Thursday, October 9, 2008

Making A Good Thing Bad

When I was a kid we had a Golden Retriever. This was in the 60's when they were relatively unknown field dogs. My Dad can really train a hunting dog. He chose a Golden because they were smart, capable hunting dogs and had the gentle nature needed for a good family dog. He felt that Labs were over-bred and Chesapeake's too aggressive for a house filled with wild children.
Our dog Jud was fantastic. We taught him tricks like High Ho Silver, play dead, GI Joe, any dumb thing kids can think to teach a dog. We used him to tow our sled up the hills for us in the winter, and he would run down the hill with us 20, 30, 40 times in order to "fetch" that sled back up the hill. He was a vigilant guardian and loyal companion. He had a wicked sense of humor and a huge grin.
He also would cover a field in any direction my father would send him with only hand signals and an occasional whistle from my Dad. He would sit and watch patiently as Dad threw up to 10 white painted wood blocks (numbered with pen) out into the long grass, and on command retrieve them in order, from the last one handled to the first. (No shit)
He would dive off a dock, out of a boat, or into the rapids of a mountain river to retrieve whatever he was put on.
Jud weighed maybe 55 lbs. and was dark red, almost the color of an Irish Setter. He had a medium length soft coat and feathering.
I grew up thinking Golden Retrievers were possibly the best dog anybody could own.
Twenty years after Jud, Dad retired and searched for two or three years to find another field quality Golden. He finally found Jody and started her training.
Jody was a lovely dog. Sweet and willing, smart and loyal. She wouldn't carry a bird. She couldn't tolerate the feel of the feathers in her mouth. Jody became a beloved family pet and my Dad decided he was done with hunting dogs.
Because they were no longer being bred for their intended purpose. Golden Retrievers were becoming yuppie suburban show pieces, and paying a high price for their popularity.
The Golden Retrievers I meet now weigh between 75 and 100 lbs. Their hair is a luxuriant high maintenance mess. They are almost white. (Read Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin if you want a wake up call on breeding for the white gene.) They are exquisite. They have a myriad of genetic disorders including a high incidence of cancer.They are dumber than rocks.
They still have the funny wiggle walk I remember so well, a gentle nature and a big smile. I could cry when I meet them.The irony is that their popularity took off when they began winning the obedience competitions at AKC shows. It was the breeds death knell.
The border collie is next. I see them all over my decidedly yuppie Colorado Springs neighborhood, leaping and bounding, gagging at the end of their extendo leashes and wondering where the hell the sheep are. I think as soon as a breed starts showing up wearing a bandanna at the dog parks you can just about guarantee they're going to be ruined as a breed.
Which brings me to the very interesting post on Tues. of this week. Fugs was talking about the importance of buying a quality animal and the need for people to quit over breeding crap. Obviously I agree with these thoughts. Heartily. It was her choice of examples that got a lot of people fired up, which always makes things fun. Especially since I come from the short, stocky ranch horse camp.
I have to be honest. I liked the look of the babies at They were short, compact little boogers, with nice butts and pretty faces. Definitely something I would stop and look at if I was passing by. They looked round, happy and healthy. I liked that they were running wild, I don't want my babies coming to me tame. I didn't care for their breeding, but that's because I'm not a roper. They were foundation lines that the ropers gobble up.
I agree that there were too many. I am all over that. But I would still look.
I didn't like the $15,000 black thing. Only because that's not where my interest lies. To my mind that colt was already over handled, too big and pleasure bred. Not my cup of tea. I have no problem with it being somebody elses cup of tea though.


  1. I say that 14.2 is just right for middle-aged women finally getting back to the passion of their teens. 17 hands is too far to fall, too far to reach, too much to feed. It's obviously fine for someone else, but to each their own.

  2. Yes to each there own a Fjord is for me 14.3 and sound as can be!

  3. On horses and hunting dogs--

    I ride dressage (as a basis for mounted archery) and prefer 14 to 15 hands. I also technically have a minor in physics. :) In my personal opinion, when you consider the long term effects of gravity, use, and the long term impact of being ridden, a smaller horse has a better chance of staying sound simply due to its size.

    I believe that a small horse is easier to supple, as your body weight is much larger in proportion to its size than with a large horse. In my experience, it is easier for me to work the horse "through" as the smaller horses are lighter, more nimble, and able to compensate for my weight.

    My horses are generally small and "crazy", as I click well with the very dominant and very hot. These have always been the horses that are a piece of cake to ride from your seat. Give me small and sneaky any day.

    The German warmbloods...well, I have ridden some. They have beautiful gaits. However, I feel that they are a ticking time bomb in terms of feet, joints, and bodies. It is only a matter of time until gravity catches up with them.

    On dogs...I ran across a 4 year old German Jagdterrier. He was hunted with a group of mountain curs, without any guidance. He was a renowned cat killer and dog fighter. His owner dumped this imported terrier at a pound. You better believe I was on the phone until I got him!!

    At my house, he is fantastic. He blood trails, retrieves, points, and works his little docked tail off 24/7. My JRT cross is useless. No heart, no bravery, no bite. He does like to jump things though, as you can see in the picture. He (and I believe JRTs in general) is just not a field dog.

    I believe the Germans make excellent dogs (but give me the Jagdterrier due to the same size issues that Dobermans, GSD, and Belgian Malinois are subject to) but the same focused breeding program does not necessarily make a fantastic horse. The sense of German Nationalism that created the Jagdterrier to replace the Parson's Terrier and English Fox Terrier was applied to horses (and people too, through eugenics).

    I will say this: I have yet to ride a German Riding Pony. That may end up being my new favorite thing. :)

    All in all: I went to Sugarcreek on Friday. God awful experience. I think it's not necessarily breeding what you know there is a market for...I think it's ensuring that you function as a role model to those around you. If you know of a young person that needs experience with horses, perhaps you can offer them a bit of help. Giving an interested young teenager some time to experience how a horse should lunge (soft, quiet, absolutely obedient), how to set up a series of cavaletti or jumps and watch how a horse should encounter them, etc. is a vote for all the horses in the slaughter pens.

    If more people had access to safe, quality tuition around horses, I think there would be some more possibilities to rehome such animals. Out in podunk WV, there is no one that I know of (and I judge you not on your riding, but the gracefulness and excellence of your horses!!!!) that I feel comfortable letting work with my horse. I know of one person that I am going to bribe with dinner and whatnot to watch my equitation, but for horse training? Nah.

    Sugarcreek + local shows have convinced me to start the USDF L judge program. That's my 2009 goal, besides starting med school.

    Rant over!

  4. Heh, controversy indeed. I rolled my eyes on the FoTD post, because fugs clearly didn't mean "you should all breed 17 handers," she meant as far as I could see, "You need to breed things you can sell." Whether or not a responsible breeder should breed some of the things that will sell currently, is a personal and moral choice, and another question altogether. But her logic is impeccable, as far as that goes.

    I won't bother with the blether about big horses I have known that were sound, sane, versatile and hardy, (and yes, I've known a few, including a horse I'd consider a horse of a lifetime) because really, one could go around all day trading experiences and not really add anything.

    My take on it is: Big is fine, proving it fits the natural phenotype of the breed in question. Breeding just FOR big, is another thing entirely. As in your apposite example (and again thanks to Temple Grandin) breeding for big can get you into a whole lot of trouble. (The chicken anecdote)

    Now, Shires, Clydes, certain types of TBs and a lot of warmbloods are naturally 17+. And they are meant to be that big - they have the bone and the muscle structure and the metabolism for it. Breeding QH's to 18hh... not such a good idea. I did my thesis on types of muscle fibres in various breeds of horses, metabolic changes associated with them, and a lot of research into EPSM, and ERS. And don't even get me started on the American Shetland - I think it's an abomination. Not to mention miniatures, ugh.

    There are disciplines where big horses are required, and there are breeds suitable for them. And there are lots of tall people who do not fit well on a small horse.
    However, the larger the horse, the more likely you are to have mechanical issues; the greater the strain on the structures - the higher the chance of breakdowns - it's simple physics.
    Just as in the human population, the extremes in size are naturally in the minority and that's the way it should be.

    As someone who's done a fair bit of dressage, I have to say I'm glad that the fad for really big horses appears to be slowing in the UK, as a lot of people, soundness and other considerations aside, generally can't ride a horse over 17hh effectively - too much movement, too strong, no matter how well trained.

  5. Give me under 15h any day. I used to want 16h+ horses. Not any more. I like being able to get on from the ground and getting down, whether by choice or by the horse’s choice is much easier, too. And a small horse is quicker and fits better in tight places, too!

  6. Originally, the quarter horse was an average of 14.2 to maybe 15 hands, wasn't it? Not that things don't evolve over the years, but just as Laura said, the smaller horse just seems to fair better at staying sound. Knew of a 16 hand, 1300 pound gelding that loved (I mean LOVED) team penning. Popped a tendon in the hind left. Always did fantastic at western pleasure and english, but he did lub him some team penning. I think his height had a lot to do with that injury.

    Over-breeding in a willy-nilly way has been a "death know" for many breeds of dogs and horses.

  7. My husband and i own a boarding ranch - we do a little bit of everything, team penning, calf sorting, amature reining, and competitive trail courses. . . we set up a permenant trail course in our back field and all the smaller horses in the barn have consistantly been the best at it - (reaching down to pick up a tennis ball off a cone is no easy task if you are 17hh up) We have always had small horses and always will - I think my favorite part though is going on trail rides and riding right underneith all the spider webs while the person behind you on the taller horse catches every single one (:

  8. While I understood what Fugly was trying to say yesterday, I must say that I prefer horses in the 14.2-14.3 hand range (my Appy mare is 14.3).

    She is big enough that just about any adult can ride her, but not so big that my nephews think I am launching them into space just to get them onto her back for a ride.

    We do a ton of trail riding, and we have one 17 hand app that rides with us. He seriously looks like a giraffe! He's a great ride, but damn you can practically touch the sky when you are on his back! Never been lame a day in his life, but few people are willing to ride him cause he's just too high and they say what happens if I have to get off out on the trail and there's nothing to use as a mounting block?
    As for the dogs, you are totally right about breeding the purpose right out of them. You see it everywhere- labs that are terrified of water, shelties and collies that have no herding instinct whatsoever... And its made worse by the "designer mutt' craze which, judging by the local dog park is dying down a bit but seriously if I run into another Labradoodle puppy that someone paid $1500 for I am gonna throw up.

    Everyone wants the perfect dog, and thats fine. But the dog that is perfect for me may not be for you. I can't tell you the number of times people have raved over my sheltie and said they are going to run out and get one "just like him." I always stop them short, tell them he wasn't born this way, he is the result of hours of obedience training, hours of socialization and persistence. Shelties, like all dogs aren't born obedient. I love my Storm Dog but they are barky, high energy, moderately obsessive, sensitive little dogs. They need a job, an outlet for their energy and demand to be a full fledged member of your family. Any less and you've probably got problems brewing.

    Those Border Collies trapped in cities with no outlet will end up in the pound, driven crazy by the lack of work and expectation that they should lay on the rug all day while their owner is at work.

    Sorry for the long post... rant over


  9. An interesting topic here. In my opinion, the phrase 'there is no good horse with a bad color' also can be applied to height. My first horse was a 14.2 mare, my next was a 16.2 gelding, and my current is a 15.3 gelding. They were all good horses. The small mare was great for an 8 year old to climb on and fall off of. The 16.2 gelding taught me to climb up a leg to get on bareback. The horse I have now is what I would consider average sized. For my fiance, it is not an option for us to get a smaller horse. He is 6'3" and about 200 pounds. I can understand that for some adult riders, a smaller horse would be better for mounting. As far as I am concerned, if you can't get on by yourself from the ground- don't get on. This idea would lead me to believe that smaller horses would be more 'helpful'.

    I think that claiming larger horses have more lameness is a bit far fetched. There are so many other factors. Confirmation, breeding, breed, useage, rider ability, frequency of use, etc.
    My 16.2 hand Arab (he was registered purebred, but we all had our doubts, he seemed more likely to be a NSH) was sound his whole life outside of getting caught in fence once after he was retired. He died of kidney failure in his 20's.

  10. McKinna is 14.3.

    She is a damn fine horse.

    You know what's cool? Being able to see over your horse's back. Not having to lift a saddle way above your head to ride.

    Listen, of the horses I've ridden often, from McKinna to Chaucer (who is 16.3ish), I've been able to be effective on all of them. Half the variable is their girth size and how much of your leg they take up. As long as that horse is physically a match for me, whether it's 14.2 or 16.2, I'm fine.

    On the dog issue -- if I ever wanted a working dog, I would go find a breeder who breeds working dogs. Good ones. Seems like a good way to ensure that I get a dog who knows what the hell it's bred to do.

    On the other hand, I don't want a working dog. I want a family dog. Kuma, my dog, is a Rottweiler-Black Lab mix we got from the local pound.

    He's sweet, very affectionate, will fetch till the cows come home, loves swimming, and would probably happily run a marathon if I was capable of doing so. He's got a lot of energy but when it's put to good use, he's fantastic. He is also very, very smart and could learn probably just about anything I wanted to teach him.

    That's what I want in a dog -- pretty much the same thing I want in a horse. Behave, be athletically inclined towards what I want to do, and be willing to learn anything I throw at them.

  11. When I was a kid taking lessons at the local dressage barn, I always dreamed of my 16.2 dark bay dream warmblood... fast forward to four years ago, when I was working at a local day camp and came across "Rusty", a *just* 15h red dun QH with a stripe down his back and a bad attitude (spooky, high, hot). Fast forward to today, and Henry (could not bear the thought of keeping the name "Rusty") and I are living the good life and winning in the local dressage shows :)

  12. I like the short stocky ones too !
    Getting on and off is much easier than my 15.3 biggun'. My next Ay-rhab endurance horse shall not exceed 15.0, if need to stop and go potty, I dont want to have to find a big ol stump to get back on with!

  13. My little 14 hand Rocky rescue is pretty fugly - thick neck, mutton withered (well, really no-withered), common headed - but I bet she'll last for eons. She's fat as a tick, barefoot, and lives off air, basically. I love love love her size, which works for me but isn't intimidating to my son or husband.
    It really is too bad about Goldens, and GSDs and JRTs and other breeds that have declined overall in quality after being popularized. Put Australian Cattle Dogs and Catahoulas in with the Border Collies. ACDs and Cats are my prediction for the next "in" breeds.
    A quick training question:
    The little round mare is my first project horse. She and I can w-t in a relaxed way in the pasture and we've been working up to loping. (she's fairly green.) Once I ask for a lope, however, she becomes chargy, moving or rushing into a faster gait if I ask her to walk or trot. She also loses her steering and sensitivity at a lope - like she gets so excited that we're going faster that she "can't" hear my cues to go left/right/slow/stop.
    I do lots of serpentines, circles, transitions, straight lines, you name it to calm her mind and her feet - but after that first canter request of the session, she stays pretty chargy, tight-feeling and mentally high strung. I don't sense there's any pain involved, but the change in speed seems to totally jazz and preoccupy her. Ideas? Thanks!

  14. "for any rider who is less than six foot and weighs no more than 200 lbs"

    And this is why I look at horses over the 16hh mark! However saying that, in my younger (and skinner!)years I often rode fjords and young qh's well under 15hh.

    I have a long upper body, and with anything under 15hh I make them look little!

    We also had goldens when I was a kid. We have a local breeder that breeds for working dogs using old lines. Fantastic dogs that will hunt, and be a best friend to a kid. I feel bad for the hearding dogs stuck in a city...

  15. Since I started riding every horse I was plopped on for lessons(mostly WB's - 1 OTTB, couple AQH) stood at a minimum 15.3up to 16.2+.

    I wanted a HUGEGINORMOUS horse for my first horse for years. (I have yet to obtain any horse - I can't afford one yet - I'm not stupid enough to pretend I can - yet).

    Last year, at 25, out of sheer desperation to get back into the saddle, I hopped on a good friends Arab in need of excerise. He's 15.2. He felt TIIIINY. I hated it .... at first.

    In all honesty he's the best match I've ever ridden size wise. I'm 5'5". I am even considering excercising some of her greener, (this may go poorly due to the greenness... but I'll learn A LOT - trainer will also be on hand) smaller mares for her. However, I'm not nearly as scared to fall off - the ground is much closer! The stride is shorter but still smooth. I'm learning to love the quickness... the Arab teleport is still taking some getting used to.

  16. Very interesting subject and tangent from Fug's post! Personally I prefer my horses under 15 hands. Currently, all three of my horses measure 14:3, though we didn't do that on purpose. I can keep up, if not flat out beat, any of the bigger horses on my drill team. I would say my little horse is definately one of the more athletic and versatile, put any where kind of horses on the team.

    Everyone is certainly entitled to their own height preference and it does seem that some disciplines lend themselves to larger horses while others are better suited for small horses. However, I am not entirely sure if that is because of the actual ability of the horses due to their size or simply trends for those disciplines and there are always exceptions to the rule. It also seems like there is usually an over abundance of 14:2-15 hand horses for sale. Especially in the Fugly sector. I guess it could just be that that is generally my market so those are the ones I notice. But it still makes me wonder.

  17. My mare is 14.3 and she's perfect for me. I expected her to be bigger, as her sire and dam were both around 15.2, but she ended up topping out where she is now. At first I was a little disappointed because all the other horses I had ridden were all roughly 16 hands and I 'thought' I wanted another tall horse. Once I started working with her and training her, though, I decided I liked her size much better than the taller horses of my past. She's easy to handle, easy to saddle, easy to clean (she's a Paint, so scrubbing the white on her back and rump is much easier when I can reach it!), and easier to get on and off of. She is also more fun to ride because of her size. She really is the perfect size.

    Rockymouse: my mare was the same way up until about a month ago. I used to have to wait and canter her at the end of our ride because as soon as she cantered she would be totally high strung for the rest of the time I was working her. I found that she was waiting for me to ask for that canter again. So I would take her to the inside of the arena and do pivots, side passes, cavalettis, and other mind intensive things to get her to forget about the canter. I think she was also not very comfortable at the canter (not balanced and not used to carrying my weight at that gait), and since you said your mare is green and hasn't cantered a lot, that's probably a big part of it as well. The more I canter my mare, the better she gets, and the more comfortable she is. She's much more balanced and isn't staying hyper after the canter anymore. Your girl might be 'worried' about cantering again, thus the anticipation for your canter cue. Make sure your cues are consistent and don't let her rush. Make sure you always praise her when she does well so she learns what you want, and don't make a big deal if she does it wrong.

    Others may have different or better advice, but that's what worked for my girl. She was trying so hard... praising her got me far, and making a big deal out of her mistakes only made things worse. In fact, I'd just ignore her if she did wrong. No stopping and backing or anything. I'd just start over again like nothing happened. I had to be very calm all the time, even when she was trotting around like a freight train. If I even got a small bit of 'slow' I praised her to death. She was mostly just worried about the canter and anticipated the cue to do it again. Be patient... the more you canter the better she'll get. I don't know if you're riding english or western (western I assume since you said lope) but I started riding my girl in hunt seat tack and rode her in two point when I cantered her. It helped because I was up off her back and she could work on balancing the weight without having me sitting down on her back. The saddle was also much lighter, so she had less weight to carry.

  18. I agree with Mugs and Laura on so many fronts!

    Mugs, thanks for saying that bit about dogs. It's something I've been wanting to plug into my own blog for quite some time and just hadn't found the words or practiced "BIC" (butt in chair) to do so. I won't give a diatribe about other breeds that have been, for lack of a better term, ruined because of their momentary popularity.

    Also, thanks for plugging Temple Grandin's book. That book singularly changed my life. It explained what is going on with my ADHD son in a way I didn't understand before. It touched on what I've been seeing in the Paint and Pinto world but couldn't explain. And that book opened up a whole new world to me. So, if anyone has the chance to read it, please take it. It's worth the time it takes to absorb all the information Temple Grandin hands you.

    I like shorter horses. However, I'm 5'8" with legs equal in length to most men that are 6' tall. I have avoided buying a horse under 15 hands just because I think I look a little silly riding something small enough that I can wrap my legs around their belly and hook my feet together. But, that's just my opinion. I also ride both english and western. My current horse is taped at 16.1hh and he feels just right to me. My VTA was 16 hh himself before I sold him (arab and still growing!). And the Giant Flaming Jackass was just 15 hands. Of the 3, the one that intimidated me was GFJ. He was massive for his size. Not tall, but definitely built like an old style morgan. GFJ was just "there" whenever I was around him. It felt like he took up all the space in a stall to me. It could be intimidating. Yet, with Casey and the VTA, I have never felt like that. Their height doesn't bother me. It's not intimidating. And they aren't so small that I feel like I'm riding a pony. I choose a taller horse so that I feel proportionate and not like Gargantua riding a smaller horse. Not because it's popular or what any silly judge may be looking for. But for my comfort level.

    I had planned on working with a trainer in my area until she started insisting that I needed a taller horse. I don't work with her any more. Period. I'll just do it on my own until I find a trainer that is interested in what I have not tell me what they think I should have.

    Again, it's not about the height, but about what I'm comfortable with. And for me, that's all that matters.

  19. I agree that the 17 hand craze may be getting a little out of hand. My husband is the opposite, he likes ALL of his horses to be no bigger than about 14.3--ever, lol. His favorite horse is just a tick over 14 hands, and perfect for him. He's well built, he weighs as much as my big blue horse that's 15.3 so no chance of him breakin down anytime too soon.
    ::I totally agree about Henry-a team roping horse has a pretty strenuous job, especially if they're hauled much at all!::

  20. I've got a 14.3hh QH and a 16hh perch/TB. I like riding them both for totally different reasons. But if I needed a horse for work or for any reason needed to spend a lot of time in the saddle Id keep my QH. He's fast, agile, comfy to sit and best of all easy to get on and off.
    As far as dogs go...we've inherited a lab. He hates water, even rain. He's dumb as a post, but at least he's friendly. He was born with only 1 kidney. He has two fake hips already. He has a fake elbow. He is allergic to many foods.
    My prior dog was a working bred pyrenees/marmemma cross. Healthy as an ox, friendly too and quiet with the horses. But being a loyal guardian dog, protecting home and livestock? I think not, much more fun to wander off down the road and get lost. He ended up being a house dog and never ever got over the urge to wander, you had to watch him like a hawk. Couldnt even let him off leash on walks.
    My boyfriends previous dog, a bull mastiff, died at 4 from the third recurrence of cancerous tumors. Oh, and she'd already had two new knees.
    The best dog Ive ver had was a stray that showed up at my door. Could have been part malamute, maybe some shepherd, lab. Who knows. But heathy, smart and friendly too. My next dog will most likely be a mutt too. In my experience they're better dogs.

  21. Bravo, Ladies!

    Brings to mind a saying from one of my favorite movies. "A Person is smart. People are Dumb."


    My last personal horse lived to be 40. Sound his entire life, we were together for 20 years. We horse showed every weekend in spring summer and fall, English and western Events. We ponied Thoroughbreds for quite a few years. And logged more trail miles than I probably ever will again. Old Jack never took a lame step. He stood just shy of 15 hands, and was a non-stop go go machine for the time we were together.

    I miss that old horse like there is no tomorrow.

    New horse- 16 hands. Hell, he CAME to me dead lame. Not once, but twice. Will he stay sound? If I am careful... and only time will tell.... but I have doubts about him lasting as long as old Jack did, even with 1/10th the work load.

  22. Re: Temple Grandin.
    I had never heard of her until my husband was in his last year of college, and was doing research on cattle handling techniques for the feedlot that he worked at. Temple designed the entire set of working chutes at the feedlot he worked at,(it was owned by the university for research in cattle health, feed trials, etc) and it was truly amazing to hear about the things she did when she came to look at the facility. Supposedley she went through ALL of the sorting pens, the chutes, alley ways, the whole bit-so that she could get a feel for how a steer would percieve the light, openings in the gates, everything. I did some of my own research on her after that and was absolutely amazed at some of her ideas, can we say, "outside the box?"

  23. I should probably add in that my contribution to this post arose out of my dialogue with mugwump about 17 hand Quarter Horses and the inappropriateness of this as a trend. Extolling the virtues of such a horse, and referring to 14.3 Quarter Horses as if they were lesser was so off base, in my opinion, (no matter what horseshow judges are currently placing in HUS)that I just had to have a spirited discussion with the author of this wonderful blog--yes, that's you, mugwump--about what, to me, was a really ridiculous idea. Finding that mugwump and I saw eye to eye on this subject, as we often do, I offered her my post, just for fun (as I'm not scheduled to post on the equestrianink blog for a week). The thing is, I should point out that my only real experience is with QHs and a few TBs. In my view, a Quarter Horse is meant to be roughly 15 hands and a TB roughly 16 hands (obviously this is a generalization). But a 17 hand QH is ludicrous--very removed from anything the breed is about. However, I do understand that warmbloods are very typically 17 hands, and though the few 17 hand warmbloods I have known have had a lot of arthritic and joint issues and definitely did not stay sound into their twenties, I welcome being corrected on this perception. I am told that their size and the gait that goes with it makes them ideal for dressage--and I don't mean to imply that I can be the judge of that. In any case, as many of you have pointed out, it just stands to reason that a 14.3 horse (or thereabouts) is liable to stay sound longer--so much less wear and tear on their joints and hooves. And by the way, when I say Henry is sound, I mean really sound--very free moving and gets no pain killers or Adequan or any other sort of shot or supplement. I would love to have a dozen more just like him.

  24. Oh, and about the ducking under spiderwebs on the smaller horse--my trail horse is also 14.3, just like my son's horse, and there are two very solid, low hanging limbs on one of my favorite trails that I would have a heck of a time ducking under on a taller horse--so there's another advantage.

  25. Hey Laura, I know virtually nothing about QH's so I find it interesting to hear about them ;)

    Seriously, there's something to the notion that smaller horses stay sounder - the bigger and thus heavier they get, the more stress and conformation defects they have put on them - that's why horrifically fugly ponies are often very sound, yet horses with apparently minor physical issues become lamer sooner.

    That said, with warmbloods, just as with TBs, people do too much with them too soon, and overfeed them as youngsters - I believe that's the two biggest causes of unsoundness in WB's.

    The system, at least here with competitive dressage is set up screwy - in order to get onto a national team, they expect you to have them working at top level by the time they are seven or eight - and a lot of them haven't finished growing till they are 6. So naturally, by the time they are in their teens, their joints are buggered - usually their hocks. The reason that they want younger horses of course is given that they need to be sure there will a few good competitve years in them - this creating a vicious circle.
    I hated it, and still hate it, and it's part of the reason I got out of the competitive circuit - but like the TB industry, that's the way the game is played. I believe, although I don't know this personally, that the situation is similar in the US.

  26. we've got two 14.3 welsh cobs, perfect height for me at 5'5". I've had one of them since I was 11, and for the 11 years we've had him, he's pony clubbed, show jumped, evented, dressaged, done working hunter to national level, ridden day long hard trails, been semi broken to drive, played crazy games when i was younger, and generally done everything we could've asked of him. I'd have loved to try reining with him, but it's such a minority sport in the UK.

  27. I'll take that challenge -
    Jeanette Brakewell's Over to You, just over 16hh, TB, 21yrs of age and still competing to Olympic standard. Has run Badminton seven times, and took silver in Athens and Sydney.
    I agree that, for a lot of day-to-day stuff, big horses are a chore. Firstly, you need a lorry to lug them around in because no trailer will contain them. Then a birthing stable, because they'll get cast in a regular one. Every hack is a fight to stay conscious as you are smacked in the face by various low-hanging trees, mounting is more like rock climbing, and dismounting gracefully is impossible.
    They're 'trendy' in Europe beacuse we don't really go for the whole barrel-racing, reining type thing (and I wish we did, by the way - I ride western at one of the few stables in England that does it and I REALLY hope that it catches on)
    No matter how practical a 14.2 is, the chances of it performing a decent extended trot or charging round a big x-country course is as slim as finding a sound, elderly
    17hh horse ;)

  28. I'm a hunter rider. I like my horses scopey, sound, and I need to be able to put my leg on them. I like a long's easier for me to collect a long stride than extend a short one. I ride a 15.1 hh Appy cross gelding, whom I love to death, but his short stride and narrow barrel put both of us at a disadvantage. Thus, why we do best in Hunter Pleasure. :P
    I agree that 14.3 is a nice size, but not for me. My legs hang off, I feel out of balance with so little under me, the short stride is an issue. And the 14.3 horses I've ridden don't have narrow barrels. I've got long legs, so unless the horse were built like a tank I wouldn't really feel comfortable. And then, I don't really like the tank build anyway, so there goes that plan.
    That said, 17 hh is too much. I like mine in the 15.3 hh to 16.2 hh range.

  29. FD--mugwump and I could sure chime in with the cowhorse variation on that story. They're being worked hard as two year olds in order to be competitive at the three year old futurities and are often more or less broken down by four or five. Again, one of the idiocies of the horseshow world.
    And Londongirl, that is a great story. I love hearing about horses like that. A 16 hand TB isn't really big for the breed type, though. A 17 hand TB is big for the breed type--like Eight Belles. I do believe these 17 hand TBs, let alone 17 hand QH's have a much slimmer chance of staying sound throughout a working life. But all my admiration for Over To You and rider. And I hear you about the big extended trot and big cross country course with a smaller horse. I knew somebody was going to mention those issues when I wrote the post (!) You've got a point. For some things, maybe you don't want 14.3. But hey, you don't really need 17 hands, do you? As you just pointed out, wouldn't a 16 hand TB do just as well? And maybe have a better chance of staying sound?

  30. In2paints,
    Thanks for the guidance on my mare that gets over-reactive after the canter. It's very helpful.

    I'm with you on not punishing her. She'd hate that and not understand. This afternoon, actually, we cantered the length of the (small) pasture and back, our longest lope yet. For the VERY first time, I felt her relax about midway through. It had already occurred to me that balance, as you suggested, was part of the problem. In the middle of today's ride, I also realized that *trust* on her part may also be an issue - that she didn't trust that I'd stay centered and balanced and on her. Lightbulb moment!
    After the moment that I felt her relax, I was able to slow her more easily than usual and she was calmer than usual. Thanks to this blog for helping me articulate my difficulty with her. It helped me be clear with her today and I got great help!

  31. yeah, i thought that after 25 compliments it was time for a change ;). You are right, 16hh is not big for a TB. I'm trying to think of other examples..(unsuccessfully)
    I have to admit, I don't know a lot of BIG elderly horses still competing, and unfortunately know a lot of small ponies that just will not die. I have a bit of a bias as both my horses are over 16.2hh. But there's just nothing like sitting on something really striding out, you know? I realize that this incredibly well researched argument doesn't stand up against the harsh truth of bigger food and livery bills, but hey ho, irrationality is my religion.

  32. oh, and I'd rather break a 17 hander than a 14. At least the big one can't drop a shoulder!! how the crap do you stay on?!
    I fear I am unwittingly starting a pony/horse debate here, but it is late across the atlantic and I feel compelled to pick fights across cyberspace with better-informed strangers :)

  33. Londongirl--I bet you're younger than me. I don't think I can climb up on a 17 hand horse at this point in my life--another reason I prefer 14.3. Hey mugwump, where are you? Off riding your own 14.3 horse maybe? I keep waiting to get your feedback. And those of us who spent our youth and middle age riding cowhorses don't figure a 14 hand horse is a pony. Not if its a cowhorse bred Quarter Horse who can kick everybody's butt in reining and cutting. (And I've seen lots of these.) Nope--14 hands or not--still a horse. But Londongirl, I'm not necessarily better informed than you are. Mugwump is the expert here.

  34. Yay for the shorties! I love my short red fat boy. He's lame though, because of a broken p2. I do believe that this happened because he was started very young. Probably just turned two. I didn't own him until he was 5. I believe he would have stayed rock solid if given a chance to be fully grown before he was worked and broke. He's still rock solid, very sure footed and smooth, even though he's got an extra "gait" sometimes. I agree wholeheartedly with the blog from the both of you today.

  35. I agree with barefooter!! I ***LOVE*** my 14.2 Appaloosa tank! I only thought I wanted anything bigger than that. Jaz is about 15 HH and that's not bad, but all in all, I prefer closer to the ground LOL!

    I just posted on someone else's blog that we never have to shop -- our pets find their way to us.

  36. Not having a lot of experience (but assuming I"ll get it) with big horses, but with 17 hand Toby here now, I'll give my little input...

    Lameness: I really think a lot of it's how you use them. Toby was hunter/jumper all his life (19 years)...and at least for the last 9 years didn't even have shoes off. Seems like he never had a break, even over the winter. Was injected in the joints, left on bute, the whole 9 yards just to get more showing out of him. Just had his shoes pulled today..turns out he was shod so he was on his toes...which explains his heel soreness and his hip soreness. He also has contracted heels. Hopefully being barefoot will help him in a few months. I wonder if you took a smaller horse and jumped the crap out of them, if they too would have leg problems like he does. Also...if he had been given rest time if he would be a little better?

    Riding: He is a *long* way up, but not that far with a mounting block :). If I can do it, anyone probably can. To be honest, it wasn't the up so much as when I went to get down...and realized I had a good 6 inches or so more to drop LOL!

    Now that he's here (remember, being retirement boarded) I realize that I personally would not own one that big...I am quite happy with my 15.3 mare. However, he's still a horse, and is smart, and I think he realizes his hard years are over, and actually seems to be relaxing, and I think I will enjoy him for as long as he is with me.

  37. Oh, I am 5'7" and I rank in the middle aged (won't say how much I need to lose, but less than a sack of grain LOL!)

  38. I have to agree. Larger horses have big joints and more weight to place upon them which leads to breakdown quicker (case study by my uni!)

    I got a 13.3 thats a bit arthritic but considering where I rescued her from I am surprised shes still with us and even able to ride.

    For my height I look good on a 15.2 but my weight I can ride almost anything but I may still look a little long legged on them XD

  39. I prefer smaller horses as well...

    Just thought I would mention, the whole "nobody wants a 14.3 horse" isn't just because adults don't like small horses.

    In hunter, horse and rider combinations are put in different divisions based on the height of the horse (and age of the rider). The larger the horse, the longer the strides and the higher the jumps. In general, a horse that is just over the height requirement will have a shorter stride than a larger horse and may have a slightly harder time getting over the fences. Since the point of hunter is to make it look like an easy ride, a larger horse will often get higher points because it makes the round look more effortless.

  40. all-canadian--thanks for that info--I didn't know that. Again, I am just an opinionated cowhorse person--I am not an expert in all horse disciplines. I appreciate informed information. I will stand beside my basic premise, however.

  41. My goodness. Teach me to go to work! What a fun topic. I don't know about you guys, but I like hearing about all of these different horses and riders. I like reading about the difference of opinions without slamming what may not work for us.
    We have our share of crippled 14.2 horses, believe me, especially in cowhorse, reining or cutting, where the futurities are the biggest money makers we have available. I remember being told by a trainer I worked for that the two year olds needed to be going down the fence by May. Which means starting them by January of their two year old year no matter how old they might actually be.
    I'm not even vaguely interested in the futurities anymore, I'm barely willing to derby.
    fd- you are a fun and practical addition to these discussions. Feel free to crack down on any of our nonsense any time.
    rockymouse-I think you found all the help you need. I find that loping a bunch, once they can carry me is the key to them being comfortable. Loose reins always rule for me...
    I'm pretty tall, 5'8 and certainly sturdy, but I still like them small. I have ridden some of the biggies, I used to get some dressage horses in for "softening" and they are fun, and strong, and tall.
    One thought. I agree that most fuglies fall in the 14hh to 15hh range. I think that's probably where horse size falls when they're no longer being bred for anything other than "horse". Kind of like mutt dogs are usually around thirty pounds....does that make any sense?

  42. My 25 ex-barrel racing champion grade QH gelding is completely sound. He's an even 15hh and still quite a pistol. We have one 16hh TB, he's 12 years old, hard keeper (something I haven't experienced with our 7 QHs / paints) and as I'm not quite 5'1", he's a bear for me to mount.

  43. We have always had golden retrivers (twenty odd years - we are on our 5th for various reasons).
    These are the things ALL of them had in common:
    1. they love to swim - causing some of them to develop ear problems

    2. ours take themselves for walks - we have always lived on land and ALWAYS taken them for walks daily but still come home and have no dog. This has led to us losing 3 - one got his by a car, two just didn't come back. We have fixed the fence so many times and electrified it etc etc and they still get out. Our dog now has an electric shock collar, not my favourite idea but keeps him at home.

    3. they do NOT like to retrive. Despite hours of trying a retriver (in my experiance) will catch wahtever it is and then go and hide with it, no matter how many times you call him.

    My mother loves them, this is why we have them. I think they are dumb dogs and they annoy me. lol ... sorry golden retrivers of the world!!!

    I like a horse of about 16hh mark. Not TOO big to fall off and not too small for me (I am rather tall). I haven't been for a proper ride for a while though (I have ridden, just trail rides at a walk though) so that might have changed.

  44. mugwump, all my dogs have been thirty pound dogs. I am not defending this--its just a game--but part of me says that I'm attracted to the "original dog"--that wolf or coyote or dingo who chose to become a camp follower. I have actually had a Queensland heeler who recieved the ultimate cowboy accolade:ie I was asked not to bring him on a gather cause Queenslands "never would behave" (not a dumb point) and I assured them that he would mind me--and at the end of that gather I was told that that was the first Queensland they had seen who would mind at a gate. For all of you who haven't done this, the cattle bunch up at a gate and the dogs need to nip them a little but very little, basically the dogs need to hold back or the cattle will break and run, so the dog needs to be very responsive to the owner. Queenslands are, in general, hard-headed, stubborn dogs (I can tell you why--if anybody's interested)--thus the perception hat no Queensland would mind at a gate. Mine did, and all the cowboys were impressed (I will admit , I trained him with a 2 by 4 as they say...that's a joke, for those of you who don't know the cowboy lingo).

  45. I agree with you. I liked looking at the Rocking T horse's. I felt they looked sound, healthy, and would make enjoyable mounts later in life. If they end up in the right hands, are gelded and not bred back, then there is no reason why they couldn't go on to be a great horse. Not many people can afford a nice sound horse, and from Rockin T's bloodlines, they bred for soundness and a sane mind.

    As for horse's height. I wouldn't trade my 14.2 hh cutting paint for anything in the world. He's sturdy, fast, and sound. I've found that the old "foundation" bred/sized horse's are more sound and healthy than an overly bred HUS 16 hh.

  46. I think it's a bit of an overstatement to say the big guys don't stay sound as long - a lot of it depends upon the amount of bone they have. I've spent the last couple of years working with a lot of retired STBs and most of the big guys have stayed remarkably sound into their old age (one boy is a shade under 18hh and just celebrated his 31 birthday) - the difference is these boys (and girls) have relatively light bodies like TBs but enormous bone for their body size - since pretty has never been a concern in the STB world they've been bred to be hardy and practical and the result is animals of all sizes that stay incredibly sound despite years on the track.

    My last horse was an amazingly athletic little 14.2h welsh/arab and my new boy is a 17.2 STB and I have to admit I prefer the big guy. I'm an eventer/jumper and I love going out onto a course knowing I can clear everything out there from a trot and still make time because my boy has such a powerful ground-eating extended trot. My guy is actually a little too big to be a prime jumper but since I'm 5'10 and not a light weight I wouldn't want anything smaller under me. When I was looking for my next mount I found that the only animals with really substantial bone under 16hh tended to be quite drafty and cold blooded - my boy has 10-11" cannons (diameter) and is still an energetic, beautifully responsive competitor.

  47. Laura Crum - AGREED, AGREED, AGREED.

    My gelding's the tallest horse I've ever owned. He's 15hh. Every time I get on his back I wonder what the heck I was thinking.

    I got the point on FHOTD the other day. Breed a horse that will sell... if you're selling to hunter/jumper riders, breed a horse that will mature at 17h.

    If you want to sell to people who like to ride and enjoy their horses, breed 'em around 15h and under. I really believe that's a practical size.

    (I can't get started on QH. Okay I will. Sorry. At 17 h that's not a QH. Yeah I know there's TB in the breed, right at the beginning, but that's not how the breed was developed. Ranch horse? Not long legged and thin. Okay I'll stop now.)

    I've NEVER heard of a horse lurking around for sale and not being sold because of short stature. They'll be for sale forever because of bad temperament or training, lameness, and butt ugliness, but not because of small size.

  48. on dogs cause I didn't ad this. I had a lab. Best dog ever. Could go hunting, would never leave the yard without you, would bite people trying to break into our garage etc. The neighbor put antifreeze in a can of tuna intended to poison the cats and since the dog never left the property and we found the can under a tree on ours he got his up comings from the law. Sad really, great dog.
    My second was a Jack russel. Sweet little dog. Never barked, loved to play fetch and cuddle and was the most gentle dog I have ever owned. When my nephews were little they would yank on her ears and she would yalp and then turn around and lick their fingers instead of biting them or growling.
    The current dog is a brick headed but EXTREMELY intelligent Fox Terrier. Shes a PITA. She barks, chews things, picks pockets, peels magnets off the fridge, finds new ways to break into the cookie cupboard, is allergic to everything, does random things like you can't turn on the ceiling fan or she spins and barks her head off, oh did I mention she barks? She does at the drop of a pin from a dead sleep which in turn wakes the whole house up for no reason. She keeps life interesting.

  49. I just took a closer look at the black colt from Fugly's page and he's 3/4 TB - how is that still a QH?? I think he's a great looking animal who will be a great H/J mount one day but I'm confused as to how he still qualifies as a QH.

  50. I've had 2 TB's both OT, one measured at 15h as she had an extremely high wither, ther other was a full 17.1h.
    Both were started at late 2yo, the 15h one raced 40 odd times over 3-4 years, and was still sound when I got her. The 17h one had lots of scars and had her legs pin fired in the past, and was sound, however she didn't stay that way.
    The big difference was that the smaller one was trained and riden by light weight riders and the larger one was ridden by an overweight person - about 180lbs worth.

    People forget that the bigger they are, the more growing they have to do, and the more time they need to do it.

    If/When I get back into riding I would be happy with anything from 14.3-15h up, however my bf is 6 ft 4 and 200 or so lbs - so anything he rides tends to be part draft/stationbred with good bone - so I may need something a bit bigger!

  51. As for dogs - luckily here in NZ we still have a lot of Jack Russell terriers that are bred for rabbiting - and my sister has a foxy who is now 8 and can't really be bothered chasing the rats and possums any more - but used to be fantastic - he's also become a town dog - may be why he doesn't care so much.

    It is sad to see so many good breds ruined in the name of fashion.

  52. I have often said that my perfect horse for ME to ride, and not breed, and not show, is a 14.3 hand Thoroughbred mare. I have owned one once and if I ever see another that size, I'm gonna buy it. Bonus points for red chestnut.

    But does it sell? Nope. I'm sure if I see it, I can get it for free. While there are some disciplines in which a little horse has an advantage (the cow stuff) and disciplines in which a really tall horse is never going to work (polo, barrels), there are also a hell of a lot of disciplines in which the judges don't look twice at a "hony." Ultimately, you have to breed what is marketable. If you like little horses, educate yourself and breed cowhorses - just breed GOOD ones with marketable conformation and bloodlines.

    (Don't breed polo ponies. Almost no one does that, because OTTB's are free or really cheap, especially the little ones.)

    As for soundness, a 17 hand horse is more likely to be jumped/evented and that is going to break a horse down faster than flat work EVERY time. However, I'd argue you'll see just as many f'ed up legs among all the little cowhorses. Starting early in high impact sports is the culprit, not size.

  53. >>oh, and I'd rather break a 17 hander than a 14. At least the big one can't drop a shoulder!! how the crap do you stay on?!<<\

    OK, LOL, seriously - I am training this damn 13.1 pony and I feel like if she ever drops a shoulder and pitches, I'll be gone. THERE IS NOTHING THERE! My hamstrings hurt because she's so narrow. And those little ponies can damn near do handstands if they want to, they're so athletic. Fortunately she's been kind so far.

  54. ha ha - its when you have to look DOWN to look between their ears that you know somethings wrong. I don't like trotting to feel as though I'm skiing downhill, thanks very much.
    Laura Crum - I'm 19. And you're a published author. So I'm guessing yes?
    Mugwump - Maybe its different across the Atlantic, but size is very important here (lol, that came out wrong) I've been to a lot of yards where they have all kinds of shire cross crap that they try to event because its 'big'. I really want to tell them, 'just because its 17hh doesn't mean its going to jump that PICNIC TABLE in the water! Go let it pull a plough or something!!'

    and also I'm just remembering that Lucinda Frederick's Headley Britannia won Burghley '06 and Badminton '07 and she's only 15.3hh.....I seem to be on the other side of the debate'd that happen??!

  55. "I've NEVER heard of a horse lurking around for sale and not being sold because of short stature. They'll be for sale forever because of bad temperament or training, lameness, and butt ugliness, but not because of small size."

    I would disagree. In some disciplines people are idiots about height -- dressage, for example. Yes, there are people who are happy to have a 14.3 horse because it is perfect for their size. But there are many more people who THINK they need a 17h extravagant warmblood. The first type aren't always in your area.

  56. ...and then there was Teddy O'Connor. ;o)

    My OTTB is 16hh (14 years old now), and he has had soundness issues from the way horses are shod at the track. He's high maintenance, but he's sound now and an absolute joy: Excellent mind, good ground manners, heart full of "try," etc.

    I add my two cents regarding starting horses too early. That contributes to a lot of issues in soundness (both body and mind).

    The black colt that's half TB--I think the QH appendix idea 30 years ago was a mistake. Breeding for the peanut-rolling pleasure posture is a mistake, too, heavy on the forehand just askes for soundness issues, considering too there are still a lot of teacup feet.

    Many original foundation QHs were 13hh.

    Justin Morgan was a peanut, too.

    I ride dressage (well, I'm learning, SLOWLY) and by most standards, I'm on a peanut. When a horse gets over 16.2hh, seems to me their athleticism suffers. A lady I know has an 18hh former jumper. I've noticed that a lot of these 18hh horses just have humongous withers giving them their height. Their rumps aren't any higher than MY horse's 16hh. He's uphill but outrageously so. My horse looks like he was put together by one person; some of these 18hh-ers look like they were assembled by a committee using leftover parts.

    Re dogs: I had a designer dog before there was such a term--she was a standard poodle/golden retriever mix (Golden Doodle by the subsequent designer name, Golden Poo by her first vet--his computer didn't have enough spaces for "Golden Poodle") and she was absolutely marvelous. Her name was Blossom and she was the smartest dog. And sweet. A treasure. I will miss her forever.

    (Found your blog from fugly. I've bookmarked you ;o)

  57. Yes, we have our old mare that's about 24 and she's sound as can be. I had expressed interesting in maybe showing her at an open show or something for fun, and I was met with giggles because she's "only" about 14.2 so and would look funny. I was like ??? In an OPEN show? Sheesh.

    As for hunting dogs? I would have loved for someone to give my girl Lily at try. She's a Catahoula Leopard and those are supposedly good hunting dogs. I know ours goes stir crazy in our back yard unless someone is playing ball with her. She's tireless. Of course, I'm guilty of not allowing her to do what she was bred for, hunting, because I don't live in the country and don't hunt. When we did live in the country, she'd be gone for a day or two and we'd always end up with a nice little "surprise" when she came back. Sweetest dog ever, especially with the little kids. She's the only one out of the three we have that we'd consider making a house dog, but she would go even more nuts if she wasn't out in the yard running and playing and getting into mischief.

  58. Londongirl--I'm 51. So, you see I've got more than one reason for liking 14.3. So much easier to get on and off. I started publishing books in my thirties, which is about the same time I stopped breaking colts. And I will admit that I have never ridden a 17 hand horse. 16.2 is the biggest thing I ever trained, and that was way too big by my standards. But I'm 5 foot 2 and have never trained anything but cowhorses.
    And fugly horse, I did say in my post that I got your point about what is saleable. My point is that those of us with any sense should work at combating the current trend for great big Quarter Horses. They do break down more often than smaller horses, given a similar work load. I can attest to this just among the many team roping horses I've known. And 16 hands is a big rope horse. Of course, I'm someone who got burnt out many years ago on horseshows and all the political crap and egos involved, and I don't breed horses or try to make a profit on them, so I am speaking to a different issue than you were in your post. I am just talking about what makes a good, useful, sound Quarter Horse. And 14.3 is much better than 17 hands, from that point of view.

  59. HA HA HA well I guess size does matter to alot of people!

    I'm 52,5'4 and have a rebuilt leg so getting on or off of anything is very difficult for me.I also have TB's.Current heights 17.1,16.3,16.2 2 at16.0 and the husbands horse is the midget at 15.1.If I had it to do over at this point in life I think I would love a 14.1 or 14.2 sturdy little horse but that's not what we have so we deal with it.As for soundness and usability mine are sound and rideable into their 20's.We had 2 that were sound and ridden up to age 31.Ours have all been home bred Hunter/Field Hunters and never raced and were not started till late 3 yr.olds.I think that is why they hold up.Good starts+good care=long term soundness.

  60. LuvMyTBs, I would never argue with your point that starting them later and not pushing them hard will help any horse stay sound. Now that I no longer compete in horseshows, all my young horses are started at three and ridden very conservatively their three and four year old year and also get lots of turnout time (in a 60 acre field with lots of topography). I think these two things combined will give any horse, no matter the size or confirmation issues, a better chance at staying sound longer.

  61. I'm scared of getting off a big horse... you let go and expect your feet to hit the ground, but the ground just doesn't come! My 15h boy is just the right size for me.

  62. 'Scuse me if this is a trife discombombulated - I'm full of cold.

    londongirl - you are shooting yourself in the foot, aren't you? Heh.

    tbdancer - there are a lot of crummy, overpriced, faux "warmbloods" esp in the US - there were a lot over here too, but it's slowly getting better. Fugly is fugly - nowt to do with height.

    Generally speaking - to be successful in dressage or eventing, you need something at least 16.2 and up. Smaller horses just don't have the stride or the power.

    True, I can name you a bunch of shorties - like others have said, Charisma, Headley Britannia, Teddy O'Connor, Stroller... But these horses are justifiably famous for being short and winning despite that - that's why their names are so familiar. Karen O'Connor and Mark Todd have both commented on the heights of their respective superstars - due to their conformation, they had engines and strides far in excess of what you would normally get from horses of their height.

    I've got to say, personally, although I have had and adored horses of all sizes, anything under 16hh is small as far as I'm concerned. And yes, I can get on off the ground by myself, and no, I'm only 5'2. I like a bit of height and a length of rein in front of me - especially out hunting, when from the back of my 17.3 I can see over bloody great hedges and ford streams without getting my feet wet!

    For longevity and soundness in bigger horses, you need to look at the breeds that are meant to be that big - the Staintondale Shire horse farm in the UK (I know the owner, so it's a good example) keeps its Shires doing displays well into their 20's - and they do fine on it - because they are built for it.

    I do agree though - your average recreational rider does not need anything so large, and would probably find a nice chunky 14.2-15 hh to suit very well - not to mention being cheaper to feed! And I already gave my opinion on the concept of 17hh QH's. *eyeroll*

  63. FD - you named the horses that I was going to!

    I alo know of ponies that can and would jump 5ft 6/6 ft in 6 bar competitions here, however they aren't standard. I had issues selling my 15h TB (she showjumped 4ft, and evented at 3ft) becasue she was short... she also had huge scope and was known for "bouncing" 1 stride doubles, or doing one stride in a 2 stride double, at showjumping competitions - until the jumps were consistantly over 3ft 6.

    I never bothered with "hunter jumpers" (called show hunter here) as she had been schooled over steeplechase fences when racing... and thought the idea was to go fast - and since most of the competition was 16h, the measured striding was often a little out for her.

    I always liked seeing Mark Todd standing next to Charisma... although he was scary skinny at the seoul olympics - a 6ft 4 male should not need to carry a saddle to weigh 76kg! (11 stone I think).

    When Charisma died a year or so back, it made the evening news - one of the headline stories.

  64. In light of all the informed comments here, I'd better revise my point. For those of us who aren't going to show at dressage or jump big cross country jumps or go hunting, 14.3 is better than 17 hands. Especially for those of us who want to trail ride for pleasure, or compete at any performance oriented event such as barrels, roping, penning...etc that doesn't involve a judge's opinion, 14.3 is better than 17 hands. And obviously if you want a cowhorse of any sort 14.3 is better than 17. Some of those sizes in the middle are just right for some riders. And for those who are going to want the 17 hand horse for the events I mentioned above, its best to pick one that is of a breed type which is meant to be 17 hands. Not a 17 hand Quarter Horse. Maybe we can all (mostly) agree that 17 hand Quarter Horses have no real purpose outside the rarefied English showhorse scene? And that they are less likely to stay sound than 14.3 Quarter Horses. And it sounds like everybody agrees that not starting horses too young and not pushing them hard before they're mature will help horses of all types stay sound. That said, yikes, the picnic table in the water? And I thought chasing a cow flat out through rough country was a thrill. I can't believe you guys who jump stuff like that.

  65. Mugs - I love reading and learning from your blog and look forward to each new installment.

    Laura - I'm almost at the end of "Forged" and am enjoying each book tremendously, although I'm reading them out of order.

    I've had to quit reading FUGLY mostly because of the general mean spirit of the readers.

    I have 2 short horses - and we keep up with all of my buddies with taller horses. (My girls are easy keepers where my friends have to pour the supplements and feed to their big guys)

  66. I own a 14.3/15.0 hh paint. Let me just say I am VURR lucky to have him.
    He would be NO good in the actual APHA ring [because he doesn't have the ridiculously slow/lame gaits that they are all looking for] and he sure doesn't have the training for reining... but here is his story:
    Born Roping
    Sold to me
    Converted hunter [tee hee]
    Is very fancy and perfect for hunters
    Is shown dressage a couple times, successfully
    Dabbling in Penning and Gymkhana. He is super cowy and super fancy. My family, trainer and I are constantly baffled by how lucky we are to have him[considering I was basically pressured to buy him and had no idea of his potential D8]

    I hate to play the devil's advocate on the debate about 17 hh v. 14.3, but the smaller ones, at least the qhs, have a VERY notorious history of navicular, even with show-quality conformation.

    17 hh horses are very well suited for show jumping, equitation, and dressage, and generally fare much better over smaller horses.

    It could be argued that it is the 'trend' that causes these horses to win over smaller ones, but conformation is part of that trend and most qhs simply do not have that conformation. Dressage horses require different conformation from qhs to succeed at the higher levels, simple as that.

    However, those 17 hand quarter horses SHOULD NOT EXIST. imho, it completely defeats the purpose of the breed.

  67. I am very late to this post, but can't help but comment. My feeling from the fugly post was once again fugly was showing her obvious disgust for "working bloodlines"-which usually includes horses that are 15H and under.

    If she was truly trying to show something that was marketable, why bring the size issue into it? So the black colt was a nice representative of a currently popular HUS bloodline? Fine! Since I highly doubt that the Rockn T is marketing their horses as HUS type horses-why would she compare the two?

    A lot of the soundness issues have to do with substance of bone. Foundation lines ARE typically heavier boned than the current trend in WP/HUS horses. People who expect their horses to hold up under hard stops, quick turns and rapid acceleration realize that their horses need more bone and muscle to get the job done. A WP/HUS horse only has to W/T/L(C) in a straight line. They seldom if ever have to stop hard or accelerate rapidly, much less do anything quickly. So they are bred to be taller, narrower and lighter than working bloodlines.

    In a showring, absent of politics and current trends, a 14.2H horse that moves with the correct movement should place higher than a 17H plank that is heavy on the forehand and traveling with incorrect hoofbeats. So should it really be an issue of size?

  68. alexis-I have to add to this. Quarterhorses have navicular issues because of bone strength, and small feet in relation to size (think halter horses) not height. It has also been pointed out that the problems came with the increased addition of Thoroughbred blood (both breeds have navicular issues) This comes from conversations with my vets over the years on how to best avoid horses with the problem.

  69. mugwump- oh, that makes sense. I know a pony that has a normal sized foot but his body in comparison is stout and a bit large, and that pony is afflicted with navicular...
    I have noticed that many cowhorses have feet approximately the size of nickels. My friend's horse has feet like that. I cringe when she speaks of breeding her *shudder*

  70. I have a 17.1 hand 19-year-old Hanoverian who has a bit of arthritis but is sound. She used to jump 4+ft. She now jumps 2'6"ish (or 3ft when I'm not chicken :)

    The reason that they are breeding hunter-jumper horses, and please note that the gray/black colt was bred to be a hunter, is to make the "numbers".

    Somebody somewhere decided that all hunters must have a 12ft stride. Therefore, all courses must be set with x number of strides between each fence. Adding or subtracting a stride is failing to get the "numbers" and penalized. Having anything but a relaxed, flowing stride is penalized.

    So, shorter horses must either scurry to make the stride, or add a stride. Larger horses usually have a larger stride, and don't have such problems.

    The problem that we are running into with larger horses is the outcrossing to make warmbloods lighter or trying to make horses whose breeds have no business being that large. It all goes back to feet and bone, and having enough of both. 17 hands is going to seriously screw up tiny halter horse feet. Old school Hanoverian feet, roughly the size of dinner plates? Not so much.

  71. then again.. I have a 14.3 hander who is lame on 3 of 4 feet at age 16...

    size is not always soundness.

  72. My 1/2 Quarter Horse 1/4 Thoroughbred 1/4 Cob mare is 17hh, and at 7 years old is still growing

    I've never felt a turn or a jump that quick on any horse I've ridden, and I had a hell of a games pony as an early teen

    At times, I'll admit, Moose can be a lumbering idiot. Schooling, she does not understand. In any form, whether it be flatwork, over poles, cross country etc. she'll be a lumbering idiot and trip over her own feet

    But on a hack and especially on the hunting field, she is in her element. She has the speed, the stamina, the jump, and she slides to a stop and turns on a sixpence. I could not want anything more in a hunter

    My other mare is 15.2hh (Cleveland Bay X Welsh Cob) and has the turns and the overall athleticism, but it's all much slower

    Overall, I hate classifying a horse as useful or longlasting (or not as the case may be) by it's height. I've known many 17.2hh horses who continued to work into their late teens and twenties, and many 15 handers who are on and off box rest at 7, it really all depends on the individual horse

    I'm probably just the exception that my 17hh middleweight mare has been sound since the day I bought her, and looks to be so for some time to come

  73. I can't say how much I agree with you on the shorter horses. I always have a difficult time finding the right horse for me because I don't want one of the new giants.

    In 2000 I bought a very nice ranch mare. She'd worked her entire life, earning her living. She was smart, athletic and sound, and maybe 15 hands. My daughter showed her in 4H and even did some eventing on her. There was nothing that horse wouldn't do for us.
    One judge dismissed them from the halter class though, and as she did so, told my daughter that horses built like our mare weren't in style anymore. Yes, they certainly are not and it's a shame. She had heavy short hocks and cannon bones, big hooves, small ears and large kind eyes, the patience of Job and a big kind heart that I swear exploded when her best buddy died and she died a few days later.
    The judge that placed "fad" horses above correct horses was balanced by the last judge my daughter showed under, who told my 15 year old, "you better breed that mare, they don't make them like that any more" or something to that effect. They also brought home the high point award that day, after the mare had only been used by me to poke around on, while my daughter recovered from a life changing broken back, surgery and recovery.

    I'm getting ready to shell out big bucks (for me anyway) to buy another old fashioned, not too tall, AQHA mare. It was a real challenge finding the temperament, conformation, and shorter size I desire in one package and I'm buying something a little older and more expensive than I thought I would just to get it. I couldn't agree with you more, she's sound and she appears to be going to stay that way. I am very excited.

  74. I mostly lurk here as on other blogs. However, this post has touched a bit closer to home than others and in an area with which I am very familiar.

    When I went looking for my mare, one of the parameters I specifically chose was for height. I’m middle aged, short and fat…..I had to be able to get on and off this horse so I chose 13.3 to 15.0 as the limits for how tall she would be. She’s 14.2 and moves like a W. Pleasure horse should, not like a pony. One extremely influential QH stallion was also not tall…..Zips Chocolate Chip. He is only 15.2. Size isn’t everything.

    On to something I know a great deal more about. Dogs and what their original intent was versus what they have become. I do not believe that there is a tremendous need for field bred Goldens any more than there is a need for Schutzhund trained GSD, sheep herding Border Collies, JRT varmit control or long distance freight hauling in the northern territories. Nine out of every ten people who decide they want a purebred puppy want a pet. I know field dogs. Have worked with them, watched them in the field and even with the 10 years experience I have as a trainer, don’t know that I’d want to live with a derby quality field dog of .any. breed. By that same token I have also seen outstanding field dogs of very non-traditional breeds. Poodles are not common in field events anymore even though that was what they were developed for and Border Collies have never been intended for that use but I’ve seen some really really good field dogs of both breeds. I am certain that I could get a Master Hunter on my ACD. Absolutely certain and I could probably do it in less than a year if I concentrated on it a bit.

    One of the posters commented that s/he has had a number of Goldens that hated water, didn’t retrieve etc. I’ve taught Labs, Pem Corgis, Australian Cattle dogs, All Americans, mixed bully breeds, Papillions and Shelties among others to retrieve. Many times I’ve started with dogs that would not so much as hold a dumbbell in their mouth but have turned them into at least open level (obedience, not field) retrievers. I am sure, had their owners wanted them to do some sort of field work I could probably have gotten them to fetch up birds too. Not with the same helter skelter, brush-be-damned-gonna-get-that-damn-bird fanaticism I see in the field, but probably to a level that they could find and bring the bird back. My point here is that many skills people say is gone, is not gone, it’s just not been trained yet. This does NOT cover things like coat or bone though, that is a whole different subject. Heck, my business partner has a JRT that was sheep herding, flossing his teeth on wool one day! Most skills are trained, some are bred in also for a genetic inclination but most have to be trained, honed, and polished at the very least.

    I think it is also true of horses. I read somewhere one day that there are plenty of good cutters who cut so well because they are afraid of cows. I don’t have any experience in that are so have no idea if it is true or not, but it was an intriguing idea.

  75. Ok, well,I am 14 years old...and am 5 foot 11 inches, 190 pounds, and ride 15 hand, 2 1/2 inch tall appy and a 16.2 tb. I am the first to admit that small horses are fun to ride (lol sit trot is quite easy when your tall and the strides are small ;) ) I will, when I'm older, most likely prefer the 17 hand horse. About long term soundness, based on size alone, I find that a little unbelievable. Long term soundness is effected much more by type of work etc then the size of a horse. The horse with the better confirmation will hopefully always win.

    As for hunter only being w/t/c and hopping over fences, you are sadly mistaken. Collection, turn out, horse type, manners, over all look, balance and equitation are all factors, and hunter is alot of work. Also, horses are seperated in divisions, by either pony or horse, rider experience, and height. it goes up to about 3 feet 6 inches.