In their work breeders proceed from two integral features of a living organism: heredity and variability. Due to heredity a certain feature of a horse's organism is being steadily transmitted from generation to generation, while due to variability new features are made to appear some of which turn to be useful (advanced briskness, increased height, etc.). These changes happen to be of a minute nature: progress in briskness measured by fractions of a second, increments of height-by millimeters, body frame modifications-so slight that hardly visible even to an eye of an experienced breeder. Nevertheless, even these minute mutations, if they turn to be hereditary, could be accumulated from generation to generation ensuring the progress of a breed.
Achievements of modern biology have led breeders close to the employment of methods of active interference in the structure of hereditary apparatus. The so-called genetic engineering is an accepted topic of to-day which has already permitted to create new useful types of microbes. However, as is known, the hereditary apparatus of a highly developed animal, including that of a horse, is an immeasurably more complicated arrangement and breeders, while waiting for genetics to solve this riddle, continue to employ approved standard methods.
In essence a horse breeder faces the task of selecting and reproducing the horses with valuable features while simultaneously rejecting the unsatisfactory specimen. This task becomes extremely complicated due to the fact that the horse qualities depend on various characteristics of its organism. For example, for a number of horse breeds briskness is the main breeding objective. What is meant by that? This involves a frame constitution as well as typical features of exterior separate points. This includes a reliability of the cardiac-vascular, nervous and other systems, etc. Each of these qualities in its turn depends on hereditary inclinations of a horse, on its genotype as well as on conditions of growing, feeding, training and on a contest organization. It is important not only to breed a horse with positive hereditary features, but also to let them flourish in full.
Sometimes, however, as a result of conditions not quite favourable a prime horse gets into one row with mediocre ones. And, on the contrary, often an unnoteworthy horse runs in the ranks of winners, but from which, as a rule, it is impossible to get the valuable offspring.
Therefore, horse breeding includes apart of the breeding process itself the scientifically substantiated technology which helps to reveal fully all usefull hereditary features.
In major branches of animal husbandry (cattle, sheep, swine breeding) producing males are being selected out of a great number of animals with their subsequent control for the offspring quality. The best selected specimen are used later for breeding purposes. Thousands upon thousands of the offspring could be produced from each outstanding male animal while using the artificial insemination. An efficient selection of the mother stock is also performed under comparatively rigid conditions. All this turns to be possible due to a huge multitude of pedigree cattle, sheep and swine. This is an enormous mass of animals that makes up a solid foundation for the successful breeding work. With the stud breeding the situation has been since long ago somewhat different. For example, at the head breeding centre the work is performed on horse breeds the majority of which number as few as 500-800 mares in a pedigree core. To avoid instances of undesirable inbreeding within a stud an increased number of stallions is being kept there as well as several lines and families are being developed.
It is known since long ago that in certain combinations of parental couples the offspring of a high quality is received, while with other combinations the progeny of a poor quality is obtained. Therefore, a breeder should select a proper coupling combination with the utmost care taken of. The highest attention ought to be paid to the study of a breed, to learning from stud-books of exactly which genealogical combinations produced the best results and which of them should be avoided, to a search of proper analogies. A talented breeder is that one who possesses himself of the ability to skilfully select stallions for a stud and at a stud itself-to select for each sire the most appropriate mares. The same lines are adhered to when using the semen of stallions from other studs often lacated as far away as hundreds and thousands of miles. For example, at Omsk stud a female horse has been raised with the record racing results (Alleya-winner of the international trotting races) from the semen of stallion Low Hannover delivered there from the Ukraine.
A question naturally arises: Why not to practise in stud breeding an expansion of the pedigree stock so that a reliable mass breeding could be employed? And the reply is elementary: Because, in the first place, there is no need in a large number of stud bred horses. Stud breeding should supply a small quantity of horses but possessing themselves of excellent and versatile qualities. Such is a specific character of stud breeding activities.
When it was necessary to quickly improve the quality of horses for the Army needs as well as for the use in collective and on state farms then at specialized studs and state stud stables the method of mass breeding was widely introduced in herd productive horse breeding.
102 state studs functionning in the Soviet Union represent a production source for the improvement of horse breeds and raising the high quality horses - the work which in its turn is aimed at bettering horse herds in collective and on state farms as well as at meeting the export and sport needs. 41 of these studs are raising trotters, 35-saddle horses, 13-heavy-draught horses and 13-breeds for local needs. Due to the ever growing demand for heavy-draught horses as valuable improvers of the working and productive stock special branches for breeding the Russian and the Soviet heavy-draught horse breeds have been founded al 25 studs of the trotting orientation.
Noticeable contributions in the field of the improvemenl of a number of horse breeds are made by pedigree studs belonging to collective, state and experimental farms. It concerns in particular such horse breeds as Toric, Latvian, Byelorussian, Lokai, Tushinsky, Yakut and a number of others breeds.
A stud is a combination of stables and maneges, training courses and spacious pastures. It is a home for wonderful horses from brisk foals and curious colts to famous and known far away abroad champions and record winners which remind those imprinted on antique engravings and canvases of talented painters.
It should be specially stressed that no stud ever reaped a success in raising and improving the horse breed if not being known for its authorities and personnel endlessly devoted to their work, among them-breeders, grooms, trainers, riders, jockeys and veterinarians. Such working bodies do not appear all of a sudden but it takes dozens of years to create them. It is not by chance that the studs famous for their horses are those ones with a long history, especially the studs founded as long ago as during the first years of the Soviet power and even before the Revolution. To these studs belong such ones as "Voskhod" named after Budyonny, another one named after the First Mounted Army, one named after Kirov, as well as Tersky, Khrenovsky, Moscovsky, Permsky, Dubrovsky, Ufimsky, Novoalexandrovsky and others.
For the last years many new stables and maneges have been erected at studs, new hippodromes have been opened as well as grazing pastures expanded. The stress is also made on the construction of apartment houses for the personnel, schools, clubs, shops and health facilities. All this reliably ensures further successful development of stud breeding in the Soviet Union.
Pedigree horses are being raised in the Soviet Union with the use of diverse technology depending on a breed and breeding local conditions.
At studs raising the saddle thoroughbreds, Arab, Trakensk, Orlov breeds as well as the Russian trotters and heavy-draught horses animals are kept in stables of solid structure. Management and feeding there are strictly individual and in full agreement with the corresponding zootechnical demands. In summer all mares, foals and yearlings are let to graze on cultivated pastures. In day-time heat and for the night animals are penned into stables. Where pastures are located far from a stud summer light sheds are put up nearby. This technology really ensures a production of high quality horses but it is labour-consuming and quite expensive.
Another type of technology consists of the same combination of in-door keeping and open grazing while management and feeding here are not individual but performed with a group of animals. Such method is used for raising the Budyonny and some other breeds. This method is a more promising one and in the course of the further improvement of its separate aspects it will be employed more widely.
The so-called cultured herd technology is practised in dry steppe and mountainous regions where such horse breeds are raised as Don, New Kirgiz, Kustanair, Kabardin. Horses there are kept in a herd - a large group composed with account taken of the animal sex and age (mares with foals, young stallions, young mares). Stables of a simple construction are used. The bulk of a year horses are let to graze in open. If grass stand is unsatisfactoty concentrates are extra fed.
And finally, in regions abounding in natural pastures where horses of several local breeds are raised - Kushum, Kazakh, Buryat, Yakut and others - special technology is employed- herd grazing on snow covered natural pastures (See chapter "Efficient Horse Breeding").
Production costs by different types of horse raising technology described vary considerably, the same applies to the quality of a horse raised by different methods. As shown by an analysis of production results obtained at studs the economic profitability of all four technologies has been proved valid provided all of them were made the best use of.
The most important link in the chain of activities of a stud belongs to the training of young stock. This work is performed at all studs but those specializing in herd raising. With trotters, saddle thoroughbreds, Arab as well as Budyonny, Trakenensk and a number of other half-bred horses all the young stock is trained and subsequently delivered to hippodromes, sport clubs or exported. Studs working with Don, Kabarda, Karabair, Kustanair and other breeds raised by a cultured herd method as well as with heavy-draught breeds select for training only the best from the young stock while the rest is delivered without tests.
Studs specializing in trotters have their own training personnel, and hippodromes in this case rely also on their own training experts, while the training personnel of studs raising the saddle horses accompany their animals at hippodromes for the whole summer period of training there.
There exist detailed instructions and recommendations for the training and preparation of horses for various competitions. Zootechnicians and veterinarians proceeding from physiological and biochemical showings of horses provide a conclusion on training results of a horse, on whether to raise or to low its training stresses. But all this is defined in general terms, of course. The most typical feature of a horse is its individuality and hence so much importance is attached to the experience of a trainer, to intricate skills of a professional rider, jockey, sportsman.
Hippodromes with their many-sided activities represent an integral part of pedigree horse breeding. A hippodrome is a kind of a laboratory for revealing the qualities of a horse, while at the same time it serves as a public recreation facility, a place for equestrian classic and national sporting events, for troika and one horse-cart races, for demonstration performances of equestrian masters, for pony rides for kids and for a lot of other events and entertainment.
Sixty hippodromes are functionning in the USSR, the oldest of them being in Moscow which was founded in 1834. The sand covered race-course there used for testing the saddle thoroughbreds is 1760 m long and 20 m wide. The main trotting course is 1600 m long and 25 m wide being covered with the artificial soil of a complex composition.
The hippodrome in Pyatigorsk was founded in 1885 and presently is exclusively used for testing saddle horses of various breeds. The race-course length there is 2100 m, width-20m.
The Rostov hippodrome founded in 1902 is used for flat races mainly with horses of Don and Budyonny breeds. The race-course there is 1968m long.
Excellent facilities exist at hippodromes of Kiev, Tbilisi, Alma-Ata, Frunze, Tashkent. These hippodromes are made suitable for testing either saddle breeds or racing ones. Such cities as Kharkov, Odessa, Pskov, Saratov, Kuibyshev, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tallin and others also have good racing hippodromes. The length of racing courses there varies from 1067 to 1600 m. They are covered either with natural soil, or with cinder, or with soil and bitumen.
In winter races are held on ice-covered courses. And trotters then should be provided with shoes having sharp calks cutting readily into ice.
Race-courses at all hippodromes of the Soviet Union are arranged as two parallel stretches joint at the ends by semicircles with radii of 80-100 m (turnings). Starting poles showing different distances are ranged along an inner edge of the course and they are distanced so that the finish always comes to a certain place, i.e. to that one facing the stand for spectators.
To ensure precise trotting results a specially equipped starting vehicle is used at trotting races, while saddle races are started from the so-called starting boxes. The moments when horses approach the finish line are photofixed with a special camera provided with a time recorder.
Each hippodrome apart of stands for spectators and testing race-courses is provided with training race-courses, paddocks, stables, veterinary facilities, forage store-houses and administrative buildings.
Riding horses are race-tested on hippodrome flat courses as well as tested for obstacle-race and steeplechase performance only during the warm season of a year.
For breeding purposes mainly flat racing results are accounted for of two-four year old horses at distances of 1200-3200 m. It should be noted that such factors as a number of performances of each horse in every age group, racing distances, jockey's weight, prize-drawing arrangements are strictly regulated by special rules.
With the quality of race-courses being different at various hippodromes (levelling, state of ground) breeders of riding horses mainly pay attention not to briskness, though it is seriously accounted for, but to a number of competition victories, i.e. higher the prize won, more value is attached to a horse.
The pedigree sire stock of a stud is replenished only with stallions-winners of the so-called traditional prizes which are contested by the most experienced jockeys and with the best horses.
Altogether there are 23 traditional flat racing prizes with the following being the most prestigeous among them: Kalinin Prize for two-year olds at a distance of 1600 m, Racing Season Inauguration Prize for three-year olds at a distance of 1800 m, the All-Union Grand Prix (Derby) at a distance of 2400 m, the Grand Prix for mares-2400 m, Budyonny Prize-2800 m, Racing Season Closing Prize-3000 т, the Grand Sprinter Prix for three-year olds and older-1200 m, Elite Prize for four-year olds and older-2400 m, the USSR Prize-3200 m and Farewell Prize for 3200 m.
Breeders evaluate sporting merits of riding horses by the results in classic events, such as the three day event, concours and dressage. Horses are started to be prepared for participating in those events at a stud from young age but the bulk of instruction is performed in sport clubs. Aptitudes of each horse are most vividly revealed at competitions: regional, zonal, republican, All-Union and international. It should be noted however that due to the high importance attached to prized horses from the point of view of their prestige for our sport far not all of them are sent to studs for breed improvement.
Breeders and physiologists are studying now a possibility of combinig the use of high prized horses for breeding purposes with their continued performances at hippodromes and sporting events.
While breeding the trotters main attention is paid to briskness of a horse demonstrated at drawing the prizes or shown by trotting time results. With us for the main distance 1600 m are taken, while abroad-1609 m (one mile).
Apart of briskness shown at this distance breeders take into account other factors as well, among them briskness at longer distances (usually 2400 and 3200 m), ability to win prizes drawn in two and three rounds, i.e. when horses cover a distance of 1600 m twice or thrice with a time interval between races being one hour approximately.
Breeders also value highly trotters-winners of traditional prizes. 47 such events take place yearly 35 of which are performed on summer courses and the rest 12-on winter ones. The main prizes are the following: for Orlov two-year old trotters - Ulov Prize, for Russian, Orlov and other trotters (open) - Talent Prize (both at 1600 m), for Orlov three- year old trotters - Orlov Summer Prize, for trotters of all breeds-the Three Year Grand Prix (both latter prizes being drawn in two rounds, 1600 m each) and Autumn Prize (open, 2400 m), for four-year olds (open) - the All-Union Grand Prix (drawn in three rounds, 1600 m each). For Orlov trotters a separate prize has been established-Bars Prize-drawn in two rounds, each of 1600 m; for older trotters Elite Prize is drawn in two rounds, 1600 m each, and the USSR Prize-for 3200 m.
14 of 47 traditional prizes for Orlov trotters have been established for the benefit of horse breeding as this breed along with its briskness is also valued for other qualities such as quite a big height, harmonious construction and specific beauty of its exterior.
All trotter tests are performed in accordance with special rules setting the limits on a number of performances in different age groups, providing a distribution of horses in groups according to the points won. The rules stipulate also the lowest set of points allowing the horse to be included in a given group, define strictly an arrangement of drawing the prizes and see to a lot of other things.
To be sure of advances gained in breeding the heavy-draught horses they are tested at some hippodromes for a high speed delivery of the load at a trot and at a slow pace, for their drawing endurance and for the highest drawing capacity. Conditions and results of such tests are cited in description of heavy-draught breeds.
Horse breeding in the USSR is carried out on planned basis. For this purpose the study of horses as separate breeds is assigned to scientific organizations and to university zootechnical departments. Scientists of the All-Union Research Institute of Horse Breeding, of departments of horse breeding at the republican and zonal institutes of horse breeding, scientific workers of university departments perform yearly judging of horses. In cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture experts they select stallions and mares for breeding experiments, compile the state stud- books new volumes of which are published every five years or on a more regular basis, if necessary.
Much attention is paid to the preparation of breeding plans including breeding programs. After a ten year period these plans are renewed. Breeding results are regularly published in the magazine "Horse Breeding and Equestrian Sports", in scientific publications of institutes, in booklets and they are demonstrated at the stands of the "Horse Breeding" pavilion of the All-Union Exhibition of Economical Achievements in Moscow, the USSR.