I won't take as long with the Tally stories, I'm finally in a mood to finish up, but I had a good question posed by a regular reader so I wandered off the trail a bit.
I was asked what I look for when I'm buying a horse.
My breed of choice is a Quarter Horse. My chosen discipline is Reined Cow Horse.
I definitely have a type of horse I'm drawn to. It's part instinct, part training. I've noticed my attraction crosses breed lines, but the type runs true. I would be happy to ride any of these horses.
|Madonna - Quarter Horse|
|Cow Horse bred Quarter Horse|
This isn't a list of my favorite breeds, it's a showcase of what I like to see. If any one of these horses were unloaded and handed over to me to ride my inner child would be doing cartwheels.
I used to look at the horse first, then pick apart the conformation, then look at the papers.
"Where's my 4H book?
"Does he have papers?"
Then, I got a little older. It went like this:
"How's he bred?
"Where's my 4H book?"
Then, as a pro, it became this:
"How's he bred?
"Where's my 4H book?"
Except, once I was a pro, I was too cool to admit I still used my tattered 4H book from 1972 to check conformation.
The order is situation dependent.
If I'm looking for a show horse, I'll start looking at prospects papers first. I am more interested in the mare than the stud, although both are important. The foal will be raised by the mare and will inherit her habits and temperament, both good and bad. If I have a choice, I like to know the mare. Genetically, I'm going to get the mix I'm going to get, so I want earnings on both sides. The price I'm willing to pay goes hand-in-hand with what the past generations have done in the discipline I compete in.
A halter champion won't help me if I want a cutting horse. It gets even more complicated. A reining bred horse is bred to wait for guidance from the rider. A cutting bred horse is an independent cuss and thinks for himself, and a reined cowhorse has a little of both. Each type is bred to perform it's job, and although the physical differences may be slight, they are there and they're important.
Once I have a list of prospects in mind, I get to go look and turn loose my, "Ooooh, pretty."
I guess I should be jumping to conformation, but I decided a long time ago that horses cost too much to not have what I want. I want pretty. My idea of pretty, not yours, not my boss', not my mom's.
What do I think is pretty?
When I was in college, a friend told me, "For somebody who doesn't like Arabs you sure own the most Arab-y Quarter Horse I've ever seen."
WAIT!!! Before anybody gets their feelings hurt, I like Arabs just fine. I was a snotty 19-year-old giving grief to her Arab riding roommate.
I like small, pretty heads with little ears, big eyes, small muzzles and big flaring nostrils. I like my horses to travel with a higher head set than your average quarter horse and a nice arch, not just for looks, but the feel between the reins.
I like a solid, strong coupled horse with a smooth top line-no weird dips or bumps from poll to tail. I like a well-muscled horse and a round croup, but not to the extreme.
I like long, nicely sloped shoulders, hindquarters to match, and a low set tail.
Visually, I'm drawn to long legged horses. As far as conformation goes, I look for clean, straight legs, solid bone, decent sized feet, and pasterns that aren't too long or super-short. I want the cannon bones to be short. When a horse moves I look for a deep stride underneath from the hind.
Long shoulders with a nice angle give me a horse with a nice reach, and big butts power the motor. Ifthe shoulders are too upright (short) I'm going to get a rough ride, a short stride, clipped from the deep reaching hind and too much heel.
I like a clean throatlatch and a fairly high tie-in on the neck. The longer and better angled the shoulder, the better the neck will be. A pretty, functional neck is twice as long on it's top line as the bottom. The mustang up above has a pretty crappy neck, but there's enough to work with.
I want some withers and well-sprung ribs.
I'm really picky when it comes to the loin and the coupling of my horses. I want solid muscle and a smooth transition to the croup. The loin and coupling are what transfers the motion of the hindquarters through the back and forward to the forehand. Think about that for a minute.
I like a long hip and a long, well developed semitendinous muscle.
Weak legs make for a weak horse. Anything the 4H book tells me is bad concerning legs, I believe.
All of this is negotiable, to a point. Madonna is slightly over the knee, Odin is a little long...
they both get the job done.
I like my horses, oh, I don't know, kind of punky. Madonna is the easiest horse I've ever had the pleasure to ride, but she's notorious for running barn help out of her pen. See? Punky.
It's not that I have a desire to tame the wild mustang or conquer their spirit...I just like some 'tude. It keeps things interesting. There's a spark in the eye I like to see, a little, "Oh yeah, Says who?"
My horses are well behaved on the ground. They would never drag, crowd, stomp or kick. But they like to mess around. We play, what else can I say? I don't know how to explain it, other than I'm interested in what they have to say, so I look for a horse with an opinion.
So there it is.