YEH/FEH Symposium Day 1

This is a tough life I’m living here in Ocala this week y’all. I’m sweaty and sunburned and spent all day yesterday looking at/talking about horses. On a Wednesday. In February. This does not suck.

Anyway, Day 1 of the YEH/FEH educational symposium was dedicated mostly to the Young Event Horse side of things. In the morning we were in the classroom, and Marilyn Payne kicked things off with an overview of the YEH judging, what they’re looking for, and what new changes there are for 2019. I’m pretty familiar with all that by now, but I’m always into PowerPoint slides and bullet points.

Maxime Livio was in the room and commented that, in his opinion, he would like to see the pedigree considered in the judging. There was a lot of opposition to that, from basically everyone else, even if I tend to agree with where he’s coming from. It’s definitely important, especially from the “blood” point of view, but on the other hand it’s hard to make something like that a judgeable criteria.

From there we moved on to looking at videos of horses when they were 5. For this they used footage from Bundeschampionate of horses like FischerRocana and So Is Et, but were being sneaky by playing the videos first, getting opinions from Maxime and the judges in the room, and then revealing who the horse/it’s career was at the end. There were a couple videos of not-very-successful horses hidden in there, for contrast. It was kind of interesting. What made it most interesting, IMO, were Maxime’s comments. He has a keen eye for a horse and is very good at explaining what he’s seeing, what things he can look past, and what things are dealbreakers.

Amid all of that conversation, my favorite notes of the day came about. Maxime said that there are 5 basic criteria he’s looking at when he’s evaluating a horse for top level (modern long format) sport, and he puts them in this order:

1) Pedigree. Maxime wants to see lots of blood, a horse that is capable of galloping for 10-12 minutes and still having some stamina left at the end. He said that when horses run out of stamina, that’s when things get dangerous.

2) Soundness. This is where he looks at the conformation, the straightness and correctness of the limbs, the lungs and cardio system, and obviously gets a vet opinion.

3) Personality. Mainly: heart. He wants a horse that really has a strong desire to do the job, is always looking to go forward to the next fence, and will always try to please it’s rider. He used FischerRocana as a prime example here of a very average quality horse that has so much heart, it makes her into a great horse.

4) Jump Quality and 5) Movement. These were kind of lumped together for him.

He went on to explain that the reason he ranks them this way is because more importance is given to the things you cannot change or improve. You can’t change the fact that the horse’s type is too heavy or pedigree is lacking blood. You need soundness obviously, but good management can improve it slightly, so there is a little bit of possibility for improvement. He felt that personality is mostly innate, but that it could also be improved upon a good bit with correct training and riding. Jump quality and movement, he said, have the most capacity to improve, and in his opinion can even be improved as much as 70%. So he starts with the things he can’t change as the most important qualities when he’s looking for a horse. While the ranking order of these characteristics might change depending on what type of horse you’re looking for, I like his approach of placing more importance on the things you can’t change. That’s a smart way to think about any horse purchase.

My favorite horse from the videos was Andreas Ostholt’s very successful 4* horse So Is Et (by Sunlight xx), who did not do very well at BuCha

I loved how Maxime broke this down. It was very well thought out and reasoned, and it’s nice to see a rider so invested in the importance of pedigree and desiring a lot of blood in his horses. This theme carried on into the afternoon sessions as well with the demo horses, which I’ll get to in a minute.

After looking at the videos of the 5yo’s, Christian Schacht did a presentation on conformation. Despite having what most would consider to be boring subject matter, Christian was super entertaining to listen to. He knew how to add humor to keep people engaged. As for the confirmation parts, his big emphasis was on the horse’s balance. He wants a horse that isn’t too downhill as to be on the forehand but also isn’t too uphill as to be inefficient in the gallop and jump. He also likes to see hocks that are a bit lower and closer together, making it easier for a horse to sit and push off the ground at the fences, especially at deeper distances. He called the hooves “the second heart of the horse – no hoof, no horse”, ie also a very critical component.

So entertaining

One passing comment he made that I thought was interesting was his observation that when horses toe out (not a big deal in his opinion) usually it’s more pronounced on the right front than the left. This is true for Henry and Presto, which is probably why it stood out to me. Oh, and he noted that slight roach backs are not uncommon in jumpers, and are often considered to help make the horse more powerful.

After lunch we headed outside to watch some 4yo horses do dressage. There were 3 very different types of horses, which made for good contrast. Maxime’s favorite was the chestnut OTTB. Yes, you’re noticing a trend with him and blood horses. 😉

A dressage ring full of very well behaved 4yos

Then we walked down to the XC field and got to see two groups of 5yo’s do a mock YEH class. There were 5 showjumps and then 7 or 8 XC fences. Maxime would comment on the horses after each of them went, and then the judges discussed how they would score them. The horses ran the gamut from unshown to a Bundeschampion, so it was really interesting to compare and contrast, and then hear all the opinions on what level the horse might have potential for. Maxime was generally more forgiving of little mistakes and green moments than the judges were, and wasn’t afraid to chime in to a discussion and offer his perspective or respectfully disagree. It made for really good conversation.

Maxime’s favorite horse of the day was the last one to go, a full TB that came off the track last year. Maxime liked it a lot, and then when it was revealed that it was a full TB, the like turned to love, and he declared that that’s the one he would buy. It’s funny to me that everywhere we’ve gone, the European riders really love and seek out the mostly or full blood horses intentionally, and place a lot of value on them. Here they’re often seen as “less than”. Many of the judges seemed surprised that a horse that nice was full TB, as if it was special IN SPITE of that. To Maxime, the horse was special BECAUSE of that. It’s an interesting dichotomy.

Overall it was a very educational day (although at times I wanted to hang myself with my lanyard at the talk of what “breed” of Warmblood each horse was. They’re registries, not breeds, and the registry tells you nothing about the horse’s bloodlines. Alas, I digress..) and I greatly valued having Maxime’s input. I found him to be very educated and confident in his views, yet also humble and open to discussion. He had a lot of great little quotable tidbits that were already captured perfectly by Leslie Mintz in this article. Go read it!

I was also impressed that pretty much every rider knew the pedigree of their horse and was able to recite it when asked. This is very encouraging to me, and a trend in the right direction.

Today we move on to the FEH side of things, with the younger horses in hand, and freejumping. I’m in horse nerd heaven.

20 thoughts on “YEH/FEH Symposium Day 1

  1. I do wonder if the current FEI formats are going to end up with the development of “Specialist” events. Such as, horses bred with more thoroughbred for the long format and those bred with more warmblood in them for the short format. Or at least horses with those characteristics being trained towards a long format or a short format job. After all, we have seen some wildly successful, short format 3* horses that ended up just not being 4* horses (old * system).


  2. Interesting! That last pic looks like Ellie O’Neal.. I wondered if the stuff she was posting yesterday was from the same thing you were at. Her home farm is just down the road from where Juice boards! Love working w/her when she’s here


  3. His breakdown totally makes sense, in there are things you can and can’t improve on. I used to think work ethic was innate but now I’m realizing if you’re careful, you CAN install it to a degree.

    Love the love for thoroughbreds. I love them so much I’m glad other people appreciate them. I keep going back and watching OTTBs compete in ‘old days’ show jumping (Eros, Touch of Class, Gem Twist, Untouchable) and wishing that would still be a thing!


  4. Agree with the heart part, which incidentally can’t be measured in conformation and in the young untried horse. It is something that blossoms, can’t be taught, it’s just there. Having gone from a horse indifferent to people and try, to a horse that would sleep in my bed given the chance, it is something incredible.


  5. Very interesting stuff! I wonder if they would also like seeing Arab blood mixed in with warmblood if they’re looking for stamina. Considering that there’s an Anglo Arab at the top levels of the sport now, I hope breeders will looking to adding Arab bloodlines as well as TB.


  6. So interesting! I really love the bullet points about what to look for. My own list is similar, though pedigree is less important to me for what I do with horses. I don’t really care so much what the family tree looks like, so long as the horse is sound, has heart, and seems like it will hold up. It is helpful to know the lineage if there’s a hole in there somewhere (like certain blood lines seem to always have a specific lameness or something like that). I had a conversation with the barn owner where Eros lives the other day about that sort of thing. She was saying how the Czech horses aren’t bred as well even though the lines are the same as the German horses so she doesn’t like to shop there. But she was looking for an equitation horse. I pointed out to her that it doesn’t matter for that job. Who cares how it’s bred if it’s only job is too jump smoothly and be pretty enough to showcase it’s rider? It just needs to be well broke and scopey enough. Doesn’t matter who Daddy is at all. Especially if it’s a gelding. Sorry I rambled… for eventing, I think it’s a lot more important, specifically for the reasons you and Maxime state.
    Also found it interesting how the TB’s are viewed differently. I love a good Thoroughbred, and I get really annoyed when I hear people bashing on them, or like you said, being surprised that a good one is all TB. There’s an older amateur at the barn who had a warmblood mare that was all wrong for her. So she found this LOVELY TB horse for her. He’s perfect. He’s careful with her, never gets wild, and is actually really cute. He’s a good mover, and I think once he’s shed out (he came from living outside with no blankets, so he’s quite furry) and gains some muscle he’s going to be quite pretty too. But she constantly is saying oh he’s great for what he is. Like he’s just a spare tire or something. Makes me want to steal him and tell him he’s famous.


  7. Ditto on the registery as a breed. It’s one thing to just not understand but another thing to think a horse is better or less because of it. Kind of like American vs European bred. Could be on those soapboxes all day!


  8. While I agree on the wb breed thing, I think there is something to be said for all the requirements a, say, german wb to pass before it is considered well-bred. And it has been done for a long time so you know there is quality there when a stallion has been approved for breeding, went through 30/70 or 100 days of HLP (stallion performance test) and did one or the Bundeschampionate on top of that.

    That said, I often wonder why tbs aren’t bred for sports purposes, other than racing. Why is that not a thing? Wbs didn’t start out as great jumpers or dressage inclined, that took careful breeding over generations…why not do the same with tbs? Breed prejudice? Is the market too small for this to be lucrative?


    1. I think being registered matters a lot. Not arguing with that at all. My issue is using the horse’s registry as it’s “breed”, ie saying a horse is Oldenburg the same way that you would say thoroughbred or Arabian. There’s so much intermingling that what registry the horse’s papers are from tell you very little about how it’s actually bred. Therefore it’s important to discuss the actual bloodlines when talking about warmbloods, rather than just saying the registry.

      There are some people here that are breeding full TB’s for sport. There is pretty much ZERO money in that, but some people still do it. I was sitting next to TB eventing breeders yesterday, and we saw a full TB purpose bred colt this morning. Its tough to do though, because people aren’t as excited to buy them, and definitely don’t want to pay as much money as they would for a Warmblood of the same quality. The market is very tough, when there are so many OTTB’s available to people for cheap.


      1. Oh, I am not arguing that western european wbs aren’t come closer to that with eastern european breeds.
        I call our wbs glorified mutts…
        I really hope purpose breeding tbs will become a thing. But maybe those who breed wbs for eventing are already covering that niche too well.


  9. Well, count me among those who have learned something important from this post. I did not know that Warmbloods are part of registries and not considered breeds. Oops! I mean, I knew (for example) that Oldenburgs were said to be in a registry, and that there seems to be a lot of intermingling with TBs, generally via mares who get ‘approved.’ But I figured that was just improving the Oldenburg breed. There still are some horses that are considered “all Oldenburg,” though, aren’t there?

    My favorite breed, by far, has always been and always will be TB. I’m so very happy they are having resurgence in popularity. (Even if that means when I’m finally able to buy one it will cost more) This sounds like an awesome event for you and I’m glad you got to go!


  10. “European riders really love and seek out the mostly or full blood horses intentionally, and place a lot of value on them. Here they’re often seen as “less than”. Many of the judges seemed surprised that a horse that nice was full TB, as if it was special IN SPITE of that. To Maxime, the horse was special BECAUSE of that. It’s an interesting dichotomy.”

    This. 10000x. It drives me nuts that thoroughbreds must overcome their “tb-ness”. It actually makes me crazy to hear “wow that tb looks like a warmblood”. Ugh. Nah. He looks like a sporthorse. Which is what he is bred to be, just like the modern warmblood.

    Liked by 1 person

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