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Monday, April 11, 2011

From left: Ti, Cole, me, Mario, Bert.
No competitions this past weekend due to me recovering from a head injury (I fell on my head). This means riding only on the flat but still full steam ahead with teaching, I'm getting more sensible each year that passes! So I thought I would share with you the criteria I use when choosing an event horse. To do this I thought I'd use some of the horses in my team as examples. It's no secret that I'm the luckiest rider in MD in terms of the support I receive from my owners (MacLeod family, Taggart family, Rege Dvorsky and Jeanne Leonne, McCuan Farms) so these horses are basically as ideal as I have been able to find. Anyway, enough sucking up and onto the horses!

I have two criteria that stand out when it comes to selecting a horse: 1) Jumping ability, it's important to remember that eventing is still two thirds jumping, it's not a dressage competition although that's obviously important. But generally if a horse is a great jumper then he has great balance and the ability to carry himself which makes the dressage trainable. 2) and most important is HEART! If a horse believes he can do something he will! I've seen the oddest horses compete 3/4 star and the most beautiful, perfectly conformed horses not make it past training.




Collection Pass


Cole is known around the barn as 'little Cole' (he's small) or 'pony club horse Cole'(He's quiet). The latter being time consuming to say we typically stick with little Cole.... He's so laid back that his owner's 7 yo granddaughter Addison has been able to ride him unaided! I'll get to his conformation in a moment but Cole represents the prime example of heart means everything. Dressage is a learnt skill for him but the jumping and desire to go to a fence comes naturally. He has a careful, suspicious nature that makes him want to get off the ground, basically his instincts tell him that if it's scary, jump a bit bigger. Add to this his bravity and desire to please and there's nothing that he can't do in his mind. Which for me sitting on his back is a great thing, all I have to do is steer and stay on! He has straight, strong (without being thick) legs that are proportional to his body. You can see his hind legs want to stand under him, fantastic shoulder (which he's learning to use in the dressage!) and good length neck. His athleticism means he can add in or take out strides as the course or situation needs and being a thoroughbred he can gallop.
Civil Liberty

Bert (name change, sorry Sue...) is quite a character. This is one of the things that appealed to me about him, he's not afraid to challenge you if he thinks he knows better. But on the other hand, if you're able to convince him that you as the rider do know better (there definitely ISN'T a goblin in the liverpool!) then he will throw everything he has into whatever task you give him. Heart is no problem for him, it's present in large quantities. Back to the quirkiness, you may have heard that 'all the best horses are quirky', (often used as a sales tactic by the seller describing why the horse you're trying for sale just bucked you off and is now running across the paddock), it is true. Whether the horse be a windsucker (cribber), cold backed (bucks at the sight of the saddle!), puts their head on the ground when the see the bridle (Cole) or looks at you as tho he's never seen a human before when you go to catch him, all the good ones have something in their personality that would be described as lateral thinking. Bert has none of the above poor behaviour (except the odd excited buck) but he is definatley quirky when it comes to warming up, goodness help you if you venture too close to another horse coming towards you! Conformationally he (as with Cole) stands under himself. He is short in the back, which often means the horse is powerful with his jump. And he has a very kind, generous eye. Good angles on his legs. You can just see him pinging over the biggest brush into water without a problem. And once again he can gallop.

Titanium

First of all, yes I'm aware of the other Titanium, the famous one that's about to go around Rolex. They are no relation, sharing only colour and athleticism! Ti is one of my favourite types. To look at him all you see is an athlete. From the length and angle of his legs, to his proportional body and once again the fact that he stands so well underneath himself. Add to this his stunning looks and it's easy to see why he stands out in a group! His neck comes out of his shoulder beautifully, which enables freedom thru his shoulders. Open thru his gullet so he can obviously bend his neck. Short back makes it easy to jump off the ground. And he is built uphill which makes the dressage easier. Quirkiness and heart also are their in abundance, particularly once you know him. I swear he doesn't realise he inhabits the same planet as us mere mortals, his brain is in a perpetual computer game where he is lord. He also has the inability to walk around his paddock. Eating and need to go to the waterer? Why walk when you can canter! Resting and need to eat? Why walk to the grass when you can canter the 10 metre distance!
Digger

Doesn't quite realise yet that he's not a horse and doesn't have to pose for such photos..... Although he shows quite good conformation and LOADS of character!
Mario




Mario (or Mario Stop it! as he's often known in the barn due to his propensity for getting into mischief!) is the type of horse that would live in your pocket if you gave him the chance. He MUST know everything, and MUST be involved with everything! Just as well he is one of the most powerful and most athletic horses I've ever met! As you can see he has a short, strong back. As with the others he stands underneath himself. Strong hindquarters. Kind, intelligent eye. And near perfect angles with his legs. Mario has competed to 1 star successfully but he lacks the speed and stamina required (that the TB's so easily have) for higher levels. Fortunately this is not entirely bad news as he is a freak jumper! He is currently competing in the 1.40m classes and mini prix'. This height is very scary for eventing horses but he is as brave as a bull and careful as a cat. Both good things when galloping into a 1.40m oxer wondering why you ever wanted to showjump when you have a barn full eventers at home! Back to his conformation, he is as close to ideal as you can get, just a little too heavy.


Danny



Dan displays none of the above conformation qualities. He's out behind, he's not even tracking up. He's over at the knee, predisposing him to soundness issues. All his weight is on his front end, making him on the forehand. He's long in the back, much longer than this photo shows. His shoulder is too big. Legs too small for his body. Why I am I showing him to you? The one thing he had in masses was heart. Dan was my first 3 star horse whom I competed for 8/9 years. I competed in a World Cup. He went around Sydney 3 star multiple times. He galloped. He jumped (until the end, a few too many misses and he decided he was more suited to the lower levels!). I trained and competed him to Prix St George dressage. Together we learnt our tempi changes and could do 9 one time changes pretty easily. He did canter pirouettes. We won dressage. We won SJ. How did he do it with all these conformation faults? Neither he nor I knew he shouldn't be able to do it. So we did it! This is why, to this day, I put far greater faith in the horses honesty, heart and desire to please. With these things you can learn the rest! Another 3 star/World Cup horse I had was half pony (his mum was 13.2). After a falling out with the owner he went to Boyd's barn and a couple of months later went onto a 4 star.


So the end of the story is that I'm so thankful to have horses that combine great conformation and great intestinal fortitude! Now to just get that damn dressage sorted out... Hopefully you have a good idea of what to look for in your next eventing partner!

5 comments:

marg said...

How did you manage to fall on your head?? No gravel rash?? Who was responsible for that ding?

Glenda said...

Jumping ability and heart, hmmmm....sounds like a Playland Horse!

Grace said...

Digger is quite the poser!
Paula, did Kate just call Mario fat?!! Seriously though, really informative blog. AND I agree HEART beats conformation everytime, but it sure helps to have both (like the horses you have in your line up)!

amy said...

this is Amy,btw, not Grace

marg said...

Re. the "extra" traits of the "special" event horse, I'll never forget that enormous, 'suspended', prowl of a trot that Danny had! Where did that come from Kate? How much of that can be taught?

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