Friday, December 19, 2008

What are your three top pet peeves?

When it comes to conformation? I think this is a fun question for this Friday, so I'd like you to list the three things that will turn you off of buying/breeding to a horse the fastest and also please list the discipline(s) you participate in, as I think we're going to see some trends. Here are mine. In general, the discipline I grew up with was polo, and after that both general open shows (hunt & western) and hunter/jumper.

Straight Shoulder. I grew up riding a school horse named Butch. Butch had navicular disease and riding him was a whole lot like sitting on a jackhammer. Being young and flexible, I was proud of my ability to sit his canter and even win equitation at our schooling shows on Butch. Now, looking back at those old pictures, I see why Butch rode the way he did. My scanner's not working or I'd show you old Butch, but this mare, who has already been on the blog, is just as good an example. Of course she's a broodmare and they are making more just like her!

Long back. This is more of a discipline-specific "hate." I grew up in polo and you need a horse who can quickly stop, start and turn on a dime. You know, if this mare were a vehicle, she'd be one with a really long wheelbase. Any of you who have tried to park a crew-cab dually in a downtown parking structure (I know I'm not the only one!) is familiar with the feeling of just not being able to get the small, quick precision movements you want. That's what riding this mare is going to be like. It's going to be very hard for her to pull herself together and stop on her hind end or power off her hind end. She's long and she's a little bit downhill and you can see how she's starting to sway in the back, even though she's not old, because there's just a long stretch to hold together there. I've found that long backed horses often have sore backs from their conformation. Maneuvers that are simple for a compact horse are physically difficult for them to do. It's a classic example of a conformation fault that affects performance.

Downhill! Clearly this doesn't bother a lot of people because downhill horses are a dime a dozen on the Internet. I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it. This is when the horse's hip is higher than his withers. Now, it's totally normal for a young, growing horse to look like this. The growth pattern is that the hip shoots up first and then the front end catches up. However, some horses stop growing and still look like that. Almost every discipline we ask horses to do is done better with the horse squarely balanced, able to tuck his hind end under him for a stop or a rapid increase in speed or some other necessary movement (as in dressage or taking off for a jump). A horse who is downhill is predisposed to carrying his weight more than 50 percent on his forelegs. He's far more likely to stumble. He's uncomfortable to ride and it is difficult to teach him not to "prop" on his forelegs to stop. If you've ever had two green horses at the same time, one downhill and one level or uphill, you've seen the difference in how much harder it was for the downhill one to learn transitions, deal with carrying weight, and move on to more advanced maneuvers. And because all of that weight is in the front end, there's more concussion on the front legs and you're likely to see lamenesses like arthritis earlier in life. Not to mention, have you ever tried to equitate on a downhill horse? That conformation tips you forward too. Not a pleasant ride.

So what conformational flaws drive you up a tree? Tell us and tell us why!

Now, all the rescuers here are gonna die because I'm putting up a Friday Featured Rescue that I think would be a great (gasp!) Christmas Pony for some lucky child! I know, I know, we all hate the animals-as-gifts mentality. But if Mom and Dad are horsepeople (he will not go to a beginner home) and want to surprise their little one with a rescued pony under the tree, I know of one up here in Seattle that's a great choice. Chip had a bad, bad year. That is how he looked when my friends rescued him in July, along with his stablemate, an equally emaciated Appendix QH gelding. Really, do you starve a PONY? Ponies are air ferns! You can't fail much worse at horsekeeping than winding up with a pony that looks like Chip did.

Now Chip is happy and healthy and just needs someone to love his furry little butt forever. I am 99.9% sure you can get him hardship registered in the POA association and they have an active breed show circuit in this area. He is four years old, 12.2, green broke and sensible, and has been rehabbed very well - up to date on shots, farrier, chiropractor, deworming. He free jumps willingly and is careful with his back feet. Chip's adoption fee is $500 (contract, refs, site check, the usual required). Shoot me an e-mail with CHIP in the subject line if you'd like to meet Chip - the weather may be too bad for a Christmas delivery, but you could put a picture under the tree!

I know you're all getting ready for the holidays and I hope they provide you with some extra time to gather up the old pictures and put your horses up on Remember, it's not just for people who are looking for a horse, but also for those of you who want to reassure former owners that the horse is in a great, happy home! I'd also suggest that a really cool holiday volunteer project could be contacting your local rescue and offering to list their horses for them. Not all rescuers are super computer-savvy and a lot of you are, so that could a fun way to lend a hand without spending too much time in the frozen outdoors!

If you would like to print off some flyers about for your local tack store and feed mill, here they are and thank you for spreading the word.

Have a great weekend everybody! Hey, what are you buying your horses for the holidays? I have to get my VLC a peppermint lick...he thinks those are the meaning of life!