Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Thoroughbred Breeding* *But Were Afraid To Ask

Frankel is 2021 #1 leading sire in Europe. Photo courtesy of Sarah Carmichael and ITBF.

Explained by L.A. Sokolowski

As a journalist I believe there’s no such thing as too much information. Which is why I joined a free Breeding Webinar presented by the International Thoroughbred Breeders’ Federation (ITBF). ITBF (quick backstory) began in the 1950s/1960s, when Thoroughbred breeder associations in Britain and Ireland shared a Stud Book and met with some regularity to discuss “mutual issues.” In 1973, France joined and in 1974, so did the United States, after which it was renamed the International Breeders’ Meeting and convening until 2012, when it expanded to 21 member countries on six continents and formalized its structure into ITBF.

What appealed to me were the scope of its program and speakers: Simon Mockridge, UK General Manager for Juddmonte International, with an overview of Juddmonte’s impact on the horse industry; Terry Henderson, CEO of OTI Racing & Bloodstock Management, on Succeeding in Syndication; ITBF Veterinary Chair Dr. Des Leadon, MA, MVB, MSc, FRCVS, DipECEIM, on the future of a global breeding industry; and specialist in equine internal medicine, Dr. Celia Marr BVMS, MVM, PhD, DEIM, DipECEIM, FRCVS, on Lawsonia, an emerging but hopefully manageable condition in weanlings.

I was/am horse geek enough to say okay, I’m in. The webinar’s Greenwich Mean Time was 7:00 AM mine, so with cuppa close, I joined 500 registrants from 33 countries for a listen.

Here are some takeaways (plus links) from each 10-minute session.

Simon Mockridge. Photo courtesy of Sarah Carmichael and ITBF.

Simon Mockridge, UK General Manager of Juddmonte International, with quintessential “I’m no David Attenborough” modesty, presented an overview of the farm’s evolution, from Known Fact to Frankel to Enable, and what the future holds since the death of its founder, Prince Khalid.

* Frankel is 2021 #1 leading sire in Europe. Once called a “freak,” he is now the “epitome of 30 years of striving to create the complete racehorse.”

* Arrogate was twice (2016, 2017) named Longines World’s Best Horse before his passing in 2020.

* RIP (January 2021) Juddmonte founder, Prince Khalid bin Abdullah, “who may well be remembered as the greatest breeder of his generation.”

* See the Juddmonte-ITBF Webinar here https://youtu.be/djyIXdQyEf4.

Terry Henderson. Photo courtesy of Sarah Carmichael and ITBF.

Next was Terry Henderson, CEO of OTI Racing & Bloodstock Management, (an Australian-based syndicate serving France, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK), on what makes syndicates successful and how to achieve and manage one. The bottom line is that the choice will be with owners to either retain the traditional exclusivity of ‘The Sport of Kings,’ or open ownership up to more people and the economic benefits it can bring.

·      It’s all about service. Service service service. Why?

·      Because, “You won’t make money in horse racing. So you have to provide your syndicate partners with superior service surrounding the overall experience.”

·      Trainers just as prolific in promoting syndications. Benefits include a wider choice of trainers, consolidation of accounting/insurance services, broader choice of stock and industry services, focus on provision of real-time information

·      Key elements for successful syndication are Cultural Acceptance of multiple ownership, Cost/Value acceptance by the market, and the Quality of the syndication services provided

·      Owner involvement comes from an Ability to Afford involvement, a Sense of Involvement in wider experiences, accurate and timely Communication and Track Services, and owners accepting that they are not likely to make money (so service becomes paramount)

·      Find the OTI-ITBF Webinar here https://youtu.be/QDpq-PcBVDs

Two veterinarians looked at different sides of the breeding coin, from digital passports to the emergence of a weanling health challenge. ITBF and EFTBA Veterinary Advisory Committee Chair, Dr. Des Leadon, MA, MVB, MSc, FRCVS, DipECEIM, addressed the “vital role” of HHB (the High Health Breeding concept) to facilitate the international movement of horses, and its impact on the future of a global breeding industry. 

It had some of the most enlightening statistics and remarks, including prompting Sir Johnny Weatherby, Chairman of Weatherbys, to observe how fully integrated electronic passports and their technology will “provide the mechanism for future ease of movement between ‘high health’ countries.”

·      A digital passport with all of a horse’s health statistics is here to stay

·      Ireland is playing a big role in that digital development

·      The EU equid sports and leisure market is the largest in the world

·      The EU’s 7 million equids use at least 2.6 million hectares of land

·      Seen as an environmentally friendly activity

·      Combined value of sport horse/equestrian, racing, and breeding is  52.1 billion Euro ($58.8 billion US). 

·      More Thoroughbreds move between Continental Europe, IRL and UK than anywhere else in the world.

·      Thoroughbred movements were tracked through 423 major FEI events and shows in Europe in 2019, in 29 European and EU countries, with 425,264 horse entries.

·      Impact of Brexit and EU Animal Health Laws included Export Certificates for permanent export reduced 30% and BCN’s (Breeding Clearance Notifications) for temporary export reduced 61%

·      ePassports can now record International Code of Practice compliance, compliant horses designed HHB / High Health Breeding (no “partial” status)

·      There’s “too much inbreeding”

·      HHB status lapses eoy, renew each breeding season, allows real time monitoring of health status in Thoroughbred breeding stock throughout Europe, facilitates “frictionless movement”

·      For the very first time, a Thoroughbred industry International Code of Practice will be recognized in legislation as a means of facilitating international movement by an EU Member State Government

·      “This is the future of international movement, compliance with the International Code, registered in a digital passport.”

·      Find the complete High Health Breeding discussion here https://youtu.be/YOaXzViVIKg

Dr. Celia Marr. Photo courtesy of Sarah Carmichael and ITBF.

Ever hear of Lawsonia intracellularis, a protein-attacking intestinal condition occurring in weanlings and yearlings during autumn and winter, and affecting musculo-skeletal development in that critical first year? Me neither. But it’s keeping some Thoroughbred breeders up at night, and that’s why Dr. Celia Marr, BVMS, MVM, PhD, DEIM, DeipECEIM, FRCVS, RCVS Recognized Specialist in Equine Internal Medicine closed the webinar with Lawsonia – An Emerging But Manageable Condition.

·      Caused by bacteria widespread in wildlife.

·      Infection can spread within foal herds, other farm species (not pigs)

·      Clinical signs innocuous until protein levels “become catastrophic”

·      Treated animals usually survived but sold on average for 68% less at auction than other yearlings by the same sire

·      Vaccination strategy is to start 30 days prior to first case last year

·      “Because it’s so widespread among wildlife, it’s inevitable. You do have it on your farm you just may not know it. So should you vaccinate? My answer is a resounding, Yes.”

·      List to Dr. Marr’s complete Lawsonia-ITBF Webinar presentation here https://youtu.be/7ZKtpzBP05I

The webinar concluded with a Q&A session, where I queried if, since horses recovering from Lawsonia were still raced at ages two and three, might Lawsonia also impact bone development and (consequently) lead to a higher incidence of breakdowns in youngsters? 

Perhaps for brevity the text of my original question was edited to simply asking if Lawsonia impacted bone growth (without mention of racetrack breakdowns). The reply underscored Lawsonia’s most adverse effects were on muscle growth (i.e., soft tissue not bone), but I did sense a metaphorical door left open to imply that anything that impacts foal development can/could impact a racehorse’s overall integrity later on. 

It is one of the great opportunities on these new and different times that we can digitally attend events and we can interact with arrays of educators and experts (plus props to the organizations who make them happen). Thank you, Sarah Carmichael and ITBF, for the images in this blog, and this link to the webinar (and individual presentations at higher definition) available on the ITBF website: https://www.international-tbf.com/2022/01/20/itbfs-second-webinar-a-huge-success/.

L.A. Sokolowski is a New York-based, award-winning multi-platform journalist, image/brand consultant, and nonprofit development advisor for the highest international levels of equestrian sport and culture, and 2017 recipient of the American Horse Publications Chris Brune Spirit Award. Share your feedback with her, latheequinista@gmail.com.