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History of the WBFSH

In 2019 the WBFSH can celebrate its 25th anniversary, since it was officially founded in 1994.
In 2019 the WBFSH can celebrate its 25th anniversary, since it was officially founded in 1994.
HRH Princess Benedikte, Patron of the WBFSH.
HRH Princess Benedikte, Patron of the WBFSH.
On 4th September 1988, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, who was President of the FEI from 1986 to 1994, invited a select group of sport horse breeding experts from across Europe to a meeting in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands.

This elite group were the pioneers behind the initial committee of the World Breeding Championships for Sport Horses (WBCSH) which, on 19 November 1994, became what is known today as the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH).

Spearheaded by French journalist and publisher Xavier Libbrecht and supported by FEI jumping and dressage Directors, Max Amman and Joep Bartels, the concept of the group was to provide breeding, studbooks and breeders more visibility and recognition.

Early Years: World Breeding Championships

Before launching a worldwide organization, the committee decided to create a platform which would allow the studbooks already competing with each other, to get to know their peers. Based on an idea which was already operational within Formula 1 and the car industry – they piloted a competition called the World Breeding Championships.

The competition was judged based, on performances of horses across the three Olympic disciplines of show jumping, dressage and eventing. The event itself took almost three years of diplomatic efforts and logistical organization to accomplish. The inaugural show for jumping took place in November 1992 in Maastricht, The Netherlands when the Hanoverian studbook won as a team (with six of the best horses of the year) while Leon Melchior who bred Ratina Z (Olympic champion at Barcelona in 1992) was awarded the ‘Best Horse of the Year’ also became the ‘Breeder of the Year’.

Following the success of this inaugural event, the WBCSH committee, chaired by Prof Dr. G.J.W van der Mey (NED), decided to expand the competition into dressage and later, eventing.

Despite the success of the Championships, measures still needed to be made to enable a closer relationship with the FEI. This was important in ensuring the new International Horse Passport would include breeding details as well as printed breeding information on shows starting lists and result sheets. The organization also worked closely with the FEI on the development of Young Horse Championships (WBCYH). The first event was held in jumping in Lanaken (BEL), then in Verden (GER) for dressage and later on Le Lion d’Angers (FRA) for eventing.

The Start of the Federation

There were soon 25 studbooks involved and a need for a stronger organisation.

In November 1994, Gert Jan van Muijen (NED) was elected to be the first President of the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH). During his mandate and alongside, Vice Presidents, François Clos (FRA) and Horst Ense (GER), the board had to structure the Federation to ensure it was satisfactory for the studbook members, International bodies such as the FEI and also the European Economic Community (EEC). This had to be agreeable on all matters concerning sport horse breeding rules and regulations in connection with general international breeding policies.

It was not an easy political task. Horse breeding activity was increasing as was the interest from new members wanting to join the Federation. Former members were very keen to keep their leadership which meant the process needed managing efficiently and smoothly.

The burst in popularity and public visibility led to new appointments; In Le Lion d’Angers, Western France (1999) the young Danish Warmblood (DWB) President was elected as WBFSH President and HRH Princess Benedikte of Denmark took over from HRH Princess Anne as Patron of the WBFSH. Princess Benedikte was, and still is, a passionate breeder of dressage horses, she bred the horse Digby that her daughter Princess Nathalie rode in the 2008 Olympic Games and won two bronze medals on.

Slowly but surely, the Federation kept on growing. Every year, new studbooks within Europe and overseas were requesting to join, and the Federation started to grasp how to grow whilst keeping as much harmony and stability as possible.

The beginning of 2000 saw a total reorganization of studbooks: the process meant they would be much more proactive. Under the Patronage of HRH Princess Benedikte, its aim was to increase participation and encourage efficient growth.

From the start of the new millennium, Jan Pedersen has been regularly re-elected as President: Verona 2001, Guadalajara 2004, Apeldoorn, 2007, Philadelphia 2010, Warsaw 2013 and supported by the Board who remained unified and motivated.

Sponsors also started to take heed and realized that breeding and breeders were true partners of equestrian sport. Brands also started to realise the value in the Federation - Purina, then MSD-Agvet (which became Merial) from 2015 to 2018 the WBFSH has been sponsored and supported by Rolex, and from 2019 Longines became the sponsor of the WBFSH Breeders Award Ceremony.

Preparing for a Bright Future

In 2010, during the General Assembly held in Pennsylvania in connection with the FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky the key question for the Federations future was “How do we raise the profile of the WBFSH?” It was decided to use the Federation as a springboard to improve and share knowledge regarding breeding and similar industries through technical seminars organized by the WBFSH.

The 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy was a perfect occasion to host a meeting where equestrian sport and sport horse breeding could meet on an international scale. A seminar was held on genomic selection and the philosopher, Professor Axel Kahn, was one of the key speakers. The Federation also hosted a gala dinner that evening which gathered support from sport and breeding personalities including Ingmar de Vos, now President of the FEI, Breido Graf zu Rantzau, President of the German Federation, and also respected breeders including Germain Levallois (Le Tôt and Diamant de Semilly) and Yves Chauvin, President of the Société Hippique Française (SHF).

On that evening HRH Princess Benedikte declared her support and endorsement for breeders and sport horse breeding, saying, “I am proud of what has been achieved by the Federation and proud to be your Patron”.
Honorary members
Our honorary members were all some of the persons who worked hard to establish the WBFSH:

Gert-Jan Van Muijen (1999)
Eric Wauters (2005) †
Joep Bartels (2005)
Xavier Libbrecht (2008)
Hanfried Haring (2008)
Ingvar Fredricson (2009)
Jochen Wilkens (2013)
Xavier Guibert (2016)
Jim Flanagan (2017)
Rik van Miert (2017)
Dr. Thomas Nissen(2020)