Between the years of 1873 and 1882 no fewer than 197,002 horses were imported into England, chiefly for the army, at a relative cost today of £250million. Consequently, the government at that time was greatly in favour of encouraging the breeding of horses in this country.
This crisis in the British Equestrian Industry coincided with a decision made at a November meeting in 1884 by the Hackney Horses Society’s Council. It was decided to include a class for Thoroughbred stallions suitable for use as hunter sires at their annual show and a “Committee of Management” was formed to administer this new venture. This was followed up a year later at another meeting where a proposal led to the formation of a society for improving the breed of the hunter type horse. The existing Committee of Management responsible for the Thoroughbred Stallion Classes agreed to form the new society and the Hunters Improvement Society was born.
In 1894, the Ministry of Agriculture and the War Office offered premiums at £150 to 29 Stallions in the scheme. The Army, via their remount officers, continued to play a major part in the Society’s activities and the financial backing came from the same source right up to the outbreak of the Second World War. After the War, backing was continued by the Totalisator Board and then by the Horserace Betting Levy Board. Between 1996 and 1998 financial assistance was reduced and finally withdrawn and the society has since had to sustain itself by its own operations.
In 1981, the Society’s name was extended to “Hunters Improvement and National Light Horse Breeding Society”. This was intended to reflect the shift in the demand for horses for sport and leisure. In fact, with the Army now almost completely mechanised, the society’s emphasis totally changed and breeders became much more selective. Quality was of the utmost importance and the market for the “competition horse” became very strong. To this aim, the society started to register stallions of other types whilst continuing with its established policy of making available the sound, strong, Thoroughbred Stallion.
In 1998, the Society went through its most recent transition and became Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain. The Society now grades and registers all breeds of horse with the main objective of producing a correct, sound, athletic Sport Horse with the potential to exceed in Showjumping, Dressage or Eventing.
The origin of Sport Horse Breeding in the North West began in 1977 when the then Hunters Improvement Society stood Premium Stallions in allocated areas of the country. Lancashire in 1977 was represented by Quadriga, owned and stood with Mrs Todd from Preesall, with herself as the corresponding member (this being the person who liaised with the H.I.S. office). 1978 saw Mark Flatman take over as the corresponding member and the Premium Stallion was Lovely Fool, standing with Jack Park at Hambleton. As Mr Flatman got little support from fellow members in the area to support the Premium Stallion he enrolled the help of Marion Sycamore and the birth of the Lancashire & Cumbria Committee was formed to support and promote the area’s Premium Stallion.
In 1979, Mr Dixon (MRCVS) took the job of corresponding member, the stallion being Lea Spirit, who stood with Hazel Booth at Aughton, Nr Ormskirk. In 1980 and 1981 Law of the Wise stand for the area at Dan Haughton’s yard near Carnforth. The allocated stallion for the area in 1982 failed to gain his Premium at the Stallion Show held at Tattersall’s paddocks in Newmarket, this left the Lancashire and Cumbria region without a Premium Stallion.
The situation caused concern, an open meeting was held at The Howard Arms at Clayton-le-Moor near Blackburn and from this May and Joe Brakewell, Annette and David Hirst and Mark Fitton joined forces to secure a stallion to go forward for a Premium. Premises had also been sought and with much persuasion from Marion, Bill and Marion Sycamore stood the stallion at their yard in Brinscall, they continued to stand the following stallions over the next 5 years; 1983, Uncle Joseph, 1984, Maiqueside, 1985 Rapid Pass, 1986 Button Bright.
Mr Dixon retired in 1986 as corresponding member and his position was then taken by Barbara Ashworth, another practising veterinary surgeon. Another Hoarwithy stand for the area in 1987. In the same year, Bill and Marion’s retired from standing the Premium Stallion. They were replaced in 1988 by Mark Fitton whose yard was in Worsley, who took on the role to stand the Premium Stallion for the Lancashire & Cumbria area with Marion Sycamore taking over as corresponding member. Both continued in these roles until the scheme finished in 1998. Stallions standing at Mark Fitton were: 1988 Almutanabbi, 1989 and 1990 Barley Hill, 1991 Habs Lad, 1992 Queens Soldier, 1993 Krisinsky, 1994 and 1995 Loch Pearl, 1996 Daar Alzamaan, 1997 and 1998 Roviris.
The grant from the Racehorse Betting Levy Board was withdrawn in 1998 and this was the last year of the H.I.S. Premium scheme. The Hunters Improvement Society was renamed the Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain and the North West Committee took on a new role, no longer promoting one stallion as the areas were disbanded.
The committee support and promote the National Body here in the North West providing training, educational lecture demonstrations and shows for our North West breeders. The annually elected committee work hard on behalf of the society for its members.