Cruz Bay gets a well deserved rest after a great riding session
Last week we looked at the first four of the seven most important things to look for in a horse. They are not the only attributes, but they should be at the top of your list if you’re going to be successful in the search for your ideal horse.
As I wrote before, I could have saved myself
much heartache and money if someone had told me about these 7 things before I leapt into my many bad horse purchases!
Five: Good conformation
I admit that horse conformation is not a sexy topic, like breed or color. If the horse is pretty and well-behaved, who cares about ‘conformation’ (whatever that means)?
Yet if you understand the rudiments of how a horse should be ‘put together’ you can minimize the probability of later lameness and other health issues. The front legs of the horse carry between 60-65% of the horse’s weight, and even more once we get on them, so be especially aware of conformation in this area.
Here is a great article: “Horse Conformation Analysis from Washington State University Extension.”
Don't let the title put you off: it's an easy read! It includes helpful diagrams showing how the horse should be built, plus faults to lookout for and what problems they can lead to. Don’t try
and absorb all the information at once. Take a copy of the article with you when visiting prospective horse purchases.
Make sure the horse has good, clean legs, a strong back and a good shoulder. You'll be vetting him later anyway, but finding a horse with good conformation gives him a better chance of passing the vet.
A horse can still be a worthwhile buy even if he has some conformation flaws, just as we can become good riders even if we don’t have perfect bodies!
Six: Suitability for the Job
This is where horse buying can get tough.
You’re looking for a show-jumper, and have found a lovely animal which fits all the above criteria – yet can’t jump to save its life.
If you don't buy a horse which excels at the work you want it to do, you'll need to modify your expectations.
When we met CD, my husband’s gray gelding, we were tired of buying dealers’ jumping horses which had turned sour and mean through bad
Callow Double Clover (CD) was a breath of fresh air. He had a lovely temperament - but was a terrible jumper.
However, he tried.
So we bought him, and my husband has had many happy years competing him at lower level eventing, show–jumping and pure dressage. The horse has a heart of gold, and we were able to train him to jump well enough to win and be in the ribbons.
The pleasure he has given us has far outweighed his lack of talent at the higher jumps.
You need to be very realistic in your expectations about a given horse. You cannot turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, as the saying goes.
If jumping high is important to you, walk away from a horse which cannot jump. If Grand Prix dressage is your aim, don’t get attached to a
beautiful horse with a wonderful temperament, but with terrible gaits that will ruin your chances of excellence in your chosen field.
Seven: Correct Size
You will read a lot about the ideal rider to horse weight ratio, some of which is very unfair to the horse. The horse should neither be too small for you nor too big.
If he is too big, you will have little control over him. Your seat, legs and arms will not be strong
enough to influence him, and you will get frustrated very quickly.
If he is too small, he will struggle underneath you. The horse needs to be able to carry your weight comfortably, if he is going to perform at
his best and give you many years of happy
The ideal horse to ride weight ratio contains several variables, such as temperament, breed and fitness of the horse and rider, plus the quality of the latter’s balance in the saddle. But a good rule of thumb is to weigh no more than 15% of the horse’s weight when he is fit. If you weigh a lot less than 10% of his fit weight, you may find him too strong for you.
One final point is the picture you present. You don’t want to dwarf your horse, or have him make you look tiny. I have a large friend who
rides a large horse, and they look great together. If I rode her horse or she rode mine, we would both look really silly. The idea is to look harmonious together.
Looking for a new horse can be a nerve wracking experience. Save yourself from falling into the many pitfalls that can catch you by surprise: look for the most important attributes first, and you’ll hugely increase your chances of finding the right one.
Horses are my big obsession, and I'm constantly striving to get better, smarter and more in harmony with my equine buddy, Cruz Bay.
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