professional stud farms producing up to 80 foals per year. Most large operations are in Southern California, closely affiliated to the Mexican community and market. This community of breeders makes up the largest segment of the PRE population and market in the US. Overall, US breeders of horses who value the PRE Carta are highly versed in the champions of the race, elect to breed to Qualified stock, often import semen, and compete their own progeny when and where they can. There are currently 40 Qualified (a higher rank of breeding stock) exemplars in the United States and many imported SICAB and morphology winners. Many, if not most, morphology breeders are strongly linked to Spanish culture, travel to Spain, and maintain relationships there within the PRE breeding community.
The morphology show circuit exists almost exclusively in California, where the country’s largest herd and community of breeders are located. Two or three shows annually are the norm, although numbers of exhibitors have decreased somewhat with the economic downturn. In other parts of the US, ANCCE-sanctioned breed shows are rare and sporadic—in locations as far apart as Michigan, Texas, Florida and South Carolina. None of these events have been held annually, which is a problem for the breeders and the market nationally. The vast size of the United States makes a national show circuit virtually impossible, and past national championships have never been truly representative of the entire country, as travel from the East Coast to California or Las Vegas is cost- and time- prohibitive. This is an inherent condition for our situation here, however national titles may be awarded in the future through a point system if other regional competitions were to become more established.
There is a steadily increasing number of PRE Breeders in the US who advertize that they are breeding exclusively for a particular function—what USPRE Vice President Alexander Zilo calls “strategic breeders”. The dominant sport for strategic breeders of PREs in the US is dressage, and breeders develop bloodlines for dressage performance by either breeding to dressage champions, or campaigning their own dressage horses as breeding stock. After many years in development, it is safe to say that there are now established bloodlines that are recognized for producing offspring that are competitive within top dressage circles. In the past ten years, a handful of PREs have “broken the glass ceiling” and have won national recognition at the FEI levels. At this time however, there are only a handful of PRES at the international levels in the United States, and a number of promising young horses currently in the hands of very good professional riders and coming up the ranks. I will say more about the positive trend for the use of the PRE horse in sport further on in this article.
Following a number of years of economic depression, at USPRE have seen signs of new growth in 2012 in the breeding sector, primarily powered by the California sector as the market is beginning to recover and demand new stock. Requests for inscriptions and revisions is on the rise, as are changes in ownership documentation. However, growth is apparent in all parts of the US. At this moment, our second 2012 Revision tour is underway in 10 states. Our level of activity was cause for celebration on a recent visit from ANCCE President Javier Conde and LG-ANCCE Director Dr. Arancha Rodriguez, who met with USPRE officials and staff to discuss the various issues that are relevant to the continued success of our collaboration.
While USPRE does not participate in show organization, we support all ANCCE-sanctioned shows with sponsorship and personnel, assisting Spanish delegates and providing registration services on site. Morphology clinics held in various parts of the country serve to educate our breeders, particularly in new programs and standards coming from Spain, however USPRE recognizes the ultimate importance of supporting and encouraging the morphology circuit in its return to a more national prominence.
As mentioned above, the popularity of the PRE horse is definitely growing among the larger dressage community. USPRE hosts a number of national programs for professional, amateur and youth riders in which they are rewarded for their best scores and rankings. This past winter, our Dressage Scholarship program elicited applications from close to 30 professional riders, outnumbering the applications from amateurs by a significant percentage. Within a sport which is as highly individualized as dressage, one celebrity horse (or the favorable opinion of a top rider) can make a difference for hundreds of fans, as was the case of Fuego de Cardenas at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, and has continued with the public endorsement of the breed by respected trainers, US Olympians and Team riders. Today, several internationally respected riders are training and competing young PRE horses in the United States, and the USEF Reserve National Championship for Juniors in 2011 was won with an imported PRE gelding. The promotion of the successes of PREs will help to continue this trend for increased interest at the professional level. While the popularity of PREs for dressage is growing in other countries and a few examples have appeared in international competitions (ie, France and Mexico), I believe that it is safe to say that the United States is second only to Spainin the number of PREs competing in this sport.
There is more work to be done, however, at the level of the United States Equestrian Federation, and the United States Dressage Federation, where the PRE Horse is not a recognized breed apart from Andalusian. USPRE and ANCCE have filed formal requests that the breed be listed in the United States register of horse breeds, but to date the request has not been honored.
The issues of nomenclature of the breed here in the United States go back for more than a quarter of a century and continue to be a source of confusion in the marketplace. USPRE respects all registries that represent the horse of Spain in some manifestation in the United States, except those which have taken advantage of the gaps between EU law and US law and have counterfeited the name of the “PRE horse”.
The US has bred Iberian horses for decades, with the early associations providing US papers to crosses between Lusitanos and PREs, producing an animal known as the “Andalusian”. This community and the PRE community have learned to live respectfully side-by-side, collaborating for shows and other events. The informed market understands the difference between PRE and Andalusian. However, the founding of a new registry which calls itself PRE without permission from the LG-ANCCE or the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture—only legal in the United States where EU laws do not apply—was established in particular to imitate the approval process and documentation of LG-ANCCE, without the research, education or heritage that has gone into producing the authentic PRE horse. The confusion among new owners who believe they have bought an approved PRE Horse is unfortunate and creates additional work for USPRE and expense to the disappointed owner. Regardless of our efforts to educate the breeding community, there will always be some who are unconcerned about the improvements and higher standards imposed by the parent studbook in Spain, who believe that genetics should be the only criteria for inclusion, and who will remain happy to have American documentation that calls their horse a “PRE”.
The PRE population in the US stands to benefit greatly from various efforts coming out of Spain and assisted by USPRE. We acknowledge the tremendous improvements to the LG-ANCCE and the worldwide image of the PRE horse as a result of the modernization of the breed and its services under ANCCE President Javier Conde. We believe that the new standards for basic approval of breeding stock will continue to improve our bloodlines and educate our breeders. We strongly support the trend toward breeding for purpose, with equal importance given to the morphology focus as well as the sport focus—ideally, they are two sides of one coin. Celebrity horses will continue to appear in both circles, making timely and correct publication of our horses’ successes vital to growth in popularity and education of the greater equestrian community.
Most recently, USPRE has had the opportunity to become a Founding Sponsor of the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. This 10-show series with five CDIs in one location is a revolutionary new concept for the sport and brings together world-class competition to one place for an extended period of time. The series attracted more corporate sponsorship in its first year than any other show series in the US, with the exception of the World Equestrian Games. As a Founding Sponsor, we have the opportunity to have prominent name exposure as well as disseminate our message through a promotional advertising, award and event campaign that runs the entire 12 weeks of the circuit. At the inaugural USPRE event in February 2012, over 400 Wellington equestrians attended a Spanish-themed party and riding demonstration featuring top riders and exciting young PRE athletes. USPRE is currently the only breed association using show sponsorship in this way to reach our target audience, although we have begun to see several of the warmblood associations adopting some of our programs.
At USPRE, we are proud to represent the PRE horse and excited to work with ANCCE in improving the quality of the American herd for the future. We believe that the US is a healthy market for the PRE horse and we will continue to be innovative and current in our programs and promotion, working together with Spain to protect and promote an exceptional equine product