Some suggestions on breed management

The current political and economic crisis, on the one hand, is a tough test on the ability of our horse industry to survive, and on the other hand - a chance to make a good effort to achieve a quality leap in the breed that will make it competitive. The purchasing power of the buyers is falling everywhere. The reasons for this are global and we cannot influence them. The management of many studbooks report decline in the sales and, as a consequence, in coverings. Every breed society is developing anti-crisis programs the cornerstones of which are aiming at increased quality of the foals rather than increasing the numbers, and of mediocre quality. Therefore, the more stringent criteria for admission to breeding are being developed and tougher quality controls are implemented.

I am confident that the [Russian] Association for Akhal-Teke Breeding (translator's remark: the Russian acronym is AATK), being the most influential organization in the Akhal-Teke breeding, must also develop its anti-crisis program, if we want not just to preserve the breed, but also to make a leap in quality. I am confident that the year 2016 will be a difficult one for the breeding studs to survive. Therefore, our task is to ensure that during the inevitable demise of some studs and the resulting decline in the number of the Akhal-Teke horses, we do not lose the core of the best quality breeding horses, which both possess the breed type and can produce competitive riding horses. we are facing the need for scrupulous analysis of the marketing and sales prospects and also regulation of the production numbers. We should understand that the decline in the number of the coverings will result in increased costs of production and decrease if the number of breeding horses. Our task is, while surviving through the market crisis, to preserve the best quality breeding horses and both goals can be achieved only through the high quality of our products.

The majority of the breed societies regulate the development of their breeds through licensing of the breeding animals in result of the multi-tier testing program for the breed. It apparently works, as evidenced by the FEI ratings of the horses belonging to the leading warmblood studbooks. However, such regulation is possible only when the studbook is owned by the relevant breed society. In our breed, the studbook is not owned by the AATK. We have won the right to audit the studbook, but this alone is not sufficient for the purpose of regulating the development of the breed. In addition, because the numbers of the Akhal-Teke horses are small in general, the introduction of licensing may lead to some further losses. Also, subjectivity during testing/grading and in subsequent decisions on issue of licenses is also a threat.

My most obvious suggestion is to transfer the studbook under management of the breeders. In such case, the breed society would be able to manage the development of the breed. It is unfortunate that this suggestion is not supported by either VNIIK (the current manager of the studbook) or the most influential breeders. I will continue to try to persuade everyone about the necessity of a breeders-controlled studbook, but, at this moment, I will not insist that this must be done immediately.

All my suggestions above are triggered by the urgent need to pressure the markets by way of everyone's following the recommendations of the breed society, which will influence the attractiveness of our products for customers and also help customers to understand the true quality and the specifics of a particular product. At the same time, because those will be only recommendations (rather than mandatory instructions), the breeders will still be able to decide for themselves how to act.

In particular, I suggest:

             1. To produce annual rating of studfarms based on the following criteria: history, infrastructure, quality of the breeding stock, achievements in breeding and other factors that influence the quality of the products.

             2. To introduce a title of "distinguished" stallions and broodmares that have great value and contributed a lot to the breed.

             3. To introduced the concept of "recommended" stallions and mares that have significant value for the development of the entire breed in certain market segments (uses/equestrian disciplines).

             4. To institute the "independent critics" council, which would help to promote the Akhal-Teke horses in certain market segments (uses/equestrian disciplines).

The selection criteria and the tests can be developed by the Breeding Committee of the AATK and finally approved by the Executive Committee of the AATK.

The measures suggested above, alas, alone are not sufficient to overcome the crisis in the breed. We clearly need outside investment. But, due to the current structure of management of the breed, it is not an attractive object for investments. As a result, certain losses in the breed are inevitable. However, I very much wish to avoid them reaching the fatal proportions.


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