Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If it walks like a duck, it's probably a horse who shouldn't be bred!

The original post: I have a pony that I would like to have bred but don't know what I should breed her to. She is 12hh and crossed with many breeds. She is mostly arab and welsh. I would want to breed for more size but I don't know if it should be to a chunky quarter horse or something like an arabian (finer boned). Any suggustions would be great.

Kudos to the forum this came from, as most respondents correctly suggested she should not be bred at all, and gave excellent reasons. Obviously, the front end here JUMPS out at us. I like to use the pictures of my old Quarter Horse, Mike (below), for commentary on toeing out, because I thought he was the grand prize award winner. But this pony has got him beat by a country mile. Very honestly, I am wondering if she was a humane case early on? I rarely see something this narrow and crooked that did not suffer from early malnutrition.

Of course, pony owner got offended and announced that "
Well the truth is her legs don't naturally point out. I was concerned about this a while back and when I asked my farrier about it he showed me that shes just holding them that way because its more comfortable." Okaaaay. No, they DO go there naturally, sunshine...she's holding them that way because that is how she is built. I have no doubt it would be uncomfortable for her to point them straight forward, but if you're trying to say the farrier said a straight legged horse was standing this way for comfort's sake, either he's blowing smoke up your ass or you're blowing it up ours.

Ah well, good advice was given and no doubt will be totally ignored. 'Cause we all know the world needs more small grade ponies with the front end of Donald Duck!

Here's why this front leg conformation is a problem. For one thing, splay footed horses are prone to interfering when they travel. This means that their feet will strike each other, often resulting in coronet band injuries or stumbling. Second, the splay footed horse is prone to both splints and tendon injuries because of the twisting motion caused every time that crooked limb hits the ground. Finally, they are more likely to develop sidebone and ringbone issues. This is just not a front end that is built for heavy use. The horse on the left stayed amazingly sound and we like to joke it is because he sold his soul to Satan. ;-) Suffice it to say, he was a bad little Quarter Horse in his youth and, fortunately for him, reformed with age. Most importantly, he was a gelding and never passed that front end (or his various other conformational flaws!) on to future generations - a fact that I am sure makes AQHA breeders everywhere sigh in great relief!

I get a lot of e-mail from people asking me to explain certain conformational faults. Let me direct you to some great resources online:

Here are some pages with diagrams of common problems: (scroll down to see them)

Here's a more in-depth guide that explains how conformation relates to lameness - go to the Google Book Search
page and then search for "Horseowner's Guide to Lameness." This is written by a veterinarian named Ted Stashak, who is a genius as far as I am concerned. I particularly like his comment about evaluating conformation - "Wildly colored horses and those with dramatic limb markings can result in visual distortion and inaccurate conclusions." Boy, I'm surprised some of these color breeders don't have a hit out on Dr. Stashak!

Here's a good test of what you know about conformation. These are some "conformation clinic" articles online - see if you can place them the same way the author/judge did. Remember especially with #3 that you are evaluating for a specific discipline - if I hadn't thought about that, I would have gotten it wrong.

Aged Mares

Thoroughbred Fillies

Western Pleasure Prospects

Tomorrow, I think we are going to have to talk about the NFQHA - because any organization that brags that it is promoting versatility while simultaneously bragging that it does not allow English events, does not offer Western Horsemanship, and brags about the fact that the rider is never judged in any way is just asking to be a target of this blog. I mean, why don't you just call yourselves the National Show Coalition of Riders Who Suck? Can I design the logo, pleeeease?