BEF Futurity: can it be the future?
It's not my strong point to be up to date with all that happens in the competition, showing and breeding world. First of all I'm quite happy to stay in my bubble as a dressage trainer. Secondly, I'm still trying to grasp the gradual, however major, changes and approach the KWPN has made in the last twenty or so years in my home country, The Netherlands. This year's visit to the Dutch stallion show made me realize how very much I had lost touch since I moved to Cornwall. Here in the UK, as initially a breeder, I had my hands full trying to work through all the different possibilities of registering my youngsters and was very confused indeed; the HIS, the British Warmblood Society, the Database and more. All with great intentions but so much choice, not to mention the showing of horses, with no other use than that, at agricultural shows.
On Friday I decided to pay a visit to the Tall Trees Arena in Cornwall for a maiden Futurity Evaluation experience. I was surprised by the fact that for a long time I was the only spectator, listening to a very well-spoken judge, with microphone, representing a panel of three. I would have expected more interest. My visit was partly out of a professional interest and partly to start the search for a youngster for a pupil. This seemed to me a good way to see and meet serious breeders presenting their young horses, at the same time figuring out what the Futurity is all about.
The remarks of the judge about each individual horse reminded me very much of how it is done at the Warmblood grading shows in Holland. A clear explanation of the conformation, walk, trot and canter, a mark and a second, first or elite premium. The confusion set in when all of a sudden, smack in the middle of some very decent looking Warmblood foals, a pony appeared with her foal at foot. As the foal was looked upon as a dressage pony for the future it was considered suitable to be judged by the same standards. Then an Arabian mare came in with her foal, this time a prospect for endurance riding. After that more Warmblood foals.
I really did start to wonder how on earth the judges could keep their eye in as by now there was no consistency. The same panel was making decisions about five different types of horses. That must be rather difficult. Would it possibly make sense to have seen those at the beginning or end?
Some of the handling was very professional, some of it was not. Any horse needs a good runner who can keep up in a decent rhythm, so the horse gets every chance to show itself off. A good horse with a lot of action needs it even more so.
Am I too critical? No, actually, if I was now a breeder I would probably choose this system. Its all-inclusiveness of all sports horses is a good idea. However, it could be more refined by having several different specialist judges panels. I would have a lane set up in order to make it easier for the one and two year-olds to show themselves off along the long side when shown loose. Also, I would show the one and two year-olds at least a pole on the ground, in order to see their attitude.
But at least it gives a thoroughly confused country, about what society or organisation to choose, a chance to unite under the same rules and guide lines. At the end of the day the Dutch Warmblood partly became what it is now because of the use of the English thoroughbreds. The UK always has had, and still does have, some very decent stock. More good horses are imported. Frozen sperm is available from all over the world. It just needs organisation. Maybe the Futurity Program can make this come true.
It was such a nice surprise to see some pupils, of the past and present, do an excellent job. Andrew James presenting two very decent and good-looking show-jump foals Lillipep and Lipeppero (both by Peppermill) from broodmares (both by LIBERO H) he jumped himself, with scores of 8.75 and 8.21. His calm and professional presentation brought back memories of how he used to be forever patient with some very difficult ponies as a youngster.
Cara Jasper (picture left) doing a very tidy performance with dressage prospect Donna D'Amour (s: Don Olymbrio) next to her mum by Treliver Decanter, with a great score of 8.70.
Niamh Hobbs being a great helper to Victoria Hunton who ended up with a score of 8.50 for her dressage foal Huntons Furstenfearless by Furstenball out of a Regazzoni mare.
Sophie Turriff being the joint handler of the very fine and tidy moving bay yearling mare Cintrix Du Ruisseau bred for show-jumping (s: Cinsey, ds: Prince D'Incoville), owned by Mrs. M. Douglas and going home with a score of 8.40.
Sandra Grose has been a regular visitor at the Futurity Evaluation. She brought her three year-old show-jump prospect Diamond Jubilee by the sire Je T'Aime Flamenco for the fourth time. After a great score of 8.72 in 2013 she was probably hoping to improve on last year's score of 8.27. It was not to be. Of course at this young age some youngsters still change so much by the season and/or mature slower. The dam line going back to Landgraf, son of Ladykiller, is certainly a huge asset to this three year-old's breeding. Being a complete novice I bombarded Sandra with questions which she patiently answered. We agreed on the fact that some of the lower scores were possibly still too high. This might motivate breeders to come back next year, on the other hand it could give them a false believe in the quality of their youngster.
My personal favorite was the very enquisitive and playful dressage filly Woodwick Dancernegro by the Oldenburg stallion Danciano (ds: Negro). As soon as she entered the arena next to her dam she was mesmerized by the white plastic cones and adamant to walk over them rather than around. When she was free she was interested in everything and everybody but her mother and danced and pranced around as a ballerina. Her score was 8.45.
Star of the day was the last one in: the dressage foal Newton Flexitime, a bold and beautiful chestnut filly who seemed to want to tell the judges and audience, by the way she stood and looked at all of us, that one day she is going to be famous. Her dam by Vivaldi and sired by Furst Romancier certainly produced something very special and she scored a well-deserved 9.00.
Despite the lack of a bigger audience one thing was a revelation. Unlike some of the competitions I've visited over the years, the atmosphere was so very friendly. There was a lot of exchange and some good laughs amongst breeders and audience. Very refreshing indeed.
Top foto: Natalie Pote waiting to go in with her dressage three year-old gelding Ragazoo (s:Richelshagen, ds: Chagallo) with a score of 8.20.
Middle foto: Dressage one year-old Janne by Maxamillian Voltucky owned by Sophie Parsons with a score of 8.45. I can't help to mention the very sweet Dutch name of the dam, Blosje, which translates as Little Blush.
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About Liz Barclay
Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.
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