Anne M. Eberhardt

General Stud Book Shows Foal Numbers Decline

Foals born from 2009-12 fell 14.8% in Great Britain and 29.1% in Ireland.

The latest edition of the General Stud Book published by Weatherbys reflects the impact of the recession on the breeding industries in Great Britain and Ireland.

According to Volume 47 of the Stud Book that is published every four years, the number of foals born in Great Britain fell 14.8% from 22,971 during the 2005-08 period to 19,567 from 2009-12. The drop was much steeper in Ireland, where recorded foals went from 48,806 in 2005-08 to 34,559 from 2009-12, a decline of 29.1%.

Weatherbys, a non-profit entity that has been publishing the General Stud Book since James Weatherby published the first one in 1791, is one of the few of the 69 approved Thoroughbred Stud Books world-wide that is still published in hard copy.

Noting that since 2001 DNA parentage verification is an essential part of the foal registration process, the foreward to the latest Stud Book said the definition of what constitutes a Thoroughbred has been changed to reflect ongoing changes with regard to "scientific discovery and progress particularly in the area of modern genetic science."

The definition of what constitutes a Thoroughbred is laid down in Article 12 of the "International Agreement for Breeding, Racing and Wagering."

"Modification of the heritable genome of a prospective or registered Thoroughbred will now result in disqualification," the General Stud Book states. "That is, the horse will not meet the definition of a Thoroughbred so cannot enter the General Stud Book or any other Thoroughbred stud book worldwide. Further scientific advances in this area are being monitored."

Paul Greeves, keeper of the Stud Book, said the language is not due to any current developments in altering genetic makeup of a Thoroughbred, but is in response to what racing authorities around the world wanted as somewhat of a pre-emptive strike against any such attempts. Greeves said researchers have indicated it is unlikely any attempt to make changes in the Thoroughbred that would likewise alter its genetic makeup wouldn't occur because it would be cost-prohibitive.

But Greeves said the keepers of the Stud Book decided to go ahead and include the amended definition of a Thoroughbred for purposes of the Stud Book as an added deterrent. Only horses registered with a recognized stud book are allowed to race throughout the world, he said.

Greeves said the definition applies only to altering the genetic makeup of the horse, not to procedures such as stem-cell replacement for injured horses.