You know you've won, in life, when people pay you to do what you would pay them to let you do

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


On Kate's blog we have been doing some horse comparisons and it got me thinking about conformation. Like us people, no horse is perfect but like I always told my girls: "No husband prospect is gonna be perfect. When you're pickin', find one whose faults you can live with." Our attitude is the same for horses.

This is Bo. He's a gentle giant and a brother to that filly I did the following post on.

This isn't his best side but just to get some idea of his size I thought it was interesting to note that the guy in the baseball hat standing in front of him, that you can only see the top of his hat, is 6 foot tall. And, personally, I like shots like this of all their legs so I can see if they are straight or not. I waited till his tail swished so I could see all 4 legs.

When I was a kid I herd how the Arabs picked out their horses. They led them behind a curtain with it just high enough that they could see the horses feet. If the buyer liked what he saw, they would raise the curtain to show the legs. If that passed inspection they would raise it to show the body, and finally the neck and head.

Arabian horses have awesome feet, have you ever noticed: little horses, big deep nice feet. Quarter horses are getting better but they used to be big bulldoggy looking horses on little feet. Lots of Thoroughbred's have shallow feet. Little feet make a horse look pretty, especially in photo's, but for us little feet are a conformation defect. On a halter horse they look real pretty and are not going to be a problem but for our horses, well they have to work hard. In truth, most of our horses, I wish their feet were even bigger.

You've heard that saying "Form to function." That just means some things are more important to some people than another, depending what they do with their horses, like the feet thing.

Legs, well that's the next most important to us. It's heart breaking to put all that time and passion into training and developing a real partnership relationship with a horse just to have him go lame. We want balanced knees and straight legs. I like low knees, short cannon bones. Horses like that usually have the speed I need to cut off an escaping cow or to rope a fast running calf. Bo's cow hocked and that's something that's not real bad for a horse that has to be able to stop hard and lean back on a rope holding a 2500 pound bull.

See that flat spot in front of Bo's withers, my cowboy really likes that in a horse, but I have yet to really understand why. I like a little more slope to a shoulder on a horse than Bo has. A shorter neck makes it easier for me to rope as does a horse who will carry his head low. Tail set doesn't matter to me as long as the hip has some slope. Bo's been kind of neglected as we tend to use our best horses and work on the colts so he doesn't have that nice line in his bum that comes when they are muscled up from working hard.

Head, well everyone likes a pretty face but big nostrils to suck in the air when they are running and big full eyes (that stick out so far you could knock them off with a baseball bat but horses like that are hard to find, again, unless you ride an Arabian) are what I look for. I like long ears, for some reason, but not mule long. Really, I'm not much swayed by a pretty face.

Conformation aside, picking out a horse you can get along with and will do the job you want or need them to do is what really counts. My paint horse is a nut but I can get more done on that horse. I'm willing to overlook a lot of personality issues and we've learned to work together pretty good. I had a little sorrel once, Buckwheat, who never really liked me (or anyone) but he was like a Jack Russel, little horse who didn't know he was, best bull chasing horse I ever rode. Trouper, well all I can say if you have a swearing problem, ride him and you won't (he trained my cowboy almost single handed). I read a quote somewhere that said: "Most good ranch horses most people couldn't get a saddle on." I wonder if Buddy, that my cowboy rides, isn't one of those.

Just back to Bo for a final word. Bo's not perfect and maybe a little too big but I can live with whatever faults he has and he seems to be able to live with mine.


LindaG said...

Very educational post. Now I know a little more about horses, if I can remember all that. :)

Linda said...

One thing I've noticed is that there are all kinds of different horses out there and all kinds of people that like a certain type of critter. I tend to think that under carriage and disposition rank high on my list.

fernvalley01 said...

Find the horse that fits the job, and the rider .
Funny about that Arabs , that is how I liik at horses as well, from the ground up.Partially because Appy'ds can be very distracting with thier coart patterns , andif you take it apart a little (from the ground up) it is easier to assess

Kate said...

Nice post - I also agree with the feet first, legs second evaluation - it's too easy to get carried away by a pretty head and neck. I've been known to do that myself on occasion and it's a remedy for a nice, pretty, permanently lame horse (that would be Maisie).

Nicole said...

That's interesting about the Arabs! My mom showed Arabian horses when I was a baby. My grandparents had the #1 Arabian stud to breed to in the US in the 70's.

Shirley said...

Some good observations. We all have things we look for in a horse, for me, since I have a business of selling foals, pretty does matter. Disposition is the most important for me, then conformation, then pretty, then color, least important. I tend to like a shorter horse, easy to get on as I get older and creakier,but Velvet is going to be well over 15 hands and that's all right too.

The Wife said...

I never knew that was how they picked Arabians. I always seem to learn something on your blog.

gowestferalwoman said...

I took a college course on conformation when studying for a minor in Equine Management; youre right on target but you have a lifetime of experience with horses to already tell you that :) we learned the breakdown of thirds when looking at a horse's profile; head to shoulders, withers to hip, hip to croup.

I like big horses - big horses = big movement, lets you know what each independent leg is doing esp. when you want to do flying lead changes. Thoroughbreds (TB's) are my all time favorite horse to work with - they are thinkers and will work hard for you and take care of you...but you first must have a discussion with them about why they should do what they should do. And when you are in mutual agreement its beautiful...but sometimes it can be a trainwreck ... lol They can have very "shelly" (thin) hoof walls and you are constantly slapping stuff on them to make them harder...Right now I have a tough morgan with tough black feet; and most important we get along together lol

Crystal said...

Wow where have I been I totally missed two posts on here. I like the post, its informative.
I agree there are many "faults" we can live with, however if we start out with the best we can find, prolly better for long useful lives.