By Nigel Cowgill
In the United Kingdom, many of the present horse breed societies originated in the 1880's when there was a strong desire to put many breeds on a formal footing. The Cleveland Bay Horse Society was formed in 1884 to preserve the pure Cleveland Bay that had been in decline since the 1860's.
This new Society set upon to catalogue the Breed's history and the first Volume of the Cleveland Bay Studbook was published in September 1884. This was a retrospective volume featuring stallions foaled prior to January 1s, 1880. The Studbook was a huge bonus for the breed, as it was a register for the horses that would verify their pedigree and that would have an impact on the value of the horse in terms of trade.
100 horses were however omitted from the Studbook, as the stallions required three direct crosses and mares two direct crosses of Cleveland Bay blood. The decision not to register these horses incensed those whose stock could not be register with an existing breed society. This lead to the formation of the Yorkshire Coach Horse Society in 1886 where many of these rejected horses found a home. This Society claimed the Yorkshire Coach Horse as a pure breed of horse but many Cleveland Bays were registered with both Societies, which lead to confusion to the public as to which horses were pure. (After several futile efforts to unite these two Societies, it wasn't until 1938 when the purpose for the existence of the Coachhorse had gone that the Societies formally amalgamated).
During the WW1 years, the decline in numbers caused the society to look at stock levels and was decided many mares were desirable but lacked detail of pedigree or had only one cross of coach horse (Yorkshire Coach Horse) but still had the stamp of Cleveland Bays. A special grading register with the CBHS was set up in 1920 and a number of mares were entered. This register continues to the present. At this time, the Society formed the Cleveland Bay Syndicate to purchase stallions to service mares around the North Yorks Moors. After a time, it was realized a breeding bottleneck was occurring due to extensive inbreeding and a Cleveland Bay stallion (Farnley Exchange) was imported from the United States as an outcross in 1940's.
By the 1960's the breed was once again in decline. Her Majesty the Queen stepped in to purchase a colt called Mulgrave Supreme from export and this resulted in a renewed interest in the breed and a period of great breed prosperity followed. Mulgrave Supreme can be found in virtually all of the modern day Cleveland Bay pedigrees.
The Cleveland Bay Horse Society remains the home of the Studbook, part-bred and grading registry, initiated a breeding database (SPARKS) to assist members in breeding the pure Cleveland and is participating with the European Union changes in the horse industry.