When I did the “New Year, New Giveaway” contest back in January, I asked everyone to leave a comment telling me a subject that they wanted me to write about this year. One of the most popular responses was people asking me to write about evaluating young horses, mostly by way of conformation or potential. I have a lot of opinions on that, and I’ve spent a long time honing my eye and reading books and studying pedigrees and going to clinics and looking at horses. I’ve made a hobby of it, and I absolutely LOVE to talk to people about it. Seriously, it’s my favorite subject.
But at the same time, I don’t really feel comfortable writing about it. I think mostly because a lot of that stuff comes down to personal opinion. And mostly because I never ever want this blog to take on an “instructional” feel. I just really hate that. I’m a low level amateur rider that just so happens to have a major information in conformation, breeding, and young horses. Anyone could learn what I have, if they wanted to. I’m not a professional. I don’t feel comfortable acting like I am. I am not qualified to write about things like that.
A couple months ago the local Pony Club asked me to come do a lecture on sporthorse conformation, and I have to admit that my initial reaction was 100% total discomfort at the idea. Like I said, I just don’t feel qualified to do anything even remotely “instructional”. But I thought about it and a) I can’t say no to Pony Club, that seems like 1000 bad karma points, b) I kinda thought it might be fun to have a discussion like this with these smart, educated kids. I very hesitantly said yes, and spent some time really thinking about what I wanted to talk about and why.
When it came down to it, I thought to myself – how do you make a bunch of teenagers interested in something as boring as conformation? So I took the “functional conformation” approach, very much along the lines of what Judy Wardope teaches, where we’d really focus on certain aspects of the conformation and how they directly translate to performance. I picked a couple areas of confo that are really important for eventing that a lot of general texts rarely touch on – specifically the LS gap, the pillar of support, and the length/angle of the humerus. I got a lot of glazed eyes, as expected, but I also got a few kids that were as excited about learning a new approach as I originally had been. Honestly… it was kind of fun to share my MegaNerd enthusiasm on the subject. We had some great discussions. I hope a couple kids walked away with a new tool in their toolbox, or at least a re-kindled interest.
I was kind of energized by that experience, and thought about sharing the notes and printouts here. But that situation was a lot different from me sitting here and writing some kind of “here is how it should look” instructional. Writing a blog post just doesn’t have the same effect as an in-person group discussion. I won’t do that with conformation and breeding, I won’t do that with training, I won’t do that with riding… hell, I even feel uncomfortable doing basic DIY’s, or sharing my conditioning/care routine. There are a lot of different ways to do things, and a lot of them are correct. Plus, like I said.. I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL. I’m happy to tell you what I personally do or think, but I’ll be the first to admit that my way isn’t the only way, and maybe not even the right way.
So really, it’s important to me that the tone of this blog remains conversational. If anyone ever wants to have private discussions about stuff, I’m totally on board with that. My blog’s facebook messenger is always open, as is the contact form here, for peer-to-peer conversations. I just don’t want to sit here on my silly internet platform and pretend like the fact that I have an audience means that I’m qualified to preach. Opinions on other, minor things, or current events? You’ll get those all day long. But a teaching situation on a grandiose subject… nah.
Since I’m not qualified to write about things like this, I’m more than happy to point you toward someone who is. To the people who asked me to discuss conformation or evaluating a young horse, I highly recommend investing in Judy Wardrope’s ebook, Equine Conformation for the Olympic Disciplines. It’s a little pricey, yes, but it’s 400+ pages of photos, diagrams, and new ways of looking at conformation that you probably haven’t seen before. To me, this is the sporthorse bible. In my experience, much of what she writes about holds true in practical application. If you’re at all interested in the subject, this is a must-own item.
If you’re not ready to invest in that, you can get an idea of her approach/concepts by reading through some of the free articles posted on this page.
18 thoughts on “What I’m Not”
lol i think you’re cutting yourself a little short. sure, i agree that as amateurs trying to live our best horsey lives, our blogs are rarely the place for authoritative proclamations on THE WAY IT IS. and it bugs me to see sweeping generalizations about nuanced (or even dubious) topics bc so many folks on the internet will just accept that as fact (not that that’s necessarily the author’s problem, but still).
however i personally learn so much from reading about other people’s experiences. and any content shared from the perspective of “this has been my experience” or “this is what i’ve seen and understood to be the case” can often avoid the trap of feeling instructional vs conversational. there’s no prerequisites or qualifications necessary for sharing your own experiences and opinions.
long story (sorry) short- i say this bc i’m definitely one of those folks interested in this particular topic (including that “conversation starter” picture you shared) and am doing what i can to keep learning, and every new view point and opinion just adds more color to the picture.
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I’ll talk about my own horses, and I’ll recap clinic notes/observations/personal experiences that are applicable, but I’m just super uncomfortable saying “here is what’s important” or “here’s how it should look”. I dunno… it just doesn’t feel appropriate for me. I’ve touched on it a little bit before, with posts like why I chose the stallion I did, YEH/FEH clinic recaps, “dealbreakers”, etc. But I definitely don’t know it all and want to make extra certain I don’t come off that way here. Carefully… I’ll share it carefully. lol
But also yes that conversation starter pic was amazing, it did exactly that. Even though I cheated by sneaking a Heraldik picture into the line-up. It makes a good segue into the “why”.
I think you could do a “Why I Bred to Mighty Magic and Sadie” post- that’d be fun! I think a lot of people breed for a specific quality and/or because they’ve had good results in the past and it’s less about finding the perfect sire. Horses are emotional and personal on so many levels, it’s hard to write a post saying “this is what you should breed to if you want an eventer” and I respect you for not going there, lol. But I think it’s really interesting to see why people do choose particular stallions and you’re more than qualified to do this! I know you’ve spoken about him on here before so maybe it’d be repetitive, but hey I forgot what I ate yesterday so I bet it’d be mostly new info to me! I’m hoping to do a post on June’s sire and dam mainly because it’s fun and interesting to me, lol!
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I posted about it here: https://the900facebookpony.com/2016/06/27/why-i-chose-mighty-magic/
Of course those are just the main/major points, there were a lot more in-depth reasons when you break it down conformationally and pedigree-wise, but that would be a novel that no one wants to read lol.
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Looking forward to re reading 😋
You have so much more knowledge than I do on these topics, so I appreciate the sharing of resources and ideas. 🙂 Honestly, I know next to nothing about how you can tell conformation trends from a young horse. I feel like they change so wildly!
Definitely a lot of parts change tremendously, but also a lot of parts don’t. The trick is knowing which will change, or can be improved, and which parts are static. And THEN, of those, which ones really matter for your chosen objective. That’s something I think you learn from seeing a crap ton of baby horses. I even see young horse judges struggling with this, if they don’t understand the different stages of development and how to tell a fault from a phase.
“knowing which parts will change or can be improved, and which parts are static, and then of those, what really matters for which objective” definitely sounds like something i’d like to read more about in real life applications lol, just sayin 😉
Maybe once Presto comes home and gets some condition I’ll post pics of him and pick him apart as I see things from my perspective. Once he looks less like an emu, anyway, cuz… I don’t hate myself that much…
I like how you know your blog’s voice and you don’t stray from that. I enjoy reading what you have to say because you don’t come across as preachy or know-it-all-y. You acknowledge that there are more than one way to do things which many people are reluctant to do.
Thank you for sharing some great resources too!
Girlfriend, just because you are not a “professional” doesn’t mean you don’t have knowledge. Probably more so than many actual pros. I think a lot of it is just developing a good eye for a good horse.
I learn a crap ton (real measurement) from you. Thank you for the book option, I will add that to my birthday list, although with it being less than a week away I might be out of luck. And I would still love to learn more about the LS gap and pillar of support.
And yes, I oogled at Heraldik just a tad.
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I really enjoy hearing most anyone’s perspective on conformation because everyone comes at it from a different perspective. You have done so much research and are passionate about the subject so I extra like hearing your perspective.
I would love send you confo pics of my horses and get your feedback (on the blog or not) on their conformation. You’re going to look at a horse differently from me because you are better educated, an eventer and because you didn’t grow up riding and raising Quarter Horses to move cattle on large ranches. My problem with evaluating conformation is that I can look at the whole picture and tell you if I like it, but I stink at breaking the horse down into pieces. Plus, horse people will always have differing opinions of what works and what doesn’t work regardless of their status as professional or amateur. And, we have all known a horse with questionable conformation that somehow remained sound for a long career in some type of demanding sport as well as a horse that appeared conformationally correct, but broke down well before it was “old”.
I was JUST thinking of asking your opinion on a prospect I found. She’s 3 and awkward and I have no clue if the awk is temporary or permanent LOL!
Judy Windrope’s book is amazing! I bought it yesterday after I read your post because I do want to become much more educated in confirmation and how it effects movement. I was a little intimidated before I started looking thought it. I’ve now read half of it and have a new perspective on confirmation and how you can look at all the pieces of the horse to get a better idea of what dicipline they are suited for. Thank you for sharing!
I am glad that people liked one of my books! And I thank you, commenters for the kind words…even if you didn’t spell my name correctly…lol
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