By Christopher Hector (with analytical input from Gemma Alexander and Thomas Hartwig)
Photography: Peter Llewellyn and FEI
It is incredible how quickly history can disappear. Young jumping horse classes are a good example. You have the feeling that they are a relatively recent development - but just when and how recent, and what do they demonstrate?
The Société Hippique Française at least has a very brief history on their website, with a time line.
• 1972: The SHF is approved by the Ministry of Agriculture to be in charge of the young horse trials in France.
• 1973: creation of two show jumping classes: the classical cycle and the free cycle.
1982: First Grande Semaine de l'Elevage at Fontaine-bleau bringing together the finals of the young horses of four, five and six years old.
• 1988: integration in the classification of model notes, paces judged on an individual recovery, way and style to the obstacle.
Even information on the showjumping World Breeding Championships for Young Horses (WBCYH) in Lanaken is difficult to find. Max Amman's compilation, The FEI Championships, doesn't mention them.
It seems they were first held in 1992, as a private show run by the redoubtable León Melchior†, but blessed as World Championships in 1994. Still reportage, much less, discussion of the format, is difficult to find. There is an article on the 1999 World Championships in L'Année Hippique in which the knowledgeable German journalist, Jörg Savelsberg raised the question of style versus faults and time.
The seven-year-old championship was won that year by Caretano Z (Caretino x Reichsgraf) ridden by Jos Lansink in classic style, but other riders and horses had Savelsberg pondering: “The seven year olds' rounds certainly got people thinking a little and showed how close the Lanaken competitions come to the 'real thing'. Jumping competitions judged on faults and time leave no room for style and demand a results-oriented approach from the rider. A rider like Jos Lansink may be able to ride courses under these conditions with an eye to aesthetic appearance, but others find this impossible.
“But what is the best method for testing and evaluating young jumping horses in a world breeding championships? There is no denying that it is faults and time on which these young horses will be judged when they enter the adult world. If we want to bring breeding characteristics into the equation, however, we should perhaps also try to introduce an element of judging according to criteria such as style. The jumping World Breeding Championship for Young Horses would take on a different character, but they would also be subject to the judgements (and also, let it be said, misjudgements) of a jury – and nobody in Lanaken wanted to go down this path.” (L'Annee Hipppique, 1999/2000).
Bred by Manfred Birchler, Caretano Z competed at the World Cup final in 2001 with Jos Lansink before a fatal groin injury cut short his career...