Many Warmbloods are imported to the United States, so it is important to understand all of the tools at your disposal, including registration papers, when researching your horse’s past.
If your horse was born in Europe, or received his papers from an American registry that is associated with a European parent registry, such as the GOV Oldenburg or RPSI, your horse’s papers will look like a bound passport with a clear vinyl cover and the information will be presented in German/French/etc., with an English translation below. Watch the date formats since they are written European style as day/month/year, not the month/day/year American format. Most passports also have a scanable barcode on the front page, as well as the name and address of the issuing registry clearly marked. Mares entered into a Mare Book and stallions licensed for breeding should have a registry stamp inside the passport – each registry marks their papers slightly differently, so it’s important to call a registry official with any questions.
In general, pink paper is associated with the upper, or main mare and stud books of the various registries, which is why you may have heard the term ‘pink-papered’ in reference to a mare. Many registries use white, beige or gray paper for their COP (Certificate of Pedigree), designating a horse that does not meet the pedigree or other requirements for entry into the main books. A COP may also be called Register B (for Dutch horses) or Stud Book II (RPSI).
It’s easy to mistake the initial white page of a bound passport for the white paper of a COP. This white document is most likely the Certificate of Ownership, and is not bound into the passport, but rather folded inside as proof of ownership of the horse. Horses registered with an American registry such as the American Warmblood Registry, American Warmblood Society, American Holsteiner Horse Association or ISR Oldenburg will have a heavy-duty paper registration certificate, and the information will be in English. Your horse’s registration number, or life number, has a story to tell, though, regardless of which brand he sports.
To start investigating your horse’s country or region of birth, look at your horse’s life number (or Lebensnummer your horse is German registered). German registries often use an alphabetical code at the beginning of the registration number to designate the country of birth. For example, Germany is DE, Holland NLD, and Belgium BEL.
For a quick glance at a typical German-bred horse’s age, look to the next number of his registration number. Horses born in 1999 and earlier have a 3 as the first digit of their registration number after the DE, whereas horses born in 2000 and after begin with a 4.
In Germany, each breeding district has its own brand, and a two-digit code which shows up as the second and third numerals of the horse’s registration number. If you look at the map you can see the different brands, region by region.
Most regions have more than one brand – these are for their Warmbloods, ponies, regional draft horse breeds, and specialty breeds such as Haflinger and Icelandics.
Each region also has a two-digit number (hand-written onto each region on this particular map) placed at the beginning of each horse’s registration number, revealing where that horse was bred. Hanoverians born in Germany sport a “31” as the second and third numbers of their registration number, Zweibrückers (the breed associated with the Rheinland Pfalz-Saar registry) born in Germany or abroad, a “51”, whereas German-bred Holsteiners, for example, use the numbers “21.” Most registries also add the last two digits of the year of birth to the end of a horse’s life registration number. So that a horse with the number DE 4515160007104 is known to be a Zweibrücker born in 2004.
If your horse is a Holsteiner, his or her sex, color and stamm (or dam-line) is right there in black and white, as a permanent part of the registration number. So for example a Holsteiner with the number 840003 214 1107 10 can be read as: 840003 = Holsteiner born in the US; 214 breaks down to 2 = colt, 1 = bay, 4 = German stamm; 1107 is a unique machine-generated number starting at 1000 each year, so this was the 107th foal registered that year; and finally, the last two digits 10 = born in 2010.
The registration number printed on your Warmblood’s papers is specific to his or her registry, but it is also part of a longer number called the UELN (Universal Equine Life Number), which is a 15-digit number that is becoming the standard worldwide numbering system to identify a horse throughout his or her lifetime. The UELN uses standard numeric codes to identify a horse’s country of birth and registry, all the while including the horse’s original registration number given by his registry inside the 15-digit number. A UELN won’t contain any initial letters – instead, each country is given a numerical code, so a German horse’s UELN will begin with 276, a Dutch horse with 528, and a Belgian Warmblood horse with 056. This number is a permanent part of your horse’s identity, to be tied to his performance, ownership and breeding records. While not every American organization uses the UELN, it is becoming the standard worldwide.
Hugh Bellis-Jones, Executive Director of the American Hanoverian Society, says his registry was the first North American registry to adopt the UELN back in 2001, and also one of the first member studbooks of the WBFSH (World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses) to do so. Hugh is an adamant supporter of the UELN system and believes it will benefit American breeders, riders and owners to know that their horses’ performance and breeding records will always correspond to one permanent lifelong number. He also hopes that the USEF and USDF, which so far have assigned their own numbers to horses allowing for the possibility of horses having multiple identification numbers, will jump on board and start making a commitment to tie performance to pedigree using the UELN. “Of course it’s one thing to devise a worldwide universal numbering system, and quite another to get it adopted worldwide,” Hugh remarks. “The UELN basically creates a common language between organizations, and the use of a UELN, I believe, will become European Union law.”
Patricia Donohue of the American Holsteiner Horse Association says the UELN is a hassle but a necessary evil to get everybody on the same page. Patricia notes, “We don’t do a passport, and I hope we never do—but we do use the UELN, as does any registry that is a member of the WBFSH. There’s a lot of information in these numbers.” “Prior to 1993 all Holsteiners imported to the U.S. and inspected here were issued another set of papers and a different registration number, and that horse’s performance was lost to Germany. Nobody needs two birth certificates!” Patricia says, laughing. “Now horses are dual registered and keep their registration number, which is amended into the U.S. books. If approved for the German Holsteiner studbook, the horse is automatically approved in the U.S. too. One UELN stays with the horse for life.”
“There are still a lot of Warmblood horses out there with multiple USEF numbers, and a lot of trainers don’t want that changed,” she adds. “The horse community in general here, as opposed to in Germany, is reluctant to have farms and horses permanently and officially ID’d. They think it’s like big brother breathing down their necks.”
Ultimately, though, what does having a unique UELN mean to your Warmblood? First of all, horses registered with a UELN can be identified readily, worldwide, from their registration number and microchip, and their performance records and pedigrees accessed. Second, the UELN will help limit dual registration, which is the bane of registry databases everywhere. Imagine trying to calculate breeding-value statistics on horses competing under two or three (or more) different registration numbers and names. These horses’ performance results are lost forever to those building a database of information on a sire and dam’s production. And how about researching the background of that fabulous 4th level dressage horse you’ve found for an excellent (or too excellent) price. In the grand scheme of things, the UELN is essentially a common language between all organizations registering horses. There’s hope that with more information on the genetics of performance horses available for comparison and review, breeding can be raised to a higher standard.
This article first appeared in Warmbloods Today and is reprinted here with full permission.
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