History of the Russian Riding Breed

The Orlov breed

In the seventies of the 18th century, Count Aleksey Orlov-Chesmensky, having retired to the estate of Khrenovoye, proceeded to create his own riding breed. Qualities of foreign riding breeds did not suit the famous commander. He decided to create his own breed of riding horses adapted to the Russian climate, the conditions of keeping, feeding and nurturing, suitable for the parade, the manege, and the cavalry service. Like many breeders of the «Golden age of breed formation”, Count Orlov used standard recipes of the time as a basis involving Arabic and English thoroughbred horses, as well as Spanish, Danish,Lippician, Turkish, Turkmen and Persian horses.

In the beginning, there was a period of interbreeding. The best horses were obtained with Asian-Danish, (or Asian-Lippician and Asian-Spanish) and Arabian-English interbreeding. From the combination of Asian and Arabian breeds, outstanding horses were obtained; however, the English-Danish crossbreeds were the least successful.Under the English-Arabian crossing, Felkersam I and in the case of the Asiatic-Arabic Saltan II were obtained. They became the main stallions in the formation of the breed.

A. Orlov became the first breeder to apply the method of complex reproductive crossing.Pedigrees of his horses consisted of a complex of more than two breeds (three to four breeds). The best horses of the riding branch of the Khrenovskoy stud farm in the second ascending series of pedigrees had mares and stallions of all four breed groups: Asian, Spanish, English and Arabian, or their hybrids among themselves.A. Orlov tested such combinations himself. The best breeding stallions and mares were born due to the repeated crossing of hybrids with hybrids received from other original forms.Only with such four-breed complex, the horses obtained a swan neck, proud walking, flexibility in the joints, and the intelligence in dressage for high school.It was due to this crossing that the Count’s favorite stallion Svirepy II appeared from the Asian-Arabic Saltan II and English-Lippician or English-Danish Ujutnaya.

The next stage of the stud’s work consisted of a combination of stallions and mares of the same complex. The use of close related mating was quite rare, although the desired type of horses was secured by moderate inbreeding. Typical pedigrees of horses had common ancestral names in III, IV, and V generations.The further way of development of the breed was the introduction of a number of independent male lines laid down by A. Orlov and continued by V. Shishkin.

Under Count Orlov and V. Shishkin, the stud farm was repeatedly replenished with Arabian, Persian, Turkmen and English thoroughbred stallions, which were used for recurrent and industrial crossings. The best stallions and mares received from the return cross with the eastern producers remained in the stud farm.

By 1802, the breed of the Orlov riding horses was created. There were four lines running from Saltan II in the stud, and four lines from Felkersam I, the lines of Polkan II and Arab. There were magnificent stallions: Svirepy I, Svirepy II from both Saltan II and Uyutnya, Felkersam IV (Felekersam I-Fedyachikha).These horses amazed the contemporaries with their forms, movements and were examples of a riding horse of that epoch.Subsequently, V. Shishkin created the lines of Roulette and Saturn from English ancestors.

What kind of horse was the Orlov riding horse of the mid-19th century could be judged from the engravings of N. Sverchkov, which depicts the best stallions of the Khrenovskoy stud: Jashma II, Ashonok II, Glazunchik II.

The description of the Orlov riding horse’s exterior was given by Prince S. Urusov: «The Orlov riding horses of medium height, are remarkably beautiful and elegant. This is a type of a riding horse for the manege: with a graceful Arabian head, small ears and beautiful eyes, an excellently curved and set neck, a fairly wide chest, a straight back, strong buds, a well-developed crupper with a magnificent tail section; full hips; thin legs, dry and muscular, good pasterns, hard hooves; with smart movements and mild temper ».

Great importance for the formation of desirable qualities in horses of the new breed was the system of their training. All stallions and most of the mares passed the manege dressage before entering the breeding stock of the stud.In a number of cases, horses were tested in races.

The Rostopchin breed

Almost 25 to 30 years later, in 1802, Count F. Rostopchin began to work on developing of another domestic breed of riding horses – the Rostopchin breed.

In contrast to the manege riding horses of A. Orlov, F. Rostopchin wanted to create a breed of horses that could resemble the best representatives of the Arabian breed in its forms, with the interior not inferior to the best English racehorses.

At the first stage, the interbreedings in Rostopchin’s stud farm were made according to the same scheme: the father is Arabic, and the mother is a purebred riding horse.In addition, Arabian stallions were partly interbred with English-Don, English-Danish, Karabakh and Kabardian female producers.During the Count’s life, no new half-English mares were introduced into the breed; the breed was fished only from the mares obtained by first crossing of English mares with Arabian stallions.

The resulting crossbreed stock was strictly selected according to the exterior and performance. In the future, a simple reproductive cross method was used, with the use of closely related breeding in some cases. Representatives of three breeds are rarely found in the pedigree of Rostopchin horses. Only as an exception, there were cases of recurrent crossing with one of the original breeds.

Almost all the horses were trained and tested. The Count kept them as thoroughbred horses and, unlike A. Orlov, avoided the manege.

According to V. Koptev: “In a close circle of his Annenskiy stud in Voronezh province Rostopchin repeated what the whole country of England had done, which created its horses from the Arabians transferred to English soil. Thus, the Rostopchin Russian riding breed composed of acclimatized Arabians (with a small admixture of English blood in the first crossing), in the 4th, 5th and 6th generations rode races and often defeated the English thoroughbred horses , imported and transferred to us in their original form”

Such Rostopchin stallions as Anubis, Phoenix, Chlopets and Postrel, successfully competed with the thoroughbred riding horses of the best studs of the time: the Mosolov’s stud, the Lunin’s stud, the Petrovsky stud and the Voeikov’ stud.

What kind of a Rostopchin horse used to be can be judged from engravings of the XIX century, where the most famous horses of the breed were depicted: Anubis and Roulette.

The Rostopchin horses differed from those of Orlov also in the exterior. They were less smart because Turkish, Persian and other horses of the kind were not used for their breeding. They were distinguished by graceful shape and beautiful movements, were smaller, with a shorter neck and a stronger bond hull with a loin, the pasterns were shorter and more elastic. The Rostopchins had a worse temperament compared to that of the Orlov’ riding horses, but they were much faster.

The Orlov-Rostopchin breed

The further destiny of these two breeds was affected by the unfavorable economic situation, since in the 30s-40s of the XIX century in Russia the need of the army for riding horses was reduced by almost 5 times,as well as the mismanagement of pedigree work in the Khrenovskoy stud.

In 1845, the Khrenovskoy and the Annensky stud farms were purchased by the government and the horses of the Annensky stud were transferred to the Khrenovskoy. The work with the Orlov breed was reduced to two lines – Yashma 1 and Favorit 2. By this time, the Rostopchin breed, because of its small number, confined to closely related breeding.Soon the “hybrid department” was introduced at the stud – the Orlov-Rostopchin. Gradually Rostopchin, and then the Orlov-Rostopchin female producers were selected under Orlov stallions. Despite such absorption of the Rostopchin breed, its signs were strong and independent and remained in the progeny for a long time.

At the beginning of the XIX century in the Streletsky and Limarevsky stud farms in Ukraine, the producers from the Khrenovskoy were widely used. New types and breeds of horses were created. Thus, the horses of the Orlov horse breed, and later the Orlov-Rostopchin, influenced horse breeding of the country as improves. The Orlov-Rostopchin horses were used in the creation of the Streletsky, the Kustanai, the Tersky, the Don and the Ukrainian breeds.

Despite the glory and worldwide recognition at the end of the XIX and the beginning of the XX centuries, the persecution of the riding breed continued. In 1883, the Orlov-Rostopchin branch of the Khrenovskoy stud was transferred to Ukraine to the Belovodsk stud farm and later the breed was kept in the Limarevsky state stud farm and in private studs of D Romanov, Stankevich, Shurinov, Galakhova and others.

The Orlov-Rostopchin breed, in the early XX century, was called the Russian riding horse. Numerous wars of the epoch: World I, Civil and World II, have led to almost complete destruction of horses of the Russian horse breed.

Throughout the century, the identity, typical features and great history of the breed and the fruitful result of the work of the two great breeders competed against many unfavorable historical, political and economic circumstances. The history of the breed continued only due to the constant attempts of breeders to get together its remaining representatives.

However, numerous attempts to restore the breed ad no result. The surviving representatives of the Russian horse breed were used as improvers of local horses in the State stud farms or as an unnecessary English-Arab annex to riding horse breeding.

The breed has irretrievably disappeared; it was possible to reconstruct it at the end of the 20th century only using contemporary material, taking into account the exterior and interior features of the disappeared Russian horse breed.

The former glory and suitable exterior and sporting qualities suggested possible successful work with the remaining representatives of the Russian horse breed. The most successful experience of using horses with the blood of the Russian riding horse breed turned out in the work of creating Ukrainian and reconstructing the Russian horse breeds of horses, where a very valuable and homogeneous line ran from Bespechny – the son of the Russian horse stallion Buket and the Trakehnermare Plastik.

The Russian riding horse breed – a new life

In order to preserve that “drop of blood” of the original domestic Orlov-Rostopchin breed with its characteristic qualities, in accordance with the Resolution No. 351 of 17/04/1980, the work began at the Starozhilovsky stud farm on the re-creation of the Russian riding horse breed. The work was carried out with the scientific guidance of the Department of Horse Breeding of the Temiryazev Moscow Agricultural Academy.

The model of a horse of the Russian horse breed of the last century served as a benchmark for the creation of a domestic sports horse primarily for dressage competitions.

Common exterior features of the horse breed under recreation were as follows:

– Strong physique, dry, sometimes with signs of tenderness.

– The color is black and brown, preferably without marks.

– The movements are productive, elastic, and a little high at the trot.

– Temperament was energetic, good-natured.

– Horses were notprecocious but durable.

– The average measurements at the age of four years wee: stallions (164-163-186-20.5), mares (162-162-184-20).

For such purpose, the stud was equipped with stallions and mares close to the lost Russian horse breed in type, exterior or breed origin.

The breed was recreated by the method of complex reproductive crossbreeding. The initial breeds were: the Thoroughbred, the Arabian, the Trakehner, the Orlov trotter, the Akhal- Teke, as well as the Russian trotter and crossbreeds of the Russian riding breed. For the breeding stock horses were selected with a type close to the desired model, as well as belonging to the breeds, which had been used by Orlov and Rostopchin to create their own breeds.

Since 1961 in the Starozhilovsky stud farm, horses of the Trakehner breed had been bred. After 1978, many Trakehner female producers were rejected or transferred to other studs. The remaining Trakehner, English-Trakehner and Arabian-Trakehner mares served as the material for the re-creation of the Russian horse breed.

At the first stage in 1979-86, the work was carried out on the formation of the producing breeding stock of the breed. The female stock was replenished mainly by the English thoroughbred, the Ukrainianriding horses with blood of the Russian horse breed and the Orlovl trotter mares. Mares of the Tersky, the Arabian, the English-Kabardin breeds and others were represented in single specimens. The stallions of the English thoroughbred, the Arabian, the Ukrainian riding horses and a small number of the Akhal-Teke horses.

The following interbreeding was effected:

– Crossing of horses that have blood of the Russian horse breed in their pedigree, among themselves with the use of moderate inbreeding on the stallion Buket of the Russian horse breed. The aim of such crossing was the expansion of the gene pool, accumulation of blood and getting horses with pronounced features of the Russian horse breed.

– Trakehner, English and Arabian-Trakehner mares were crossed with Thoroughbred, Arabian and Ukrainian stallions with traces of blood of the Russian horse breed. The Russian trotting stallion Igranny was also used. The purpose of such crosses was to obtain horses of the English-Arabian-Trakehner complex, to follow the Orlov’s way of selection, who used the mares of European half-breeds very close to the Trakehner breed in combination with Arabian and the English-Arabian stallions. A good result was obtained from crosses of the English-Trakehner mares with the Ukrainian horse stallions.

– Pure riding, Arabian and Orlov trotting mares were interbred mainly with stallions bearing the blood of the Russian horse breed, in some cases with stallions of thoroughbred and Arabian breeds.

By 1985, the mares obtained from the Trakehner, English-and Arabian-Trakehner female and male producers bearing the blood of the Russian horse breed are entering the stud’s breed stock, and work was carried out to set up families. The plan was to reduce the use of mares of the Trakehner breed. Trakehner mares were discarded or improved by thoroughbred, Arabian or Ukrainian horse stallions.

The next stage of the work covered the period 1987-91, the main goal of which was to obtain the desired model of the horse of the Russian horse breed and to increase the number of such horses to 60-70% in the breeding stock of the Starozhilovsky stud farm. The stallions and mares of the Akhal-Teke breed were involved into breeding. The use the stallions grown in the stud bearing the blood of the Russian horse breed also increased. Nine groups were distinguished in the female breeding stock (crosses of the Russian riding breed, the Trakehner, the English-Trakehner, the Arabian-Trakehner, trotters and their crosses and other crosses).

There was a scheme in the inter-breed selection. However, in spite of this, the best crossbreeds were searched for; crosses were attempted with Tersky, English-Kabardian, English-Hungarian and English-Arabian mares.

The principal points to observe in interbreed crossings were the following:

– crossing of the crossbreds having Russian riding horse blood between themselves to consolidate the desired type; crossbreeds with blood of the Russian riding horses were crossed with stallions of English thoroughbred , Arabian, Akhal-Teke in a smaller amount – 44.7%.

– crossing of Trakehner, English-Arabian and Trakehner mares with crossbreed stallions of Russian riding breed, English thoroughbred , Arabian, Akhal-Teke, with the purpose of completing the mare breeding stock – 32.6%.

– English thoroughbred, Arabian, Akhal-Teke and Ukrainian riding stallions were employed to cover mares with blood of trotting breeds, Arabian, English thoroughbred, Akhal-Teke and other crossbreds. The purpose of such crosses was to obtain different inter-breed crossbreeds, to determine the best combinations – 22.7%.

The planned reduction of use of Trakehner mares was not carried out, since the quality of the young stock obtained from them was estimated rather high. The best Trakehner foaling mares (especially the daughters of Nargil) were recommended for use in further work.

By 1991, 73% of mares were born and grown in the stud. More than half of them carried different share of blood of the Russian riding breed. There were nine foaling mare families founded in the stud, those by Delta, Palm, Chronosphere, Khaura, Khrupkaya, Basma, Inspection, Grust, Bespeka. In the process of breeding work, nests or related groups of mares, appear. The line of the Russian riding stallion Buket was developing through the Russian-Trakehner Bespechny. The stud used the children of Bespechny: Nabeg, Imbir, Kubatur, Razbor and their sons and grandchildren. The line of English thoroughbred Gunib was formed through his sons Griefel and Gambit.

By 1997, the breeding stock consisted of 97% of mares grown at the stud. 70 % of the mares in the stud had Russian riding ancestors in the pedigree, 22 foaling mares were inbred for Buket.

The selection work concentrated on achieving the desired parameters characteristic of a horse of the Russian riding horse breed, and increasing the blood share of the Russian riding, purebred English, Arabic and Akhal-Teke breeds. There was a completion of the formation of the stud’s breeding stock and fixing of the desired breed qualities.

Taking into consideration the limited number of horses included in the work, the most rigorous system of selection methods was used according to the developed instructions and methods:

– assessment of exterior of young stock at the age of two years after the tests;

– assessment of exterior of the breeding stock once every five years;

– evaluation of stallions and mares by the quality of the young stock;

-assessment of the development of young stock with a detailed analysis of the results;

-careful programming of the breeding selection;

-selection of mares and stallions for self-repair according to a set of characteristics:

-origin (breed qualities), expression of the desired type, measurements and indices,

– assessment of the exterior, colour and marks,

-sports performance.

Annually, the young stock of the stud, at the age from one and a half to two years, undergo an eight-month cycle of training and stud tests of sports performance.

In 1997 due to the conducted breeding activities, the completition of work was declared on the reconstruction, actually the creation of a new half-breed horse – the Russian riding horse.

In 1999, the Russian riding horse breed was included in the “State Register of Selection Achievements Admitted to Use”.

The female breeding stock of the breed is about 200 heads. The process continues to consolidate the desirable qualities of the breed, and stability in transfer of hereditary properties to the young stock.