Information borrowed from The Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America - http://www.clevelandbay.org/
"A Horse with a History" As its name suggests, the Cleveland Bay emanates from the Cleveland area of northeast England. Without doubt it is Britain's oldest breed of horse and has been fixed in type much longer than the official UK's breed registry foundation date suggests.
The church played a very large role in their breeding. Throughout the middle ages the Monastic houses in England's northeast were the principal breeders of horses. Pack horses were needed for the trading of goods between the various Abbeys and Monasteries.
Most certainly the ancestors of today's Cleveland Bays, particularly on the female side, were such pack horses bred in the Yorkshire Dales. Locally they were known as Chapman horses, the name being derived from the name given to packmen and itinerant peddlers of those days i.e. "Chapmen".
There was an influx of barb horses into the port of Whitby. These refined stallions were used on Chapman mares. Before the end of the 17th Century the main ingredient of the Cleveland Bay, the Chapman, and the Barb had come together to form the type of powerful horse whose popularity as a pack/harness horse was beginning to spread beyond the northeast English countryside.
The next century saw an increase in weight and size of these horses - better feeding being one of the reasons. The result was a quality versatile horse which found many uses away from the Monasteries as agricultural horses drawing carts and wagons of various types. A demand for faster carriage horses resulted in some breeders crossing their Clevelands with strong Thoroughbreds. This off-spring became known as the Yorkshire Coach Horse, a tall elegant carriage horse, much in demand by the rich and royal.
Thelate 18th Century was the golden age of carriage driving. Yorkshire Coach Horses were exported all over the world to provide matched pairs and teams. During the height of the London season, hundreds of pairs of Yorkshire Coach Horses could be seen in Hyde Park every afternoon. To this day one may still detect the two types of Cleveland - the smaller, resembling the Chapman, and the taller resembling the Yorkshire Coach Horses. Both nevertheless retain the bone and substance of their ancestors. The coming of the automobile and tractor put an end to the need for Cleveland Bays. Their breeding went into decline. Many were sold abroad, but a few dedicated breeders in the northeast of England kept the breed alive.
Currently the breed is still critically rare, with only about 500 purebreds in the world and less than 200 in North America. The dedicated breeders and members belonging to the Cleveland Bay Horse Association of North America endeavor to increase the number of these unique horses and promote the breed in many disciplines.
A Quality Breed The Pure-Bred Cleveland Bay is a very intelligent horse with a sensible temperament. They possess a strong character which, if mishandled can be ruined.They have plenty of bone and substance, are hardy, long lived and have tremendous stamina.
Characteristically the breed is very bold and honest. They are always bay in color, their action is level, free and long striding. They are an established breed and so breed true to type. They are extremely prepotent, meaning their quality and traits are passed on to their progeny. This makes them an ideal out-cross, especially with Thoroughbreds.
An unusually high percentage of these partbred sporthorses excel in many disciplines, including driving, hunting & jumping, dressage, and trail riding. America, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand and many other countries have imported Cleveland Bays to improve their native stock and to help preserve the breed. Many European Warmbloods, particularly the Gelderlander, Oldenburg, Holstein, and Hanoverian owe much to the Cleveland Bay influence. Some European and Baltic draught horses such as the Irish Draught, Russian Vladimir and Danish Schienswig have the benefit of Cleveland blood.
Known for its Versatility Perhaps the Cleveland's greatest advantage is its versatility. Early Clevelands were versatile packand harness horses. The present day Cleveland is equally versatile in relation to the modern equine disciplines. As carriage and driving horses they remain unsurpassed. For this purpose a good number are kept at the Royal Mews in the U.K.. Teams of Clevelands have competed in FEI driving trials. Many are driven as singles and in pairs purely for pleasure.
They make ideal heavy weight hunters, but also possess the necessary quickness for eventing, and can be exhibited in the show ring either as in-hand, ridden or working hunters. As sound active horses with substance, stamina and a good, sane temperament they make excellent police horses. The ability to break a Cleveland Bay to saddle and harness makes this breed invaluable to all round enthusiast to whom quality and versatility are important!
The following Standard of Points have been suggested by the Cleveland Bay Horse Society Council for the guidance of persons interested in the breed and Judges of the breed.
Height: 16.0hh to 16.2hh, but height should not disqualify an otherwise good sort
Color: Cleveland Bays must be bay with black points, i.e. black legs, black mane and black tail. Grey hairs in mane and tail do not disqualify. These have been long recognised as a feature in certain strains of pure Cleveland blood. White, beyond a very small star, is outside Breed standards but as from January 2005 they can still be registered however Breed Committee comments are noted on the passport and in the Stud Book. Legs which are bay or red below the knees and hocks do not disqualify, but are faulty as to colour.
Body: The body should be wide and deep. The back should not be too long and should be strong with muscular loins. The shoulder should be sloping, deep and muscular. The quarters should be level, powerful, long and oval, the tail springing well from the quarters.
Head & Neck: The head characteristics of the breed should be bold and not too small. It should be well carried on a long lean neck.
Eyes: Eyes should be large, well set and kindly in expression.
Ears: Ears tend to be large and fine.
The Limbs: Arms and thighs and second thighs should be muscular. The knees and hocks should be large and well closed. There should be 9" upwards of good flat bone below the knee measured at the narrowest point on a tight tape. The pasterns should be strong and sloping and not to long. The legs should be clear of superfluous hair and as clean and hard as possible.
The Feet: One of the most important features of the breed; the feet must be of the best and blue in color. Feet that are shallow or narrow are undesirable. "NO FOOT-NO HORSE".
Action: Action must be true, straight and free. High action is not characteristic of the breed. The Cleveland which moves well and which is full of courage will move freely from the shoulder and will flex his knees and hocks sufficiently. The action required is free all round, gets over the ground and fits the wear-and-tear qualities of the breed.
The above standards for the Cleveland Bay Horse have been established by the Cleveland Bay Horse Society in Great Britain and are the standards that the Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America follows.