Updated 18th December 2020
Registrar: Mrs. Stella Dutchyn. 83 High Street, Walcott, Lincoln, Lincs, LN4 3SW
Tel. 07966 576061
The Falabella Studbook (first known as the Dutch Falabella Stamboek) was established in 1995 after Mrs. Reina Knaap-Mulder obtained the coveted ‘Daughter Studbook’ authorisation status from the Mother Studbook in Argentina, the Asociacion De Criadores De Caballos Falabella - the ACCF.
In 1997 Mrs. Susan Eckholdt had raised the subject of UK Falabella registration with Sra. Maria Luisa de Falabella on a visit to Buenos Aires, discussing the possibility of creating a British Studbook which would be run along the same lines as the Dutch Falabella Studbook which later became the European Falabella Studbook/FSE.
In 2002 Mrs. Stella Dutchyn established The British Falabella Studbook, and we obtained ‘Passport Issuing Organisation’ Authority (PIO) from the Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) shortly after that.
Communication from Alun Michael MP/DEFRA to Douglas Hogg MP.
In 2011 DEFRA removed our PIO status in error.
Then ignored our protestations for eight years.
The Full Falabella
[please note that included here is information that only became known when disclosed by DEFRA in late 2018 after a series of Freedom of Information requests]
Since the 1960s, Susan Eckholdt has been involved with horses. In 1991 she focused on a single breed - the Falabella miniature horse - the only miniature horse breed in the world. She established the Equuleus Falabella Stud.
Mrs Eckholdt met with Maria Luisa de Falabella in Buenos Aires in 1997, becoming UK Representative for the Argentinian-based Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella (ACCF) - the Mother Studbook for the Falabella breed.
In 2001 Mrs Eckholdt and Stella Dutchyn discussed forming a British-based daughter studbook to the ACCF and subsequently authorisation was obtained from Maria Luisa de Falabella.
The British Falabella Studbook then became the UK’s sole Falabella representative.
In recent times the British Falabella Studbook has become The Falabella Studbook, assuming a European-wide role previously shared with the Dutch-based pan-European Falabella studbook, Stamboek, which has ceased operating.
It appears that from 21st February 2005, DEFRA – the UK Government’s Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs – misconstrued information related to a resignation from the International Miniature Horse and Pony Society (IMHPS). Officers of DEFRA then based their future actions upon this falsely interpreted event.
The resignation of Maria Angelica Falabella (stepdaughter of the late Maria Luisa de Falabella) had in good faith until that date in 2005 been associated with the IMHPS as their nominal president. Maria Angelica Falabella had learned that the IMHPS was misrepresenting the Falabella breed and she terminated her support. She had never held the Mother Studbook and so had no responsibility or authority for it. This fact is seemingly un-noted by DEFRA.
DEFRA then seemingly confused this rejection of the IMHPS by Maria Angelica Falabella as a rejection of relations with Susan Eckholdt and the British Falabella Studbook.
At no time in their long relationship has Maria Luisa Falabella or her originating Falabella horse breed stud and farm in Argentina, the Asociacion De Criadores De Caballos Falabella (ACCF), had anything other than harmonious and beneficial communications and resultant mutual benefits with Susan Eckholdt, Stella Dutchyn and the British Falabella Studbook.
From 15th May 1998 Susan Eckholdt was the sole UK spokesperson for the Falabella breed on behalf of Maria Luisa de Falabella and the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella. To clarify any public or private confusion, the continuing status of that relation with the British Falabella Studbook has in recent times been restated by the Official Registry Manager and Head of the ACCF in the Republic of Argentina.
DEFRA’s administration of their role and exercise of their authority appears to have been badly conducted. DEFRA executives are shown to have exchanged with each other misrepresentations and untruths about the BFS, its actors and supporters. In so doing, deep damage to the reputation and esteem with which the Falabella breed was held has occurred.
In empowering the IMHPS, DEFRA implicitly approved a body to issue passports for animals that cannot demonstrate their purity relative to the true Falabella line. DEFRA unwittingly aided and abetted over an extended period what should be considered to be a fraud.
It should be noted that the International Miniature Horse and Pony Society (IMHPS) has more recently changed hands. Both Susan Eckholdt and The Falabella Studbook wish it to be clear that the new management of the IMHPS are working carefully to ensure the correct identity and passporting of Falabella horses is maintained.
Can DEFRA quantify the number of pedigree Falabella sales lost to supposedly pure-bred horses but actually part-bred? Horses that have undercut the expense of maintaining a purity of lineage that have not required the special import for breeding from prime stock? The delusion of buying a claimed pure-bred Falabella that goes on to sire an impure line?
This issue is one of poor regulation: an uncomprehending executive in a government department prepared for several years to assert their ignorance to the detriment of the very thing they should be protecting.
In this execution of UK Government business, DEFRA has diminished its respect as an administrative authority and the esteem with which such a body should be held.
Should a buyer have been tempted to buy what they believed to be a beautiful purebred Falabella for £1,500, why would they have wished to buy something apparently similar at £5,000? Especially if that cheaper horse had a passport and an identity certified by a DEFRA-approved passport issuing organisation? Expert understanding would realise something to be wrong. In trade generally, so-called 'bargains' often are. A £1,500 horse described as a Falabella that is not registered with the Mother or a daughter studbook or without DNA certification is very likely to be fraudulent.
Both Mother and daughter studbooks state that a part bred should never be called a Falabella. Harm has been caused to hapless buyers who believe that their horse is a pure bred Falabella, and is not. Harm has been caused to breeders through lost sales of pure bred Falabella horses and the devaluing of breed reputation.
These parties are entitled to now seek redress.
The earliest recorded date of what is known as The Falabella is 1868, when Patrick Newtall developed in Argentina a herd and specific breeding methods. His son-in-law Juan Falabella continued this work. The Falabella breed registry known as the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella (ACCF) was initiated by Julio Cesar Falabella in the 1940s.
In 1997 Susan Eckholdt travelled to Buenos Aires to visit Maria Luisa de Falabella, widow of Julio Cesar Falabella. This was to pursue her interest in the Falabella miniature horse breed. She and Maria Luisa discussed at that time the subject of developing a UK Falabella registration of purebred horses to be run as a Daughter Studbook working in close conjunction with Sra Falabella’s Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella (ACCF) the mother studbook for the Falabella breed.
On 15th May 1998 Susan Eckholdt was appointed the sole UK spokesperson for the Falabella breed on behalf of Maria Luisa de Falabella and the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella (ACCF). In Maria Luisa de Falabella's later years and until the end of her life, Susan Eckholdt continued to be her representative, responsible for the maintenance and reputation of the Falabella breed and criticising the fraudulent marketing of the breed in the UK.
Discussion of the creation of a British Falabella Studbook (BFS) focussed upon it being run along lines similar to the already established Dutch Falabella Studbook. This was initiated in 1995 and then known as Stamboek Europa. Having changed its name, it latterly became known as the European Falabella Studbook (FSE).
Studbook registered and therefore purebred Falabellas possess original studbook documents. These are used to trace through the 150-year history and enable accurate verification of the lineage and therefore origins of a Falabella. Both the father and mother animals must be 100% purebred. Each of the male and female ancestors must descend from and be demonstrably traceable back to the Establiciementos Falabella Ranch in Argentina.
The Falabella Breed Standard has been approved by the Argentine State and certified by their genealogical records. The only entity authorised by the Argentine State to keep these records is the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella (ACCF). All records are filed with the Argentine Association for Horse Development (AAFE).
Maria Luisa Falabella had in 1997 spoken of her knowledge of and dissatisfaction with the “gross exaggeration” of UK Falabella numbers. Many animals that were then being claimed to be Falabella could not be traced back to Establecimientos Falabella. As such they were not recognized by the mother studbook of the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella and could not be legitimately described as purebred. These horses were not allowed onto the pan-European register Stamboek Europa, which was at that time the only other authorized studbook.
The British Falabella Studbook (BFS) became established in 2002, when Stella Dutchyn obtained ‘Daughter Studbook’ authorization status from the mother studbook in Argentina, the Asociacion De Criadores De Caballos Falabella. The BFS then became a ‘Passport Issuing Organisation’ (PIO) authorised by the Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Most recently, on 9th August 2018, the UK authority of the BFS was re-stated by the body responsible for the origin of the Falabella breed, the Asociacion De Criadores De Caballos Falabella. They wrote:
To whom it may concern:
I hereby state that The British Falabella Studbook, held and managed by Ms. Stella Dutchyn, is recognized by the Registry of the Minihorses Falabella and the Association of Breeders of Falabella Horses (ACCF in Spanish).
No other entity in the United Kingdom holds such status.
Alejandro C. Gramajo
Official Registry Manager and Head of the ACCF in the Republic of Argentina
21st May 2004: DEFRA had commissioned a report about the British Falabella Studbook, now delivered to them by an independent provider of agricultural and environmental consultancy, ADAS. This report was conducted by Geoff Fairfoull, a Senior Equine Consultant. He confirmed ACCF recognition of BFS and describes a relationship of “full reciprocity” between them. The report also states in relation to the daughter studbook that “To be eligible for inclusion in the pure-bred register a horse’s breeding must be known and verifiable by DNA analysis”.
The report accepts the ACCF requirement that only horses certified as pure-bred are entitled to be described as Falabella. It also says that,
“It is a recommendation of the Equine Identification Working Group that there should only be one society for each breed. There are currently three Societies claiming to operate a studbook for Falabellas in the UK and potentially a fourth with the recognition of the BFS.
If it were held that the ACCF in Argentina is the legitimate arbiter on the Falabella studbook and only the BFS have been recognised by the ACCF, then the BFS would appear to have a legitimate claim to be the holders of the studbook in the UK. This approach would be consistent with that adopted in Holland with the recognition of the Dutch Stamboek register.
If such an approach were adopted then recognition in respect of pure-bred Falabellas would need to be withdrawn (if given) from the other Societies as they could not operate as daughter societies if they were not recognised by the mother studbook”.
A claimed Premier Register of Falabella Miniature Horses was established by The International Miniature Horse and Pony Society (IMHPS). It has never been authorized by the ACCF to register Falabellas. IMHPS were authorised by DEFRA to become a horse passport issuing organisation, in which period their advertising falsely claimed that they were the “original studbook and governing body of the Worldwide Register of the Falabella Miniature Horse”.
The IMHPS also publicly claimed to be “the only official Falabella Register approved by DEFRA for ten years” and registered without DNA testing part-bred animals as full-bred pure Falabella. This led to unscrupulous breeders promoting horses as genuine Falabellas when they were unable to demonstrate the purity of their lineage to Maria Luisa de Falabella’s horses. Yet many that now masquerade as Falabella were registered by the IMHPS.
The Equine Identification (England) Regulations 2018 is the statute that provides the legal framework for DEFRA’s oversight of horse passport provision. Within those provisions is the following section:
Provision of false or misleading information
26. A person is guilty of an offence if the person makes a statement or provides information that is false or misleading-
(a)when applying for an ID to be issued or varied;
(b)in relation to the entering of information into an ID or the registration of an ID;
Until 21st February 2005 Sra Maria Angelica Falabella (stepdaughter of the late Maria Luisa de Falabella) was in good faith associated with the IMHPS. She had agreed to become their nominal president, but resigned upon learning that the IMHPS was misrepresenting the breed. It had become clear that the IMHPS was acting illegally and without authorisation in opposition to the standard determined by the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella (ACCF).
On 14th November 2005 Susan Eckholdt informed DEFRA’s Horses and Zootechnics officer, Luyi Brown, that although it was unauthorised to do so the IMHPS was issuing passports for what they claimed to be purebred genuine Falabellas.
On 23rd November 2005 DEFRA claimed that the use of the Falabella name by the IMHPS was not their concern. Their Horses and Zootechnics officer, Luyi Brown, claimed that the identity of the proper legal owner of the mother studbook was a matter for UK Trading Standards. She claimed the dispute had no bearing on whether the IMHPS meets the requirements of EU Commission Decision 92/353/EEC which lays down the criteria for the approval or recognition of organisations and associations which maintain or establish stud-books for registered equidae.
Another body, the International Falabella Miniature Horse Society (IFMHS) is also known to have registered a number of non-Falabellas. It was forced to cease trading following an earlier investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority.
11th May 2009: Stella Dutchyn, as the sole nominated British Falabella Studbook holder, advised DEFRA of an intended transfer of the British Falabella Studbook to a new holder. Intending that the Passport Issuing Organisation status she also held at that time be transferred by DEFRA, Stella Dutchyn wrote “I have handed the company over to Kamila Lewis” and included email and postal addresses. Since that time, DEFRA were advised many times that their repeated addressing of communications to both Stella Dutchyn and Susan Eckholdt were wrong. It now appears in January 2020 that DEFRA has at no time acted upon this information and never established contact with Mrs Lewis.
12th October 2011: DEFRA withdrew recognition as a passport issuing organisation (PIO) from the British Falabella Studbook (BFS). Records recently divulged by DEFRA to Susan Eckholdt in response to a Freedom of Information request led to the discovery that they had not at any time addressed any communication to the then registrar of the BFS, Kamila Bauer-Lewis of the Fort Farm Falabella Stud. This was despite both Susan Eckholdt and Stella Dutchyn repeatedly informing DEFRA that it was addressing communications incorrectly to the wrong person at a no longer valid address.
Akinola Gandonu of DEFRA’s Food & Farming Group wrote incorrectly to Mrs Dutchyn “Further to our emails of 28th Jan and 14th June 2011, I note that you have yet to respond to the data handling questionnaire on the data the British Falabella Studbook holds on behalf of Defra. You have also failed to respond to emails of 22nd June and 27th July 2011 where we requested confirmation of the British Falabella Studbook’s contact details.”.
13th October 2011: Susan Eckholdt responded to DEFRA, repeating that it had now been attempting communications to the wrong person at two incorrect addresses for a considerable period. Though they had been informed several times of their error they failed to update records or contact Kamila Lewis. DEFRA chose to inaccurately claim that “the British Falabella Studbook has consistently failed to meet the efficiency criteria” they required for a passport issuing organisation (PIO) and then DEFRA continuously ignored subsequent protestations about their error.
On 8th August 2012 the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) confirmed to Susan Eckholdt that they were content that the IMHPS were without the authority of the ACCF registering horses as pure-bred Falabella that had not been DNA tested. The ASA’s statement further illustrated incomprehension of the requirements for evidence-based determination of proven equine lineage.
Susan Eckholdt complained again to the ASA about a breeder’s misleading website and in May 2017 it began another enquiry in response.
3rd July 2017: Darren Cant/Sandbeck Farm wrote to DEFRA: “I understand that Defra threw out this passport agency and would like to understand why.”. The DEFRA response to this could only confirm the date of the PIO authority removal and stated “We are unable to provide any further information.”.
21st July 2017: Sue Eckholdt wrote to Liz Truss MP: “…. we are suffering the consequences of one society having been given PIO authority from DEFRA but not the authority from the Mother Studbook to register Falabellas. Worse still, DEFRA have the International Miniature Horse and Pony Society listed as ‘Studbook of Origin’ which of course is a false claim.
I have tried to speak to DEFRA about this over the years to no avail. We do not know how they ever came to the conclusion that the IMHPS was the studbook of origin – we only know that their Register 1 ‘The World-wide Register’ (wording below) is open to abuse and facilitating the sale of non-Falabella horses as genuine ones. That is, breeders simply tell their clients that their horses are pure Falabella horses which have not been DNA tested.”
August 2017: Susan Eckholdt continued her complaints to DEFRA over falsely identified Falabellas, their breeders and inaccurate registration. In an exchange between Susan Eckholdt and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), they wrote to her that "It is not for the ASA to challenge a DEFRA approved Passport Issuing Authorities breed registration guide.”
Susan Eckholdt responded to DEFRA, suggesting it would be proper that they tell “the owner of the IMHPS to remove the Falabella name from the Register 1, the ‘World-wide’. People whose horses are inscribed on it should either be prepared to DNA test their horses, provide proof that they trace back to Argentina 100%....”.
11th Aug 2017: Susan Eckholdt email to DEFRA:
Dear Andrew and Equine Identification Team.
Further to my email yesterday in which I mentioned that the Advertising Standards Authority had refused to uphold my complaint against a breeder marketing part bred Falabella X Shetlands as genuine Falabellas, the ASA's comment was:
"It is not for the ASA to challenge a DEFRA approved Passport Issuing Authorities breed registration guide.”
This means that the offending party is (still) getting away with marketing part bred Falabellas as genuine ones, aided and abetted by the wording of the IMHPS register 1, which is open to abuse from unscrupulous breeders.
Most people believe that DEFRA condone this.
In my opinion the only way forward is for you to ask the owner of the IMHPS to remove the Falabella name from the Register 1, the ‘World-wide’.
People whose horses are inscribed on it should either be prepared to DNA test their horses, provide proof that they trace back to Argentina 100% and then up-grade to the Premier Register ‘1P’, OR have them re-labelled as Part Breds or ‘Blends’ on the Register 2. Register 1 ‘Worldwide’ certificates should be called in and over-stamped to reflect this change.
October 2017: A member of DEFRA’s Equine Identification team informed Susan Eckholdt that “DEFRA sees no reason to amend any of the details as you have suggested in your previous email.”
17th December 2017: Susan Eckholdt informed DEFRA that their website continued to list the International Miniature Horse and Pony Society (IMHPS) falsely as a ‘Studbook of Origin of the Breed’ and that this facilitated the fraudulent marketing of fake Falabellas. At that time she informed DEFRA that she had on numerous occasions asked Angelica Allison of the IMHPS to cease use of the Falabella name from their Register 1. When the IMHPS was sold to Patricia ‘Tikki’ Adorian, Susan Eckholdt continued with her request but was refused because Mrs Adorian “did not want to offend her members”.
December 2017: The DEFRA Minister of State, Michael Gove, wrote to Susan Eckholdt’s Member of Parliament “DEFRA does not specifically recognise the International Miniature Horse and Pony Studbook (IMHPS) as a registered Falabella studbook.” DEFRA appeared to be unaware that the IMHPS were claiming to be “the only official Falabella Register approved by DEFRA for ten years” and that in contradiction of Michael Gove’s assertion DEFRA’s own website was continuing to misleadingly list IMHPS as 'Studbook of Origin of the Breed’.
23rd March 2018: Susan Eckholdt sought corrections by the DEFRA Minister of State, Michael Gove. She wrote to Liz Truss MP:
“My greatest concern however is that IMHPS is still listed under the heading ‘Studbook of Origin of the Breed’. Founded as a Falabella register in the 80’s, the IMHPS never obtained permission from the mother studbook, the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella, however its first three registers contain the Falabella name and the Register 1 is of particular concern as it facilitates the sale of non-pedigree equines as genuine ones.”
31st May 2018: The DEFRA Minister of State, Michael Gove, wrote to Susan Eckholdt’s Member of Parliament:
“A horse registered under the IMHPS studbook is officially recognised as a miniature horse or pony, as that is the studbook to which it belongs. The IMHPS studbook covers several breeds of miniature horse and pony, and registration with the IMHPS studbook does not automatically confer the official status of Falabella, or any other miniature horse or pony breed, upon the registered equine. Breed event organisers may of course still recognise the IMHPS registration.”
This is inaccurate. The only acknowledged miniature horse breed is the Falabella. The only studbook authorised by the ACCF for the UK is the British Falabella Studbook.
1st July 2018: Susan Eckholdt wrote to Liz Truss MP about the inaccuracies conveyed by the DEFRA Minister of State, Michael Gove:
“Michael’s letter states that ‘The IMHPS studbook covers several breeds of miniature horse and pony’ but that is impossible - the Falabella is the ONLY miniature horse breed – it is the original and it is exclusive – it is a ‘rare breed’.
The Mother Studbook (the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella) stipulated that we must DNA test our horses in order to ‘parentage qualify’ back to Argentine imports – that is how we prove we have genuine Falabellas as opposed to part-breds.
The abuse of the Falabella name (by the IMHPS) is very damaging to my business – genuine Falabellas can sometimes sell for huge amounts of money but there is nothing on the IMHPS ‘Worldwide’ paperwork that would alert the unwary consumer. Unscrupulous breeders take advantage of the ambiguous wording on the Register 1 ‘Worldwide’ in order to market ‘Falabellas’ which are, in reality only part-breds.
The Falabella name should be removed from the Worldwide register 1 and it should not appear in the passport of that horse either. Passports should be re-called and re-issued correctly.
I have approached the owner of the IMHPS regarding this matter on numerous occasions, so can state categorically that she will not change the wording without intervention of DEFRA.”
25th July 2018: In its internal communications DEFRA revealed a chaotic internal narrative and understanding of the continuing authority invested in the British Falabella Studbook and in Susan Eckholdt, Stella Dutchyn, and Kamila Lewis. One DEFRA officer wrote to another:
“Did we ever find the letter from the mother stud book? That's the ace in our hole. If we can produce evidence that the mother studbook threw her out, then she doesn’t have much comeback. Also, it helps cover us if she does actually put in an application, we might then have to write to Argentina to ask if they’re prepared to accept her back, and I’d rather that we didn’t have to do that.”
May 2017 - August 2018
DEFRA recognised its error after the investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that ran between May 2017 and August 2018. Due to the misleading information DEFRA had provided to the ASA, their first ruling was released with an inaccurate statement. Mrs Eckholdt requested an Independent Review, and this was conducted by Sir Hayden Phillips, after which a new ruling was written up by the ASA.
At that time another DEFRA officer wrote “we want to steer Mrs Eckholdt away from writing to her MP/the SoS”, the SoS being the then UK Secretary of State Michael Gove.
26th July 2018: In further internal discussion about the BFS and IMHPS, a DEFRA officer wrote of Susan Eckholdt, “The correspondent is incorrect in her statement that there are no other miniature ponies in the world.” At no time had she made such an assertion. The reference to ‘ponies’ is a misrepresentation and another distortion. Her statement was that the Falabella is acknowledged in the equine world as the only miniature horse breed.
6th August 2018: An internal email stated about DEFRA themselves, “We’re not in a very strong position as we can no longer locate the correspondence that I know that I saw from the mother stud book in Argentina withdrawing her daughter studbook status…. “. It is believed that this demonstrates DEFRA’s continuous misunderstanding and misrepresentation of events that took place thirteen years earlier, on 21st February 2005. Then Maria Angelica Falabella resigned upon learning that the IMHPS was misrepresenting the breed. It had become by then absolutely clear that the IMHPS was acting illegally and without authorisation.
9th August 2018: In the interest of public and procedural clarity, the body responsible for the origin of the Falabella breed, the Asociacion De Criadores De Caballos Falabella, re-stated the UK authority of the BFS.
2nd January 2019: The Advertising Standards Authority published their final ruling upholding Susan Eckholdt’s complaint about Darren Cant’s Sandbeck Farm website and its descriptions of their animals for sale. Sandbeck was forced to take its website down after this ASA investigation.
The ASA wrote, “….they had not in all cases provided evidence of which register they were on. We understood that some of those horses were unlikely to be purebred. We therefore considered that the ads were misleading by implying all the horses listed were purebred.” These are excerpts.
The ASA understood that Falabella horses were a breed of miniature horse which originated from a single ranch in Argentina. We also understood that the horses were popular with a wide range of consumers and were not just purchased by those who were familiar with the equine industry. We considered that, in the absence of qualifications suggesting otherwise, consumers would interpret the inclusion of specific horses under the headings “Falabella horses”, “Falabella Fillies”, “Falabella Mares” and “Falabella Stallions” to mean that those listed were pure bred Falabella horses. This impression was reinforced by the references to “pedigree name” and the sire and dam of each horse.
We understood that the breeding of Falabella horses was a complex and small part of the miniature horse industry and that some of those involved held differing views regarding what a Falabella horse was and how parentage could be established. Notwithstanding that, we understood that to be officially considered a particular breed a horse would need to be registered with either the relevant studbook of origin (or ‘mother Studbook’) for that breed, or a daughter studbook which complied with all the rules of the mother studbook. The mother studbook for Falabella horses was based in Argentina and at the time the ad appeared there was a lack of clarity regarding the existence of an authorised studbook in the UK. The British Falabella Studbook claimed they held that status but Defra told us that they understood that the status had been withdrawn, although, on further investigation, they could not provide any evidence that this was the case. However, the issue of daughter studbook status was not a matter for the ASA and we therefore focused our assessment on how the average consumer would interpret the ad and whether or not they were likely to be misled.
All horses in the UK had to hold a horse passport issued by a Defra approved passport issuing organisation (PIO). Passports could also be obtained from a different appropriate issuing body if they had their headquarters based in an EU Member State under the relevant legislation. There were a number of different PIOs available, some of which also managed studbooks. The IMHPS was a Defra approved PIO that was designated as managing the studbook for the International Miniature Pony which meant that they only issued passports for that breed, and they were not an authorised daughter studbook for Falabella horses. The IMHPS operated 15 separate sub-registers and so all horses which they passported would be entered onto one of those registers. The registers included three for horses described as Falabella: one for horses that were DNA tested from both parents and where bloodlines were proven to be from Argentina (which we understood was likely to contain only horses that were genuinely purebred); one for pure-bred Falabella horses without DNA testing or blend horses that were over 75% Falabella; and one for part-bred Falabella horses. We understood that the determination of the category which appeared on an individual horse’s passport was based on the information provided by the applicant and that it was the responsibility of the relevant PIO to satisfy themselves regarding that information. We also understood that information about which specific register a horse was on was information which could easily be obtained from the PIO.
The advertiser had provided evidence that the relevant horses held passports issued by the IMHPS and that they were registered with them as Falabellas, although they had not in all cases provided evidence of which register they were on. We understood that some of those horses were unlikely to be purebred. We therefore considered that the ads were misleading by implying all the horses listed were purebred.
In addition, because the majority of horses described as Falabella within the UK would not be pure bred we considered that ads for horses described as Falabella needed to make clear the basis for that claim so that consumers would be able to make an informed decision.
Because the ad misleadingly implied that all of the horses listed were purebred Falabella horses and omitted information to explain the basis for the Falabella claim in relation to each horse, we concluded that it was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Sandbeck Farm not to misleadingly imply that horses were purebred Falabella if that was not the case, and to ensure that in the future each listing for horses described as Falabella included the information they held to substantiate the Falabella claim – i.e., which PIO the horse was passported with; the specific register the horse was registered under, including if it was classified as part-bred or not by the issuing authority; and provided an explanation of or link to the category definition. It should also include any information held by the advertiser regarding the breed status of the sire and the dam, including whether they were known to be part-bred.
The complete ruling from which the above is extracted is available at:
Darren Cant’s Sandbeck Farm was forced to take down its website after the ASA investigation.
15th March 2019: Susan Eckholdt wrote to her Member of Parliament, Liz Truss, responding to another letter from the DEFRA Minister of State, Michael Gove:
“I have now received three virtually identical letters from him, and it is evident that he has not read my email at all - merely passed it to the Equine ID Team – the very architects of the problem in the first place, and those who have the greatest interest in covering their tracks.” and continuing “Several members of Michael’s staff would surely have been suspended by now, had my complaint been read by him and if he had any interest in keeping his house in order.
According to my ‘personal data’ package that I received last year, the Equine ID Team have informed him that I am a ‘serial correspondent’ - perhaps that is why he has not read my email? They discuss how to prevent me writing to you, and the importance of keeping from him from knowing that they cannot produce their alleged evidence that Argentina had revoked her authorization of our studbook. There has been a frantic cover-up, and the Equine Identification team are fully aware that they are breaking their own rules which are clearly laid out in their PIO ‘application pack’ that they are so keen for me to complete.
All breed societies/studbooks must be authorised by the ‘Mother’ studbook. The mother studbook for the Falabella is the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella, who do not (and never did) authorise the IMHPS to register Falabellas.
I am now writing to complain about the actions of DEFRA in relation to our professional activities. DEFRA have (since 1994) misinterpreted facts. DEFRA have acted with prejudice to our professional reputation and income.
We own the British Falabella Studbook. This ownership was granted exclusively to us in 2002 by Sra. Maria Luisa de Falabella, the Argentinian owner of Establecimientos Falabella, and President of the Asociacion de Criadores de Caballos Falabella, of Buenos Aires - the determining authority over the Falabella breed.
DEFRA have failed to conduct themselves appropriately to this authority which we hold. Falabella horses and the purity of their breeding can and is determined by documentary provenance and certified DNA testing. No other means is appropriate to determine the purity of the bloodline of a Falabella horse.
DEFRA removed our authority as a PIO on a false premise. This enabled unauthorised bodies to describe part-bred horses as ‘Falabellas’. The Falabella breed has been devalued, the market being populated by fraudulently described animals, which has affected buyers’ perception of the breed.“
May 2019: Michael Gove, Secretary of State, wrote to Susan Eckholdt’s Member of Parliament, Liz Truss, the following:
“All breed societies and studbooks must satisfy Defra that they meet all the requirements, and studbooks must have certain additional measures in place.
Among these additional measures are requirements relating to the relationship between 'mother' and 'daughter' studbooks. For example, a 'daughter' studbook must incorporate the principles of the 'mother' studbook into its breeding programme and may have to follow certain other rules on performance testing and genetic evaluation as determined by the 'mother' studbook.
If Defra are not satisfied that a breed society or studbook meets the relevant standards under the Regulation they are entitled to take further action. This may include the removal of recognition from a society in extreme cases.”
DEFRA’s administration of their role and exercise of their authority appears to have been badly conducted. DEFRA executives are shown to have exchanged with each other misrepresentations and untruths about the British Falabella Studbook, its actors and supporters. In so doing, deep damage has occurred to the reputation and esteem of the Falabella breed. In empowering a body they approved of to issue passports for animals that cannot demonstrate their purity relative to the true Falabella line, DEFRA unwittingly aided and abetted over an extended period what is considered to be fraud committed by the IMHPS.
DEFRA, in its execution of UK Government business, has diminished its respect as an administrative authority and the esteem with which such a body should be held. It appears to be impossible for DEFRA to know how many impure Falabellas were registered as purebred and how many deluded, defrauded owners and breeders exist.
Harm has been caused to the hapless buyers of misdescribed horses.
Harm has been caused to Falabella breeders that can and do demonstrate that continuity of line back to the Falabella Breed Standard. They have suffered significant losses of sales to other supposed pure bred Falabella that have been fraudulently described.
Honest breeders of horses eligible for inclusion in the pure-bred register where their horse’s breeding is known and verifiable by DNA analysis have had their integrity compromised by DEFRA’s inaccuracies and prejudicial assertions. Some breeders claiming that part-Falabella animals to be purebred have also claimed that the British Falabella Studbook had no authority in the matter.
The good names and businesses of the British Falabella Studbook, Stella Dutchyn (Starlite Falabella Stud) Kamila Bauer-Lewis (Fort Farm Falabella Stud) and Susan Eckholdt (Equuleus Falabella Stud) have been severely impacted by DEFRA misinformation over a number of years.
These parties now seek redress.
The British Falabella Studbook cannot quantify how many impure Falabellas were certified falsely by a number of registers. DEFRA can. DEFRA can and should now undertake as a matter of significant importance a comprehensive audit of those registers that prejudicially certified horses as being Falabella. These animals can then be referenced to the legitimate register of the ACCF authorised daughter studbook held by the BFS. Disparities should then reveal the wrongly identified animals, so enabling an accurate re-certification of that stock.
The DEFRA commissioned ADAS report of 21st May 2004 is clear that the ACCF fully recognised the BFS. As such, BFS was the only authorised Falabella studbook. The report describes their fully reciprocal relationship. It confirms that the daughter studbook contains the pure-bred register of Falabellas, with horses’ breeding verified by DNA analysis. Three other organisations at that time were claiming to be Falabella studbooks and were not.
Confirmation of the requirements for individual horse identification and certification is provided by Regulation (EU) 2016/1012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8th June 2016 on zootechnical and genealogical conditions for the breeding, trade in and entry into the Union of purebred breeding animals. It requires a “…. method that provides at least the same degree of certainty as a covering certificate such as parentage control based on DNA analysis or analysis of their blood groups, provided that that authorisation is in accordance with the principles established by the breed society which maintains the breeding book of the origin of that breed.”
Some parties have disputed the accuracy of or necessity to apply genetic science in determining a test to guarantee parental lineage. Yet this DNA test is the only way to provide guaranteed certification that an animal is of a claimed descendence. It requires suitable samples from both parents to be provided.
The complete lineage can then be evidenced in relation to the existing records of both the daughter and mother studbooks. In the US this is known as ‘parentage qualifying’.
This process determines that IMHPS could not properly identify a pure Falabella because they did not possess records of lineage. Without a pure Falabella being DNA certified and registered with the official studbooks it can easily be misdescribed and so not be recognised as a Falabella without authorised studbooks’ proof of that animal’s antecedents.
In this instance for the Falabella, the breed society which maintains the breeding book of the origin of that breed is the British Falabella Studbook. Only this body conforms to Regulation (EU) 2016/1012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8th June 2016 on zootechnical and genealogical conditions for the breeding, trade in and entry into the Union of purebred breeding animals.
In considering the evidence, it is questionable whether DEFRA's claim to be "the competent authority empowered under the legislation to recognise breed organisations" is accurate.
5th March 2020
DEFRA now accept that they were wrong, however, the rightful Falabella studbook has suffered loss of income, damage to our good name and professional reputation and the Falabella breed has been devalued, the market being populated by fraudulently described animals, which has affected buyers’ perception of the breed.
DEFRA have invited us to 're-apply' for the Passport Issuing Authority (PIO) that they wrongly took from us, however a mutual decision has now been made between us and our chosen passport provider - The International Miniature Horse and Pony Society - IMHPS. Their Falabella passports will also carry our own logo.
More information on this and any other aspect of Falabella registration, care, and/or purchase can be obtained from:-
Registrar: Mrs. Stella Dutchyn -TFS
83 High Street, Walcott, Lincoln, Lincs, LN4 3SW
Tel. 07966 576061
Equuleus Falabella Stud:- 01953 718548 (Norfolk)
Fort Farm Falabella Stud:- 01959 533935 or 07880 664098 (Kent)
All passport applications and correspondence should be sent to:
Registrar: Mrs. Mel Williamson - IMHPS
Stroud Brow Cottage
Surrey GU5 0TB
Tel: +44 (0)7787 644408
The registrar's opening hours are from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.