History of the USDF Breeders Championship Program

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Etched in Black, the 2019 USDF New England Series Mare Champion. (Merrick Studios)

By Janine W. Malone

Showing at breed shows is a long-time tradition.

The concept of a breed show series was started by the organizer of the Royal Dressage Festival in Port Jervis, NY, around 1991-1992. It was called the “Northeast Breeders Championship” and I organized a breed show in North Carolina that participated in the series. With the help of Melanie Sloyer (Dressage at Devon), I took over the program and expanded it to the “East Coast Breeders Championship” for a few years with 5-6 east coast shows participating. As the interest grew to other regions, I wrote a proposal for the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) to take over the series and make it nationwide.

In 1998, the United States Dressage Federation approved the USDF Breeders Championship Series (USDFBC) and described it as a new program designed to promote breeders and quality sport horses.  The shows in each series consisted of at least two qualifying events in a particular geographical area of the United States that led to a final championship of the series.  Exhibitor Laboratories, Inc. of California was the presenting sponsor in 1998, the inaugural year. 

During the early years, exhibitors in each series competed in a qualifying Dressage Sport Horse Breeding (DSHB) show for the Champion and Reserve Champion Young Horse, and Champion and Reserve Champion Mature Horse.  These horses were then invited to compete in the last show of that series, which was the USDF Breeders Championship in the above age divisions for Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion.

In 1998 and for some years after, over $10,000 in prizes and prize money were split between all the Grand Champions and Reserve Grand Champions for each series.  Prizes included money, neck sashes, coolers, and products.  USDFBC Series event sponsors included: The American Hanoverian Society, American Warmblood Registry, American Warmblood Society, The Dutch Warmblood Studbook in North America, Iron Spring Farm, ISR/Oldenburg, Proud Meadows, and Sylvan Farms.

Dakar MF received the Traveling Trot Perpetual Trophy for the highest-scoring champion in 2017 (StacyLynnePhoto.com)

The series grew rapidly. Cosequin was title sponsor for a few years and later the Great American Insurance Company. The original ten series were East Coast, Southeast, East Central, West Central, Mid-States, Southern, Rocky Mountain, Northern California, Southern California, and Northwest. By 2002, the Southwest (Arizona area, formerly part of the Rocky Mountain Series), and Mid-South (Georgia area, formerly part of the Southeast Series) Series were added with over 59 competitions scheduled by April and more being added during the year. Also in 2002, the program expanded. Exhibitors competed at qualifying events for champion and reserve filly, colt/gelding, mare, and stallion, and Series Grand and Reserve Grand Championships were named in the same categories.

By 2010, a Current Year Foal category was added and in recent years a Materiale championship was added, where a Series Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion Three-Year-Old, Four-Year-Old, and Five-Year-Old are named. Horses were also allowed to qualify for the series final by earning a minimum score in their qualifying show classes – not just by being named champion or reserve.

Into Wishin, the 2019 USDF Midstates Series Current Year Foal Champion (Hoof Print Images Photography)

While the series enjoyed tremendous growth in the early years, as well as robust sponsorship and excellent publicity through USDF and breed organizations, the recession in 2007 took its toll. This situation led to fewer people breeding horses and reduced participation in the DSHB shows. However, the program seems to be growing again as the USDF Sport Horse Committee has continued to innovate by adding new opportunities and incentives to promote and recognize breeders and quality sport horses. The program currently consists of nine series, the largest of which is the East Coast Series, with its final competition at Dressage at Devon.

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