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Shaken, not stirred! Swedish Warmblood stallion approvals

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By Kim Lundin

Swedish Warmblood held their annual stallion approvals at Strömsholm, the equestrian education centre a two-hour-drive from Stockholm, for the second time in March. The facilities have a long and beautiful tradition of being a centre for horsemanship and schooling for more than 150 years, the army cavalry school was situated here since 1868.

Despite the many traditions of the location there has been something close to a quiet revolution within the Swedish Warmblood Association in relation to the statutes that regulate the stallion approvals. The association is in many ways thriving, the numbers of active members have almost doubled in the last five years, the financial situation is not only under control but healthier than ever before, and the registrations and mare coverings are picking up after a few years of decline.
However, in 2019 the stallion approval results came under much discussion among breeders and stallion owners. The judges’ panel led by chair Christina Olsson, alongside members Bo Jenå, Mikael Nolin, Pieter Kersten, Hella Kuntz, and the veterinary delegate Malena Behring, has been the same at its core for almost a decade with only one or two changes. The panel is called AVN in Swedish and correlates to the breeding evaluation commission. What led to the very few participants in the stallion test of 2020 (pre Covid-19) was not investigated, but it is fair to say that there was a quiet protest among stallion owners against the system.
Also, more Swedish stallion owners were often showing and presenting their stallions in the German and Danish performance tests for stallions, as the process gave them access to use their stallion, based on his results in the performance tests, and breed and registering the offspring in SWB on full papers. This created what was perceived as a shortcut to a stallion approval within SWB. So the SWB board decided to re-write the regulations and directives for stallion approval. And they did so in a major way.

New system in place 2021

The new rules for stallion approvals have many similarities with the old system when it comes to the demands on the stallions with the highest quality recommended for breeding by SWB. The European Union has for quite some years declared that there is no legal right to stop breeding with any animal as long it is not a carrier of genetically dangerous traits that are passed on to the offspring. However, there are no regulations that demand SWB approve all horses for registration into their studbook, that decision being solely up to the breeding association. SWB therefore chose to take the popular path, claiming to have been inspired by other associations’ stallion approvals, and invented an ‘accepted’ category where, essentially, you find all stallions that did not score above eight points for several important traits. If a stallion receives between six and eight points on most of the awarded scores, he is accepted for breeding, if not recommended by the AVN and hence SWB. Basically, the stallion does not carry genetically dangerous material or show unacceptable behaviour. Although, temperament and behaviour are not judged or awarded as this year’s approval week proved. The ‘accepted’ category is now under much discussion in the Swedish breeding community as offspring from ‘accepted’ stallions are entered into the studbook on equal terms as offspring of premium stallions.
From SWB the message is clear: As a studbook their goal is transparency and openness, providing all the information on all the stallions and leaving the choice to the breeders to make informed and well-founded decisions – meaning choosing premium stallions. However, not everyone shares the opinions of the AVN on how points are awarded to certain stallions, so now they have the freedom to use these stallions and let the offspring prove them right... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber

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