The British Breeding/BEF Futurity is the fastest growing young horse and pony evaluation programme in the UK with 2016, the 11th year since it's inception. With capacity for well over 900 entries, the Futurity aims to identify British bred young potential sport horses and ponies destined for top level careers in dressage, eventing, showjumping or endurance, and may even find the Olympic champions of the future.
Horses and ponies are entered for the Futurity discipline they are bred to perform in, with age groups for foals, yearlings, two and three year olds. Each horse is evaluated in hand and loose in an indoor school as well as undergoing a vet’s assessment. Breeders value the Futurity because it allows them to get their youngstock out in public in a low stress enclosed environment.
The 2016 Futurity evaluations will be held at 11 venues throughout the UK from 15 to 31 August. The young horses go home with a Premium, an attractive rosette and a detailed, informative score sheet.
The Futurity is principally run to identify talented young sport horses and ponies, for collecting data on British breeding so that British breeders can make use of that information for future breeding decisions and for providing feedback to participants on the suitability of the horse they have bred for its intended discipline and the market for which it has been bred. This is important to remember because not every horse will be an “elite” horse. The biggest sector of the market is the amateur affiliated sector and this market typically requires horses with slightly different attributes to elite horses.
Evaluations are held for foals, yearlings, two and three year olds and is for amateur and professional owners and breeders alike. High scores have come from both established studs as well breeders with only a one or two mares.
Horses and ponies are entered into the discipline they have been bred for; dressage, show jumping, eventing or endurance. At the evaluation day, they are examined by a vet and one or two of a panel of discipline specific experts. Over 700 horses and ponies will be evaluated this year to assess their performance potential.
To be eligible for entry into the Futurity, the horse/pony must be British bred. Neither the country of origin of the dam nor the country where the foal’s sire is based nor the country of issue of the horse’s passport is relevant in determining whether or not the foal is British bred. It is preferable that all entries are registered with a UK studbook.
Eligibility requirements for sires of progeny include that the sire must be fully graded/approved/licensed for breeding at public stud meaning that he has been assessed for conformation, type, movement and correctness by professional judges appointed by the stud book concerned.
It is currently being considered to also allow progeny eligibility from fully graded/approved/licensed dams, if the sire does not meet the criteria.
Sports Ponies must have at least one parent under 148 cms who is not expected to exceed 148 cms at maturity. The pony itself must also be expected not to mature over 148 cms.
An extended evaluation system will be considered in the future for amateur competition, leisure and recreational horses and ponies. Within this system, young horse evaluations will place emphasis equal to Futurity on conformation and correctness of gaits, less emphasis on athleticism and more emphasis on temperament. In the case of progeny from sires which have not passed a grading or are in a studbook which has no formal grading system, they will be eligible for entry into this proposed evaluation process.
The aims of the Futurity are to:
Identify potential elite international sport horses for British riders. Owners and breeders of top scoring Futurity horses of all ages will be eligible for the next iteration of the Futurity series, the Equine Bridge. Launched in 2013, the Equine Bridge is already supporting a number of talented Futurity graduates with vouchers redeemable against training and treatment. The Equine Bridge sets out over the next few years to build a pathway from the identification of performance potential to elite performance delivery.
Inform the better breeding of British bred sport horses and ponies by offering detailed feedback from a vet and evaluators. This aim is called for in the Strategy for the Horse Industry in England and Wales (2005) and is part of the BEF Strategic Plan for 2013 – 2017.
Provide accurate pedigree and results information for breeders to use, regarding successful bloodline combinations for sport which will be available at all times through the fully searchable Futurity results database. The Futurity’s adoption of linear scoring from 2015 provides more detailed and objective information for all participants.
Enable breeders to use the Futurity scores as an established marketing tool for their young sport horses (McGrath 2011 concluded that “a high premium does appear to increase the monetary value of a horse”). An increasing number of young sport horses are advertised for sale as having a “BEF Premium” and this has given confidence to potential buyers in their purchase selection process. Whilst of course there are too many environmental factors in the equation for the Futurity to be a guarantee of sale price or of future sport success, the Futurity is the programme which seems to offer the most reliable indicator of potential sport success available at this time.
The Evaluation :
Horses and ponies are assessed by a vet for any potential performance inhibiting conditions which could compromise its ability to perform at its best when it reaches competitive maturity. The vet’s and evaluators comments will be recorded on an electronic system which is emailed to owners following the evaluation.
Horses and ponies are then presented to the evaluators for conformation and in hand movement at the walk and trot. Yearlings, two and three year olds are turned loose in order to fully assess their paces and athleticism. Three year old show jumpers and eventers will also be loose jumped down a lane of three fences.
In 2010 the SPSS (Sports Pony Studbook Society) held the first Young Dressage Pony Championships with 8 ponies in the 4 yo class and 7 in the 5 yo. No entries were received for the 6 yo class.
Winning the 4 yo class was the British bred mare Delaroche Birthday Girl (x Bernwode Brokat x ITSU). The 5 yo winner was the German bred gelding Rufus (x Renoir x Nerz) who also went on to win the overall Championship.
Young Dressage Pony Championships were again held in 2011, 2012 and 2013 but ceased in 2014 for lack of numbers.
Young Jumping Pony Championships were held from 2010 to 2012 with Young Eventing Pony Championships started in 2011 and finishing in 2013.
2011 - Overall Young Dressage Pony Champion - 4 yo Der Kleine Lord (x Der Feine Lord AT x Chantre B)
2012 - Overall Young Dressage Pony Champion - 4 yo WFS Top Red (x Top Yellow x Pilgrims Red)
2013 - Overall Young Dressage Pony Champion - 4 yo Cruz (x Caesar 171 x Don Larino)
For 2015, the SPSS held an Open Sports Pony Youngstock Championship on the 16th October with Youngstock evaluations carried out in conjunction with the annual grading tour.
To qualify for the Championship, Youngstock will be evaluated at various venues with classes for filly, colt and gelding foals, yearlings and two year olds. The Championship for three year olds is for mares and geldings only. Youngstock will be evaluated in hand at at liberty for their potential as competition ponies.
Ponies that receive a Gold Premium score of 8.0 or more will be eligible for the final. Youngstock of any breed are eligible, regardless of country of birth and do not have to be SPSS registered.
Ponies that place 1st and 2nd in each age group at the final will be judged for the Supreme Championship.
Read more about the SPSS Youngstock Championships at their web site
Five rankings are given to horses and ponies. A Premium evaluation score of 9.0 or above is Elite (horse or pony that has the potential and the outlook to perform well at international level), 8.50 to 8.99 is Higher First, 8.00 to 8.49 is First Premium, 7.50 to 7.99 is Second Premium and 7.00 to 7.49 is Third Premium.
Pony youngstock are evaluated in the same discipline group as horses at each venue and on a number of occasions at the 2014 evaluations, the ponies well outscored the horses for the chosen discipline.
Of the 449 horses evaluated in 2014, 44 were Sports Ponies of which 5 received Elite Premium. The top scoring pony overall for 2014 was the SPSS graded 3 year old stallion Woodlander Wales winning his third Elite Premium grading for dressage with 9.14. Woodlander Wales is by the Warmblood stallion Woodlander Wavavoom and out of Welsh Section C mare, Drysiog Helen (x Talon Teifion). Woodlander Wales was also the highest scoring pony for dressage in 2013 with 9.30 and in 2011 with 9.25.
The Weser Ems bred stallion, Rembrandt DDH sired 3 Elite foals for the discipline of dressage for 2014. Pretty Picture (x Rembrandt DDH x Black Boy) and KMD Dornlight (x Rembrandt DDH x Dornik B) were the top scoring foals, both achieving 9.02 with Bathleyhills Joan (x Rembrandt DDH x Gigman Jacana) achieving 3rd highest Sports Pony score on 9.00. Rembrandt DDH is a member of the 2015 British Pony Dressage Team for the forthcoming FEI European Pony Championships.
The highest scoring yearling Sports Pony for Dressage was Catherston Bobby Bright (x Littledale Bright Star x Number One Guy) on 8.77 with the highest scoring two year old being Starloch Diamond King (x Pennal The Great x Tireve Welsh Flyer) on 8.29.
The highest scoring Sports Pony bred for showjumping was Shingletons Carter (x Lauriston x Glenayre Mystical Bobby) on 8.67 with the highest scoring Sports Pony bred for eventing Bombay Sapphire (x Tornado of Knabstrup x Litton Talisman) on 9.01.
The sires rankings (incl. 2014) for Sports Ponies is led by FS Don’t Worry with a total of 4 progeny evaluated achieving an average of 8.78. His highest scoring progeny is currently the now Australian based, Rosewater Driving Miss Daisy who scored Elite with 9.0 in 2008. Ranked 2nd is the warmblood stallion Sheepcote Wurlitzer (x Weltmeyer) with the Weser Ems Casino Royale K (x FS Champion de Luxe) in the 3rd ranking position.
Broodmares are also very well recognised in the Futurity system with special certificates issued to them for successful progeny. Leading the dam rankings is Delaroche Laureve (x Lauriston) with progeny receiving an average score of 8.96. Delaroche Laureve received an Elite evaluation herself in 2009.
Futurity Equine Bridge :
Horses which have scored at least 8.5 in their three year old Futurity assessment (2015 criteria, it will change for 2016) are invited to a Futurity Equine Bridge selection day under saddle as four year olds. The aim of the day is to assess the horse once it has begun its ridden work and includes a simple ridden assessment on the flat for dressage horses and on the flat and over a small course of fences for showjumping and eventing candidates. Sports ponies are also included. All horses then undergo a vet/farrier assessment.
Following the selection days, if horses are believed still to demonstrate international (medal winning) potential, they will be invited on to the Equine Bridge.
Once on the Bridge, horses receive support by way of vouchers which are redeemable against coaching, training, treatment and a variety of other support and development initiatives.
The Equine Bridge was piloted in 2013 when nine horses were accepted. In 2014, five horses were accepted. These figures represent 21.5% of those which attended the selection days.
Before the Equine Bridge selection day, four year old horses are expected to be able to move forwards supply and elastically and remain balanced through turns and transitions. Fences will be no more than 80cm for showjumpers and eventers (smaller for sports ponies) and the same principles apply. Horses are not expected to have been over produced, simply be willing to move forward in a supple and balanced way with the rider capability having a crucial impact on the horse's way of going.