Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spanish Horse Inspections

On September 27, the veterinarian Dr. Aida Huertas came to Coves-Darden Farm in Aiken to conduct a “revision” for the Asociación Nacional de Criadores de Caballos de Pura Raza Española (ANCCE, the Spanish association that registers and inspects purebred Andalusian horses.) Dr. Huertas lives in Spain and works with the ANCCE. She flew to the United States, and spent about two weeks traveling around the country to inspect horses from different states. Before coming to Aiken, she was on the West Coast (Washington and California) and the Midwest (most recently she was in Ohio) and after Aiken she was on her way to Florida.

Like many European breed associations, the ANCCE requires that horses that are going to be used for breeding purposes pass an inspection to ensure that their conformation represents the breed standard. When a horse with approved parents is born, he is “inscribed” in the stud book, DNA typed and microchipped. When he is 3 years old, he can be “revised.” If he passes the revision, he can be used for breeding purposes. If he doesn’t, he becomes a grade horse for all practical purposes: his foals will not be eligible for registration. Both mares and stallions must be revised.

Basic revision has a number of different steps and it must be conducted by an ANCCE veterinarian from Spain. First, the vet scans the horse for the microchip and compares the information on that chip with the horse’s official “carta” (passport.) Then, she conducts a series of measurements. Stallions must be at least 1.52 meters tall at the withers (15 hands) while mares must be at least 1.5 meters (14.3 hands). She also measures the circumference of the cannon bone below the knee and takes several other measurements of various parts of the body. Finally, she conducts a visual inspection to ensure that the horse has no other conformational flaws that will disqualify it. For instance, horses in the Pura Raza Española (PRE) studbook are not supposed to have dished faces. A more common conformational flaw is a “fallen crest” meaning that the crest of the neck flops from one side to another, something that heavy-necked horses can be prone to.

About 30 horses were revised at Coves-Darden Farm this September, including over two dozen Coves-Darden horses and several that shipped in from farms around the area. The majority of these horses passed and had their cartas stamped “apto” (for the stallions) or “apta”(for the mares) to indicate that they had been accepted as ANCCE breeding stock.

Basic revision is the first level of ANCCE approvals. A horse that has been revised can later undergo more rigorous evaluations to become “calificado” (“qualified”).  There are only a handful of qualified PRE horses in the United States, seven of them at Coves-Darden Farm. One reason that so few horses in the U.S. are qualified is that there is currently no way for horses to undergo the more rigorous qualification examination in this country. Miguel Coves and Dorothea Darden of Coves-Darden Farm are working with the ANCCE to bring those examinations here sometime in the near future.

Coves-Darden Farm, established in Aiken two years ago this October, is an active breeding farm and currently has some 75 PRE. horses coming from many of the top bloodlines in Spain.