Featured Breed- Cleveland Bay
As its name suggests, the Cleveland Bay emanates from the Cleveland area of northeast England. Without doubt it is Britain's oldest breed of horse and has been fixed in type much longer than the official UK's breed registry foundation date suggests.
The church played a very large role in their breeding. Throughout the middle ages the Monastic houses in England's northeast were the principal breeders of horses. Pack horses were needed for the trading of goods between the various Abbeys and Monasteries.
Most certainly the ancestors of today's Cleveland Bays, particularly on the female side, were such pack horses bred in the Yorkshire Dales. Locally they were known as Chapman horses, the name being derived from the name given to packmen and itinerant peddlers of those days i.e. "Chapmen".
There was an influx of barb horses into the port of Whitby. These refined stallions were used on Chapman mares. Before the end of the 17th Century the main ingredient of the Cleveland Bay, the Chapman, and the Barb had come together to form the type of powerful horse whose popularity as a pack/harness horse was beginning to spread beyond the northeast English countryside.
The next century saw an increase in weight and size of these horses - better feeding being one of the reasons. The result was a quality versatile horse which found many uses away from the Monasteries as agricultural horses drawing carts and wagons of various types. A demand for faster carriage horses resulted in some breeders crossing their Cleveland Bays with strong Thoroughbreds. This off-spring became known as the Yorkshire Coach Horse, a tall elegant carriage horse, much in demand by the rich and royal.
The late 18th Century was the golden age of carriage driving. Yorkshire Coach Horses were exported all over the world to provide matched pairs and teams. During the height of the London season, hundreds of pairs of Yorkshire Coach Horses could be seen in Hyde Park every afternoon. To this day one may still detect the two types of Cleveland - the smaller, resembling the Chapman, and the taller resembling the Yorkshire Coach Horses. Both nevertheless retain the bone and substance of their ancestors. The coming of the automobile and tractor put an end to the need for Cleveland Bays. Their breeding went into decline. Many were sold abroad, but a few dedicated breeders in the northeast of England kept the breed alive.
Currently the breed is still critically rare. There are approximately 200 pure breds in North America (including mares, stallions and geldings). It is expected that the worldwide population is approximately 900 purebreds spread throughout North America, Australasia, Europe, Japan and Pakistan. The dedicated breeders and members belonging to the Cleveland Bay Horse Association of North America endeavor to increase the number of these unique horses and promote the breed in many disciplines.
The Pure-Bred Cleveland Bay is a very intelligent horse with a sensible temperament. They have plenty of bone and substance, are hardy, long lived and have tremendous stamina.
Characteristically the breed is very bold and honest. They are always bay in color, their action is level, free and long striding. They are an established breed and so breed true to type. They are extremely prepotent, meaning their quality and traits are passed on to their progeny. This makes them an ideal out-cross, especially with Thoroughbreds.
Their height is 16.0 hh to 16.2 hh height outside this range is acceptable if height, weight and bone are in balance. Historically 16.1 to 16.2 1/2 hands. The body is wide and deep. The back is not too long, and is strong with muscular loins. The shoulders are sloping, deep and muscular. The quarters are level, powerful, long, and oval with the tail springing well from the quarters. Good sloping shoulder, a short back, powerful loins, long quarters. The head characteristic of the breed is bold and not too small. It is be well carried on a long, muscular neck. (Roman nose is common). Rather plain than otherwise, on the large side but is well carried. Ears tend to be large and fine. Eyes are large, well set and kindly in expression. The knees and hocks are large and well closed with normally a minimum of nine (9) inch bone** on a 16.0 hands mature male (usually over six years old) less on a mature female. Outside this range is acceptable if height, weight, and bone is proportional. The pasterns are strong, sloping and not too long. The legs at the knee, hock, and below would feel very firm, solid, and strong, and are clear of superfluous hair.
One of the most important features of the breed; the feet must be of the best and blue in color. Feet that are shallow or narrow are undesirable. "NO FOOT - NO HORSE”.
An unusually high percentage of these part bred sport horses excel in many disciplines, including driving, hunting & jumping, dressage, and trail riding. America, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand and many other countries have imported Cleveland Bays to improve their native stock and to help preserve the breed. Many European Warmbloods, particularly the Gelderlander, Oldenburg, Holstein, and Hanoverian owe much to the Cleveland Bay influence. Some European and Baltic draught horses such as the Irish Draught, Russian Vladimir and Danish Schienswig have the benefit of Cleveland blood.
Perhaps the Cleveland's greatest advantage is its versatility. Early Cleveland Bays were versatile pack and harness horses. The present day Cleveland is equally versatile in relation to the modern equine disciplines. As carriage and driving horses they remain unsurpassed. For this purpose a good number are kept at the Royal Mews in the U.K.. Teams of Cleveland Bays have competed in FEI driving trials. Many are driven as singles and in pairs purely for pleasure.
They make ideal heavy weight hunters, but also possess the necessary quickness for eventing, and can be exhibited in the show ring either as in-hand, ridden or working hunters. As sound active horses with substance, stamina and a good, sane temperament they make excellent police horses. The ability to break a Cleveland Bay to saddle and harness makes this breed invaluable to all round enthusiast to whom quality and versatility are important!