When the Jockey Club, one of the nation’s premier record-keeping bodies for registered Thoroughbreds, launched the new Performance Horse Registry (PHR) in 1994, many Thoroughbred owners raced to register their horses in what would become known as the first central database in North America to combine pedigree and performance records of Thoroughbreds and half-Thoroughbreds, documenting the influence of the breed in events away from the track.
Proud of their versatile Thoroughbreds, the founders knew that with careful breeding, exceptional all-around athletes could be produced—athletes that could excel in any equestrian discipline. With a new system in place to record and track career highlights, owners and breeders were able to measure equestrian performance against pedigrees, providing tangible evidence to support and enhance future breeding decisions.
These successes that followed were celebrated at the yearly Silver Stirrup Awards in an effort to recognize, reward and promote excellence among these Thoroughbred owners and breeders. At the time, no one quite knew the impact this registry, or this yearly awards program, would have on the equestrian world as a whole.
Two short years later in 1996, the PHR expanded its scope to focus on building a comprehensive database for the entire sport horse industry, spurred by the support of industry organizations, such as the American Horse Shows Association, the United States Equestrian Team and the Federation of North American Sport Horse Registries. This fulfilled one of the registry’s primary commitments, to provide owners and breeders complete information on which to base future buying and breeding decisions. Despite its youth, the PHR uncovered sires and broodmare sires which were producing successful sport horses on a consistent basis.
During the formative years of the PHR, Warmblood registries such as the Belgian Warmblood Breeding Association/North American District (BWP/NAD), the Hungarian Horse Association, and the Dutch Warmblood Studbook in North America (NA/WPN) began recording their stallions and foal crops to add another dimension to the pedigree research already in place for the full Thoroughbred bloodlines, enabling the PHR to follow the bloodlines of half-Thoroughbreds.
Many positive changes followed in the years to come, including a move from the Jockey Club to the American Horse Shows Association, now the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), in September of 2000. In 2004, PHR became part of the USEF, and is now considered an official branch of the National Governing Body. With the move, the registry became the source for sport horse breeding for the Federation. Now the lineage of horses competing in the United States can be tracked and honored. The move provided a needed boost for the registry, ensuring it would have a valued impact on the sport horse world in the 21st century.
All breeds are now eligible for registration with the Performance Horse Registry in an effort to develop a comprehensive database of pedigrees and breeding influence on the sport horse world.
In addition, the Silver Stirrup Awards continue to recognize performances of PHR horses at all levels of competition in every major discipline, including widespread recognition in dressage and eventing disciplines. The program also recognizes leading sires, owners and breeders. For the 2004 competition year, the PHR presented 53 national championship awards at the USEF Annual Meeting, in addition to regional and state awards. Once registered with the PHR, a horse may be nominated for inclusion in the awards program on an annual or a lifetime basis.