The history and work of ISBC, from the Committee’s beginnings in the 1970’s to the decisions made in recent years
Before the 1970s there was no proper international forum for the discussion of and decision on issues which were important to Stud Book Authorities across the world.
Initially Stud Book business was included in the agenda of the International Conference of Racing Authorities (ICRA) which met annually in Paris. It soon became apparent that there were sufficient matters of concern to Stud Book Authorities to justify the establishment of a separate body. The Paris Conference suggested to the major Stud Book Authorities that they meet to find a better way to tackle and resolve these issues. Although Stud Book Authorities had spent many years in relatively insular pursuit of their task of accurately recording and publishing details of all Thoroughbreds, the growing movement of racehorses and breeding stock required a new, consistent and modern approach, and it was the formation of ISBC in 1976 which saw positive steps taken to tackle this requirement.
The first annual meeting of the International Stud Book Conference was convened in 1976 by Weatherbys and its then Chairman, Christopher Weatherby. This meeting, and that held in 1977, were attended by the Stud Book Authorities of the major breeding countries i.e. Australia, France, Great Britain and Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, with a representative from the Organizacion Sud Americana de Fomento del Pura Sangre de Carrera (OSAF) representing the South American Stud Books.
Two further countries joined in the following years; Japan (from 1978) and India (from 1980).
Today those same Member countries continue to represent each of the Regions at the annual ISBC Conference.
Image from the International Stud Book Conference, October 21st 1976
Standing l-r: G.B. Morrison, B. J. Neazor, M. Pickering (partially obscured), C. E. Weatherby, W. J. McFadden, W.A.H. Thompson, Dr R. Devolz, D. Hedges Seated l-r: E. S. Blousson, C. S. Rainey, C. N. Weatherby, M. Blanc, B. Pichon
Membership and Regional Organisation
The ISBC started its life as a Conference but by 1979 it had moved on to operate as a Committee. Interest in the forum in those early years had grown rapidly and the original Members found that they needed to find an effective means of communicating with the many Stud Book Authorities around the world.
The nature and complexities of the subjects on the agenda meant that convening a meeting attended by all the Stud Book Authorities of the world was an impractical proposition and would make decision making difficult. It was decided that a better approach would be to operate via an annual meeting of a limited membership of principal Authorities, which would be timed to convene prior to the Paris Conference and tasked with communicating to all other Stud Book Authorities through the Secretariat and through regional meetings and conferences.
This arrangement prevails today. The membership of the International Stud Book Committee is therefore restricted and each member is charged with representing its Area of the globe and with liaising with all Stud Book Authorities in their Area.
Currently, the ISBC Regional Bodies are organised as follows:
Northern and Central America & Caribbean (7 Stud Books)
South America (O.S.A.F.) (9 Stud Books)
The European and African Stud Book Committee (35 Stud Books)
Asian Stud Book Committee (ASBC) and Oceania (19 Stud Books)
An annual meeting has been held every year since 1976. In 2015 the ISBC celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Evolution of Policy
The minutes of the first ISBC meeting record that it was decided to:
• set up an International forum for standardisation of Conditions of Entry for Stud Books;
• finalise criteria for promotion to Thoroughbred status;
• establish effective communication tools for dissemination of proposals and decisions to all Stud Book Authorities;
• create the ISBC as a separate but complementary organisation to the IFHA’s Paris Conference, with a Secretariat provided by Weatherbys, but with minutes circulated with those of the Paris Conference (later this was replaced by delivery of a report by the Chairman of the ISBC annually to the Paris Conference).
The early years of operation were occupied with tackling and reconciling the many different approaches and practices of the major Stud Book Authorities.
Key Discussions and Decisions
The following is a small selection of the many subjects which the ISBC has addressed in the past and which it continues to address now.
Definition of the Thoroughbred
This was the first major subject addressed in detail and required very careful consideration. Every member had a slightly different definition. This meant that certain horses, although accepted in their own domestic Stud Books, were not accepted in the Stud Books of other countries because of perceived pedigree flaws, often dating back well over a century. For an industry looking to international expansion this was an unacceptable barrier.
After a great deal of discussion, the Committee decided mutually to accept, without question, the pedigrees of every horse in each of its member’s Stud Books up to the beginning of 1980.
This pragmatic approach produced the very clear digestible practice now embodied in Article 12 of the International Agreement on Breeding and Racing – with the requirement that entry in a Thoroughbred Stud Book is now only dependent upon registration of antecedents of a produce in a Stud Book approved by the International Stud Book Committee. This important achievement has eradicated the old problem of one Stud Book Authority accepting a bloodline but another refusing to do so. It was a momentous decision in the history of the recording of thoroughbreds and removed considerable barriers to the movement and exchange of breeding stock.
Approved Stud Books
One of the main tasks which emerged from early discussions was the need to establish minimum standards of operation for Stud Book Authorities in order that Racing Authorities and the industry in general could be confident of the origins and identity of horses.
Not unlike the first subject mentioned this led to debate over many years and to an evolutionary approach resulting in present policy. Originally a two tier system was devised with ‘recognised’ and ‘approved’ Stud Books. Eventually this was simplified and the single status of ‘Approved’ was adopted. The ISBC therefore now maintains a list of Approved Stud Books on which the industry can rely.
ISBC bases Approval on a set of requirements which it uses both to monitor the performance of Stud Book Authorities already on the Approved List and to test the efficacy of emerging Stud Books seeking Approval.
This set of requirements, known as the Requirements and Guidelines for Gaining and Maintaining Approval as a Thoroughbred Stud Book, is continually reviewed and enhanced by ISBC, and covers procedures for registration of breeding stock, recording of breeding results, export and import movements, and publication of relevant data and issue of documentation.
is the current number of Approved Stud Books
Parentage Verification Testing
Blood Typing and, later, DNA analysis are tools which have become indispensable to the accurate recording of thoroughbreds worldwide. The ISBC has addressed and agreed protocols and standards whilst overseeing both the introduction of, initially, blood typing and more recently, highly effective DNA comparison testing. These advances have revolutionised the process of recording the birth of foals bringing with DNA certainty over the accuracy of published pedigrees. From 2002 onwards all foals recorded in an Approved Stud Book have been required to be parentage tested.
ISBC also ensures that common and effective standards of laboratory testing are maintained, by requiring certification which is provided by the International Society of Animal Geneticists (ISAG). Approved Stud Books are required to use a laboratory for the parentage verification of Thoroughbreds which has achieved Rank 1 in the biennial ISAG tests.
Artificial Insemination/Embryo Transfer
These were amongst the first issues discussed by the Committee and they continue to find a prominent place on the current agenda. Artificial insemination and embryo transfer are not accepted Thoroughbred breeding practices. Article 12 of the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering states the following:
“A natural gestation must take place in, and delivery must be from, the body of the same Mare in which the Foal was conceived. Any Foal resulting from or produced by the processes of Artificial Insemination, Embryo Transfer or Transplant, Cloning or any other form of genetic manipulation not herein specified, shall not be eligible for recording in a Thoroughbred Stud Book approved by the International Stud Book Committee.”
ISBC has determined that modification of the heritable genome of a prospective or registered Thoroughbred, during its conception, gestation or at any stage thereafter in its existence, will result in that horse permanently forfeiting its status as a Thoroughbred and where applicable being removed from the Stud Book (see Article 12 of the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering).
Promotion of Mares and Stallions to Vehicle Status
All Stud Books have a common approach to the eligibility of evolving bloodlines. Thoroughbred status is achieved after 8 successive crosses of thoroughbred blood and the produce of the seventh cross, if accepted by ISBC, is designated a “vehicle” mare/stallion.
Of vital importance to both Stud Book and Racing Authorities, the ISBC has driven a number of initiatives to improve standards of horse identification. This includes introduction of unique life numbers (UELN), standards for written and graphic descriptions, recommendations on microchip implant location and requirements for the use of ISO standards for microchips and readers.
In 2015, ISBC introduced the “Compliance Process” and alongside this the “Declaration of Compliance”, a document which each Approved Stud Book was required to sign attesting to the fact that their Stud Book Authority complies in full with a set of Key Requirements highlighted from the Requirements and Guidelines for Gaining and Maintaining Approval as a Thoroughbred Stud Book.
Stud Books which are found not to comply with the Key Requirements can be categorised as “Under Assessment”, a status which places additional requirements on any exports. Having been placed “Under Assessment”, a Stud Book which is unable to resolve the problems which have been identified risks having the Approved status of their Stud Book revoked by ISBC. Full details of the current status of Approved Stud Books can be found in Appendix 8 of the IFHA’s International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering (IABRW) click here
A Compliance Liaison Director was appointed by ISBC in 2016 to carry out an inspection of each Approved Stud Book worldwide over the next two years.