There is a major philosophical breeding difference between most American breeds and European breeds. In America, the Quarter Horse, for instance, is able to be fully registered if both the stallion and mare are registered with the Quarter Horse Registry. In the Friesian breed and most other European breeds, the primary difference is that the stallion must not only be registered, but be approved to breed.
The approval process for Friesian stallions is that normally, when they are about four years of age, they must go through a Keuring, i.e. inspection. This inspection will judge their conformation and their movement. In addition, full x-rays are submitted. If the stallion passes this inspection with high enough grades, he is selected to take a performance test. It should be noted that less than 10% of all stallions are selected to take the test. If the stallion subsequently passes the performance test, then and only then, is he approved for breeding. Only foals from registered Friesian mares and approved stallions are eligible to be fully registered.
Proud Meadows of Waco, Texas has the distinct honor of being selected as an authorized stallion testing facility by the Federation Nationale (FN), Germany’s governing body on equine standards. Proud Meadows calls the portion of their facility designed for this purpose the International Friesian Testing Center, or IFT Center.
Since 1997 Proud Meadows has hosted the Stallion Performance Test for the Friesenpferde-Zuchtverband e.V (FPZV), who also assisted Proud Meadows in communicating with and adhering to the standards of the FN.
FPZV believes that the prosperity of the Friesian breed requires that stallions be approved based on their demonstrated performance abilities as much as bloodlines. Thus, the stallions are tested to give proof of their performance value.
The FPZV Stallion Test is fifty days in duration. Each stallion is judged on temperament, manners, and trainability during the first part of this period. At the end, the stallions must pass each of four parts of the Performance Test with a minimum score of 5.0 in each and a minimum collective score of 6.5.
The four parts of stallion testing include Ridden Dressage, which combines USEF first and second level equivalents. The second part is Driven Dressage (preliminary test equivalent) and Cone Obstacle Driving. The third part is Pulling; where the horse pulls a heavy sled with driver over a 100-meter course. The fourth and final part of the testing is Cross-Country Jumping to include 7 fixed jumps and 1 water hazard.
The ridden and driven dressage tests are the primary focus during preparatory training for the Stallion Test. During this time the stallions are frequently ridden and driven by their respective trainers. But it is mandatory that “foreign” riders and drivers (accomplished trainers who have never worked with the stallions) also take the stallions through their paces to see how they respond. These foreign riders and drivers are chosen by the IFT Center and approved by the FN and the registry. During the last two weeks of the testing period they arrive to record their independent evaluations of each stallion - these opinions are based on the traditional standards of the disciplines.
In the final days of the test highly qualified and lettered judges who are selected by the registry arrive at the IFT Center to score each stallion in each test. They grade the horses by standards identical to the dressage and driving competition standards of North America and the Federation Nationale.
In the final days of the Performance Test, owners usually come to the Center to witness their stallions in front of the judges. Because the IFT Center knows how important the Approval process is for owners, Proud Meadows strives to create a pleasant environment for the event.
The indoor arena has a large viewing area for the dressage test, just outside the clubhouse doors. The outdoor arena is well-situated for a large audience to see the driving and sled tests. The gently rolling and partially forested cross-country jumping course circles the outdoor arena location so that every jump can be easily viewed.
Proud Meadows even provides a meeting room for the registry for business meetings during the event and hosts a cocktail party in the barn on the final evening. This is a good time for everyone to relax prior to the official Approval ceremony and awards.
Proud Meadows has also featured, during the awards night dinner, the newly tested stallions in a musical quadrille. This was a great way for all to see the stallions performing side-by-side, and was very well-received. Following the performance is an exhibition of Proud Meadow’s stallions by their resident trainer and staff, demonstrating high-level Freestyle and a variety of other equestrian performances.
During the final ceremony, the Champion and Reserve Champion stallions are named by the registry, and the overall scores of each stallion are announced. Each owner is presented with his or her stallion at this time. The awards are followed by a party and dancing.
JUDGING AND KEURING
In addition to overseeing the Stallion Test, officials from the FPZV return to North America each Fall to judge foals and mares. This judging tour is held at several locations, including the IFT Center, in order to be more convenient for the owners.
Mares are judged at age three or four for preliminary qualification as Star or Model mare status. Qualifying mares must then pass a riding and driving test identical to the stallion test prior to earning Star or Model status. Foals are judged so that they can be accepted into the Foal Book. They are awarded Premium 1, 2, or 3 scores that then become part of their official FPZV registration papers.
Stallions must be Keured (judged) to determine if they have the basic movement and conformation to be eligible for Approval. They also undergo extensive medical screening, including DNA testing. This is often done during the Fall judging tour.
If a stallion passes this strict initial judging he should then be trained in riding and driving for the Stallion Test prior to arriving for the 50-day Performance Test. In rare cases some stallions are Keured at the same time as the Performance Test, but the owner runs the risk of having a stallion not pass the Keuring, rendering him ineligible for Approval after the test. This is strongly discouraged.
The International Friesian Testing Center at Proud Meadows is dedicated to upholding the highest standards of the breed and to providing owners and the registry with an exceptional venue for the important task of approving stallions.
Proud Meadows will host the Friesian Horse Society Judging Tour on September 29, 2005 and the Back-to-Back Driving Trials October 15 and 16 with complete ADS recognized driving trials on each day. For more information call 972-938-8100 or visit Proud Meadows.
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