Tuesday, September 11, 2007

If by "barrel horse" you are referring to the fact that it has a barrel...

I've decided "barrel prospect" is seller-ese for anything that is fugly and moves terribly. While I only have limited and local experience with gaming events, I do understand that - as with most high performance disciplines involving swift starts, stops, and hairpin turns - you need certain conformational elements to be in place to have a winner. These would include a compact build that is not downhill, powerful chest, muscular legs, and a good shoulder. The horses shown below are not going to make good barrel horses, unless you are perhaps referring to "musical barrels."

Seriously, people. I have no evidence any of these sellers are the ones who bred these funky looking animals, but market what you've got AS what you've got. I know 12 year olds who could look at these animals and tell you they're not going to be able to get out of their own way around a barrel pattern.

"Big neck ,big body ! If you look for a built horse ,this mare it's for you !More then one month under saddle ,in training 5 days a week ,lurn fast ,can come good mountain horse.Like attention,never move when you play around ,good with feet ,load ,spray Can make good barrel horse. Confortable trot and canter, made side past and pivot ,open door , big built mare perfect for mountain trail. Mare with energy need experience rider ,good in trail."

FHOTD: OK, who is responsible for breeding this animal? She is a classic FrankenHorse...she actually has a cute head but it, sadly, is attached to a short stumpy neck and withers that look like a camel's hump. And this seller thinks she would make a good barrel horse? If by "barrel horse," you mean "shaped like a barrel," then perhaps he is on target. She is obese, straight in the shoulder and has almost no muscular development in her legs. I googled the phone number in the ad and apparently English is their second language, so I guess we should cut them some slack on the ad content and I don't think they bred her because they appear to be dealers - but she is NOT a barrel horse. Let us fervently hope someone does not buy this mare and think she should be bred because she has spots.

Here we go again. As unathletic under saddle as I suspect mare #1 to be, mare #2 might be worse. Here we have a straight shoulder, she's super long, she's cowhocked, she has a heavy, low set neck, and I'm pretty sure she toes out in front too. It's not all the way she's standing. Yet her ad brags "She has not been worked with at all and is selling as a broodmare but is sound and would be a really good barrel horse." They also note that "She has a slight hernia but it could be since she's heavy in foal." Oh yay, this conformational marvel is in the middle of reproducing herself (for a late summer foal - who does that? In CANADA?) AND she has a hernia. I'm not used to seeing hernias on adult horses, because everybody I know actually gets them repaired when the horse is a baby. Therefore I can't tell you exactly what happens when you breed a mare with a hernia and her belly is stretched like that, but I would be interested to hear stories from others if they've seen this.

Ha, ha! This mare is not at all fugly, she's quite cute, but I know exactly why she is listed as a "barrel prospect." It is the same reason she is listed as an "endurance prospect." Both of these are seller-ese for "we can't slow her type-A furry little butt down and we doubt you can either, but we're going to try to convince you that you have a use for a teenaged hotheaded mare, 'cause we sure as hell don't want to feed this thing through one more winter!" First of all, I don't care how many times you read "The Black Stallion" where Shetan outruns everything, that ain't real life. The only way an Arabian is going to outrun a TB or a QH is if your race is 25 miles long through the desert. It isn't even going to come close during 20 or less seconds of barrel pattern. It's not built to get up to top speed that quickly (regardless how it may feel when it sees a carnivorous, Arabian-eating squirrel and does a 180 and takes off running...they never seem to accomplish the same level of acceleration from a deliberate cue). And it can't dig down around a barrel the way the good ones do - invariably, when you photograph an Arab running barrels, it looks like this and this. Secondly, the hot blooded breeds typically lose their brains if you game them. Yes, I know I will get 35 comments from people who have totally calm Arab or TB gamers, but that is not the norm. Most of them get brain fried and sour in about 3 seconds flat and start doing things like refusing to enter the arena and rearing. Whereas you will meet plenty of stock breed horses who walk into the arena calmly, run the pattern, and walk out calmly the second the rider says ho and drops the reins. Go look at a list of barrel horses for sale if you don't believe me. See any hot bloods there? (While you're at it, look at the pictures. There is a very consistent conformation type - heavy muscled, broad chested, big hip, compact - that runs the competitive times. It is not just training that gets you in the money.)

Yes, I know that you see Arabs running barrels in 4-H. I've also seen a Quarter Horse going saddleseat in 4-H. You see a lot of amusing stuff in 4-H! Which is fine, it's supposed to be a fun thing for kids to do and a way to get show experience on anything that whinnies that you have access to (although you always have 1 or 2 kids whose parents bought them a $20,000 horse and a $5,000 saddle...for god's sake go do novice youth at the QH shows if you have that kind of money and leave 4-H for the kids riding a $500 horse with a pink cordura saddle. But I digress...)

The point I was making is that not everything is a barrel prospect just because (a) it likes to go fast (b) you can't stop it and it has scared the bloody hell out of you or (c) it is too unattractive and/or moves too badly for any sort of pleasure class. Putting horses like the above up for sale as "barrel prospects" is kind of like going on Match.com and telling everybody you compete in triathlons even though you happen to be 5'3 and 250 lbs. It kills your credibility and attracts traffic to your listing that would never actually be interested. As with most things - just be honest. If you don't know anything about a discipline, how can you say your horse is a prospect for that discipline?

And stop breeding unbroke, badly conformed mares that "haven't been worked with at all." STOP IT!