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Archive for the ‘confirmation’ Category

Conformation. Let’s talk a little about that. There are three things to consider when looking for a performance horse prospect: conformation, attitude and aptitude. We are going to start by talking first about confirmation. When you’re looking at a horse, it’s a good idea to keep track of the pluses and minuses. Does he have a long list of good points against just a few things that you don’t like? Or does he have an equal list of positives and negative things? If you have more checks in the minus column, or one really big negative, he probably is not the horse for you, no matter how much you like him.  

If you know anything about me, you’ll already know my five most important things for performance horse are stop, stop, stop, stop and stop! There other things that it takes to make a horse a perfect package but a good stop is one main ingredient that we cannot do without. What qualities make a good stopper? Well first, we will talk about balance.  What is balance? What does that mean when one has balanced confirmation? That means the horse is pleasantly portioned, and that he is portioned to do a chosen job.

For a reined cow horse prospect, I would like to see the weight distributed to the back end of the horse. I’ll outline the confirmation that I like to see on a prospect. For the front of the horse, I like to see a swan-like neck for a lot of reasons – flexibility being the first reason. Lots of flexibility gives us the ability to bend this horse and create the lateral postures we need for high performance. The next big thing is the ultimate curvature of the spine, both laterally and horizontally allowing the rider to create better posture for high performance activities. These days we like horse’s neck to come out fairly high on his shoulders, what we call flatter-necked horses. That doesn’t mean the top of the horse’s neck is a straight line, it should have a slight curve to. It means he is not a high-necked horse.  

Today, because of the way we have changed our riding styles from where they once were, we like the horse’s neck to come out even with the  wither s  , fairly high on his shoulders with a real swan-like, clean throat latch. The whole neck can have some curve to it but we like the curve to be most obvious towards the poll. The under side of the neck should be really clean. We don’t want a horse that has big bulging muscles on the under side of its neck, like what we might call the pelican look. The bottom of the neck should come out very clean from the shoulder, and match the top line, curving smoothly to the throat latch. The throat latch should be very clean, although you might not see that in studs. Horses that are thicker through the throat latch might be more difficult to flex. Neck length should be either average or longer. I have never had trouble with a horse’s neck being too long, while a short neck limits the flexibility and makes the horse stiffer. Prominent withers are really an asset. Even one inch will make a lot of difference as to where your saddle sits. The further back your saddle sits, of course, the more weight will be distributed more towards the back of the horse, and it’s important to move all the weight we can towards the back of the horse, it will help them to perform. I like a horse whose withers are high, in fact as high as the height of the hip or maybe even slightly higher than the hip. Having withers set back also gives a little slope to the shoulder. A sloping shoulder is usually a little lighter shoulder, which is what we want in a performance horse.  Big blocky shoulders like we see in some older-bred type horses, can actually get in the way when a horse is performing reining or cow horse maneuvers.  A combination of a short neck and heavy shoulders means much more work than some.  

Well, I’m not quite halfway through this, and I have a whole bunch more to say. So I invite people to throw their comments in after this is all done, which will take a few more entries I’m sure! I’d love to know what you think, or maybe help you out a little with what I’ve learned over the years!  If there’s a mistake out there, I’ve made it, so I’d sure like to help you avoid it! 

Thanks for reading!

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