Breed Spotlight: The Rare & Versatile Cleveland Bay
Stephanie Sutch introduces us to her own Cleveland Bay cross, GHP Baile Hill, and shares the history of this endangered breed.
Top photo courtesy of Stephanie Sutch.
In any discipline you compete in, you always hope to find that once in a lifetime horse. The horse that is not only athletic and talented, but the horse you connect with and have a true bond with. If you can throw in good looks and a charismatic presence it is a dream come true. GHP Baile Hill, a Cleveland Bay cross, is without a doubt my once in a lifetime horse, who possesses all the qualities you could ever ask for in a horse: athleticism, intelligence, charisma, phenomenal movement, handsome looks, and best of all a fantastic personality.
Baile possesses the movement to excel in dressage, and the jumping ability to take him far in the show arena, but he has found his niche in life and excelled in the world of distance riding. Having logged over 1000 competitive miles to date, he has earned top honors on many competitive trail rides at distances varying from 25 miles to three-day 100 mile rides. He captured the title of Overall Grand Champion for Competitive Trail for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 South Eastern Distance Riding Association’s ride seasons. He has won numerous individual ride championships and titles such as Best Trail Horse and Best Registered Breed. Despite distance being dominated by Arabians, he has held his own in competition, and garnered a lot of attention. I am asked all the time, “He is phenomenal….what is he?” I am always very proud to reply, “He is a Cleveland Bay!”
The Cleveland Bay is England’s oldest native breed of horse and is noted for its athleticism, stamina, intelligence and even temperament. These traits make a very versatile horse that could do just about anything from driving, to dressage, to jumping. The breed also is renowned for passing these hallmark traits to their offspring, which makes for excellent crosses. Many European Warmblood breeds such as Oldenburgs and Hanoverians can trace a Cleveland Bay influence in their development.
Sadly, despite being a breed that has tremendous athleticism and versatility, and has contributed greatly to the development of many modern breeds, history left the breed behind and almost forgotten. The development of modern machinery in England began the Cleveland’s drop in numbers. This combined with the devastating loss of Clevelands highly recruited to serve in the military hauling artillery and munitions during World War I left the breed almost extinct. By 1960, there were only five remaining mature stallions, and a handful of breeding age mares. The breed escaped extinction through the intervention of Queen Elizabeth II who stepped in to purchase a stallion slated for export named Mulgrave Supreme. She made him available to the public, and encouraged the growth of the breed.
Today the Cleveland Bay still remains a critically endangered breed, with less than 500 purebreds remaining worldwide. This sadly makes them rarer than giant pandas or snow leopards. Slowly word is spreading about this amazing breed, and more people are getting involved. There are a few part breds currently competing in top level international competitions in various venues such as combined driving, dressage, and eventing. There are also a number of purebreds hitting the show scene and finding great success. If you are considering a new horse, this is a breed not to be overlooked.
For more information on the breed, please visit the Cleveland Bay Society of North America’s website, www.clevelandbay.org.
Stephanie Sutch is an accomplished horsewoman who has been involved with horses her entire life. She grew up successfully competing hunters and jumpers. She began training horses and giving riding lessons when she graduated from college. She got her first taste of distance riding back in 2002 when she went to work training and conditioning endurance horses. She also worked at the Florida Carriage Museum and Resort as their education coordinator and museum historian. This exposed her to the world of carriage driving, as well as allowing her to fulfill her passion researching and teaching the history and development of the horse within human societies. Stephanie currently serves on the Board of Directors for the South Eastern Distance Riding Association, the Florida Horsemen’s Association, and the Cleveland Bay Society of North America.
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