Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association - Stallion Performance Test 2001
 

Background of Stallion Performance Testing

Stallion Performance Testing has been a part of European sport horse breeding programs dating back to 1822 with special races to test imported English Thoroughbred stallions. By 1830, those breeding areas that used thoroughbred-cross stallions would regularly test those stallions at specially held races. Gradually, the idea of a more complex testing was developed and in 1926, the first formal testing facility for stallions was established for Trakehner breeding in East Prussia.

From 1928 on, the state stud at Celle in the region of Hanover (pictured at left) , tested all three year old stallions over an eleven month period. In these early tests, the basic criteria such as temperament, willingness to work and quality of movement were similar to those we have today. In 1974 laws governing German breeding established the current mandatory stallion testing after a standardized training period of 100 days. The state stud at Celle still continues their traditional 11-month testing for their own stallions.

As with anything, evolution occurs and the traditional 100 day test is being examined to determine if it is the best option for evaluation of stallions. Dutch breeders have adopted a 70-day test with allowance for older competition stallions to attend for a final set period in the test, while the French evaluate their stallions through special competitions geared to age groups over several years. Swedish breeders have developed a 10 day test that requires considerable preparation of the stallions prior to the testing and are considering adding sport results to the evaluation. In Germany, alternatives to the 100 day test are being tried. A 30 talent test is offered for three year olds prior to the breeding season and is followed by 70 days of testing in the fall. Dr. Axel Brockmann, the Assistant Manager of the Hanoverian State Stud at Celle, who developed the Alternative 30 day test on which this Canadian Warmblood Test was based, also proposed the use of sport results from specified classes over two years as a replacement for the 70 day phase.

Many breeding areas, including Canada, are now offering testing of mares and riding horses at either a one day field test where preparation and training is the responsibility of the owner or a 21 day station test. At the station test the managing trainer gives scores for interior characteristics such as temperament and trainability in addition to the basic movements, free jumping, and rideability judged in the one day test. Studies of the genetic value of these tests in predicting a stallion's ability to pass on these heritable characteristics have been conducted by many eminent researchers including Dr. Brockmann and Dr Ludwig Christmann in Germany and Dr. Jan Phillipsson in Sweden. In 1995 Dr Christmann showed that the mare performance test provided more accurate breeding values for stallions long before the less accurate breeding values obtained from competition results of offspring.

Performance evaluation of stallions has been part of the Stud Book Regulations of the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association since its inception in 1988; either through Stallion Performance Testing (SPT), high level sport results or through evaluation of offspring. Many members owned imported stallions that had completed their testing in Europe and a few had presented their stallions to the USA 100 day test now run by the North American Federation of Warmblood Breeders. A few had achieved full approval for their stallions through high level sport and evaluation of progeny. Increased numbers of Canadian bred or imported stallions requiring performance evaluation made it possible to offer a Canadian alternative to meet the needs of the members.

With due consideration of many factors, the membership at the 1999 CWHBA AGM mandated the Stud Book Committee to develop a Canadian Stallion Test based in principle on the 30 day Alternative Test proposed by Dr. Axel Brockmann. The 30 day test is designed to give an early evaluation on three year old stallions prior to the first breeding season. Scores given for the test would be indexed as they are for the 100 day test.

In the Canadian context there were several conditions to be factored in, not least of which was the large distances involved in bringing stallions to a central test which, coupled with the still relatively small numbers, could potentially limit the level of participation. The Directors knew that the stallions participating, particularly in the first test, would be of varying ages and levels of training. Also of significance was the fact that training methodology in Canada is not as standardized as it is in Europe, therefore many owners might find it difficult to prepare their stallions.

It was very important that this test meet the needs of the members in terms of a fair evaluation with reliable information for breeders to make intelligent choices in their selection of sires. It must expose strengths and weaknesses without eliminating potentially useful stallions. At the same time it must try to remove stallions which would not be likely to make a positive impact on the overall breeding program and it must weed out those that will negatively affect our breeding population.

Development of the criteria for this test was a monumental task for the Board. Ultimately it was decided to host the inagural 2000 test at the Olds College facility in Alberta where there was good access to quality stabling, a large arena and accommodation for training personnel since the students were on summer recess. This was also a fairly central location since many of stallions to be tested were from B.C., Alberta and the prairie provinces. For stallions already at a relatively advanced level of training, the option of participating only in the final ten days of the test was offered. Under this option the owners were required to supply their own rider and have their stallion be able to demonstrate at a higher level in dressage and or jumping.

The farsighted stallion owners who participated in this inaugural 2000 Stallion Performance Test are to be congratulated on their vision and dedication to the improvement of breeding in Canada. The number of registered Canadian Warmbloods in the pilot test that were in the top six (four including the Champion and Reserve Champion) proved that the process put in place 10 years ago by the CWHBA is already reaping positive results.

In the end, the benefit to Canada of this pioneer event will be long term. Professor Fredricson (pictured at right) congratulated the CWHBA on the test and said 'No country can expect to be a successful equestrian nation without a strong national breeding program'.

Mr. Lopp (pictured at left) added that since his first experience in Canada as a senior inspector in 1995; he 'has noticed an increase in the number and quality of horses being presented'. Both agree that we are on the right track setting high standards for quality stallions; using many of the top bloodlines in the world. They further agree that Canadian breeders must make a similar effort to improve our mare base.