Horse breeding brings Cuba a rich new source of income – thanks to
thoroughbreds from the Netherlands
ANNE-MARIE GARCIA HAVANA Sunday 15 February 2015
It has long been famed for the quality of its rum and the calibre of its
finest cigars. Now Cuba is carving out a new luxury niche that is
attracting Latin America’s rich to the Communist-run island:
thoroughbred jumping horses.
By importing colts and fillies from the Netherlands to train for
eventing, Cuban trainers are creating prized competitors capable of
fetching more than $40,000 (£26,000) each from buyers at private
auctions, with much of the proceeds going back to the government-led
At a recent auction at the National Equestrian Club, well-heeled horse
collectors – an unexpected sight in what, despite reforms, remains a
Communist state – gathered in the heat to sip wine and scan the Dutch
Warmbloods paraded before them for a possible champion.
During the evening, 31 horses sold for a total of about $435,000 to
buyers from Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, the Netherlands and Mexico.
“The great advantage is that they are already in the Americas,” said
Cecilia Pedraza, a Mexico City collector who bought several horses. “In
addition, they have been trained very well. They are advanced for their
age, very well-behaved, perform concentrated jumps and have excellent
Rufino Rivera, from Xalapa in Mexico, paid about $17,000 for a horse he
hopes will follow the path of Aristotelis, a prize-winning jumper he
bought at the club’s first auction six years ago.
Cuba’s tradition of breeding and training horses dates to the 16th
century, but after the 1959 Communist revolution, Fidel Castro’s
government banned racing along with gambling and professional sports.
Since 2005, however, Cuba has been importing and training horses to earn
badly needed foreign currency – and the pace has stepped up with
The National Equestrian Club has 117 horses in stables in Lenin Park on
the outskirts of Havana, and is investing the proceeds of sales into
breeding more animals locally.
Willy Arts, the head of the Royal Dutch Sport Horse association’s North
American wing, said there was growing demand for high-quality
show-jumping horses and Cuba’s programme could be important to people
looking to buy at more accessible prices.
Maydet Vega, a veterinarian who oversees the horse-breeding centre where
an artificial insemination programme is being developed, said breeding
foals in Cuba allowed the horses to adapt to hot and humid conditions
from the start. “They can adapt to the tropical conditions of our
climate so people can have them in all countries in the Americas,” she said.
Source: Horse breeding brings Cuba a rich new source of income – thanks
to thoroughbreds from the Netherlands – Americas – World – The