The Cleveland Bay - A British horse with a history and a future!
As an introduction to the Cleveland Bay Horse, I would like to quote a tribute to these horses by the late Sir Alfred Pease:
This statement is as true today as it was then. This British breed is the ideal sire to produce todays sport and performance horse. But how did it originate?
The Cleveland Bay is the only British clean legged breed of horse and originally bred in the Cleveland area of the North Riding of Yorkshire. It is noted for stamina and even temperament and was originally used as a pack horse to carry the coal, iron ore and alum from the moors down to the coast. The return journey would be of salt, fish or whatever could be sold. The 'Chapmen', as these merchants were called, used the local clean legged short coupled horses which were hardy and sure footed.
Animals were needed to pull the coaches of the time and the pack horses proved to be suitable for breeding carriage horses and the type which developed was known as the "Yorkshire Coach Horse". These gained a reputation for fast times between London and the North pulling the mail coaches. Dealers travelled from all over the country to Yorkshire to find and buy these horses and take them home. With a little luck, a farmer could sell his foals at the autumn 'horse fairs' to pay his rent for the year. Bred from the same stock, these pack and coach horses were bay with black points and became known as the Cleveland Bay taking the name from the area in which they originated although many were bred in other parts of rural Yorkshire. These horses were also used to pull gun carriages and many lost their lives in the service of their country.
With the advent of the tractor, Cleveland Bays became redundant and the numbers declined to critical levels. The breed reduced to only nine registered stallions and a few mares in the early 1960's and through the efforts of a handful of breeders in the traditional "Cleveland" country survived through to the 1970's. The Cleveland Bay was placed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust Register at Category 1.
Her Majesty the Queen bought the pure Cleveland Bay stallion Mulgrave Supreme to prevent his export to America. This purchase helped preserve the breed and maintained the use of the Cleveland Bay as a carriage horse in the Royal Mews.
The breed's potential has been recognised for many years by horsemen throughout the world and many have been exported to far distant lands including Australia, New Zealand, America, South Africa and Japan to improve their native stock. The Royal Stud of Japan has used the Cleveland Bay for many years to produce their carriage horses. Today's Cleveland is the ideal cross for producing hunters and competition horses for every sphere.
The pure bred Cleveland Bay stallions Borderfame Prince Charming, Oakenbank Grenadier and Whitehouse Sheriff are Performance Tested with NaStA and have competed in varying disciplines. Part bred Cleveland Bays are successfully competing in dressage, show jumping, eventing and driving including Arun Tor, William Hill, Pembridge Minstrel, Tregoyd Tor, Irn Bru, Glenaig Solo Dancer, Meridian, Rococo, Sutton Superstition and many more. North Flight ridden by David Barker represented Britain at the Tokyo Olympics as did Madison Time ridden by Harvey Smith at the Mexico Olympics. The success of the part bred is not limited to the UK as they are equally successful in all disciplines in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Many young pure breds are being exported today and they are all highly thought of and in great demand in their new environments.
It is hard to believe that such a versatile and talented animal is still on the Rare Breed Survival Trust's Register as Category 1.
To end, I would like to quote two lines from a poem by Sir J.D. Paul printed in the Whitby Gazette in 1879:
"All things that live have parallel, save one:
The Cleveland Bay Horse, he alone has none!"
Copyright retained by Liz Worthy, CBHS