View Full Version : Your Ideal Future Event Horses: What are you breeding or looking for?

Jan. 3, 2012, 02:23 PM
There appears to be a general consensus amongst the eventing breeding community that the current FEH competitions are not looking for the right horses. I am wondering, what are the right horses then? While it is impossible to tell in a young horse whether or not will make a good 4* horse until they are going at 4* level, what traits, both physical and mental, do you think would give a prospect an advantage to get there? What "tests" do you impose on your young horses to see if they continue on the UL event horse track or not?

Including examples of past or present young horses is always encouraged. :)

Jan. 3, 2012, 03:34 PM
I can't contribute a lot to the FEH discussion other than to say that correct confo for jumping as opposed to dressage should be a priority. Also, my comments on movement below can apply to FEH horses.

However, on the YEH front I have a few thoughts. I really think what the judges are looking for right now are SUPER dressage movers that also have a SUPER tight fancy jump. While I appreciate both of these qualities in a horse, I'm not sure that's what we see in top level eventers.

Super wowza dressage movers are often lofty, floaty, with big suspension and expression. While this is droolworthy in the dressage ring (if trained properly) it is inefficient across country. Gaits should play a role in the dressage judging, but moreso attitude, trainability, adjustability and efficient correct gaits. All that suspension is a lot of air time that is slow and hard on the horse cardiovascularly when you are galloping for time.

In the jumping, the same thing applies in some cases. While we all smile when we see a back cracking jump with square knees and tons of air, this is not efficient! Lots of wasted energy (and time) when talking about cross country, not to mention overjumping is harder on legs. Also, while I do think that refusals shouldn't be punished all by themselves (going along with current rules), if a horse is spooking/stopping and generally stressing out about every fence, that should reflect negatively on it. I don't care how AMAZING the final jump is, if the only thing getting the horse over that fence is the serious ride it's getting past the spooks, that's not the right attitude for an upper level eventer!

What would be more valuable in the jumping? Again, adjustability, trainability, and attitude! Bravery, thinking, and efficiency across country. Just because a horse isn't overjumping by two feet doesn't mean he can't, maybe it means he's smart enough to see that the jump is 3 feet tall and not 5 feet tall and he's not afraid of it. That to me, says EVENTER!

I realize that some of these things are harder to judge and that some are part of the current judging. My hope would be that the weight of things would change. A horse with super nice gaits should be given good scores on his gaits, BUT that shouldn't be the deciding factor overall. And can we change the criteria to reward efficient athletic movement and not maximum air time?

I competed my 4 year old in two YEH events this year and really enjoyed them. I found them to be a great and inexpensive way to get your young horse at the big HT environment without overfacing them. We had respectable scores 63 and 67, and were absolutely beaten by some very nice horses. BUT, I watched horse after horse spook, stop, juke and jive at the fences. When they jumped, many were quite fancy, but obviously nervous and unsure. At a certain point, the fancyness of the horse must be overshadowed by his attitude and gameness. The fancy horses won the day even though they didn't get any braver or more settled. To me, that is not the horse I want to think about taking out XC!

Fancy doesn't make an eventer, work ethic and athleticism do. Is there a way to reward the correct athletic horse with the right mindset instead of only fancy?

I will do YEH again for the experience and mileage, but until we work on the judging criteria, I'm not sure it's producing what we are looking for...

Jan. 3, 2012, 04:18 PM
My first homebred will be an eventer or jumper derby horse.

I've crossed a TB mare with a Trakehner stallion for a 2012 kiddo.

In theory this cross will give me a horse of these sats:

*16.1-16.2 hands tall
*dark bay with 4 whites/and either a star and a snip or a star/stripe/snip
*a lovely head and very big smart eyes
*good feet
*a great gallop
*a very quiet, cool, calm, collected, THOUGHTFUL mind
*a build that will find "sit" and "lift" very easy
*an amazing neck and a good round haunch
*3 very correct gaits and possibly even above average gaits
*an awesome name (hehehehe)

It should be an ideal event horse.
Though you don't always get what should be the obvious mix.

I believe that the Trakehners and the Selle Francais are the horses that are the ideal even horse/crossed with the old school type TB. They will give the TB a bit more movement but still allow the blood to shine.
Even though people seem to love those Irish horses so much...I'm still not on that wagon. I don't like them one bit. I have yet to see one that wows me.

The next stallion I will use (a KWPN) will not be for the ideal event horse but for more of a huntery type.
It will be for MY ideal horse.

Peregrine Farm
Jan. 3, 2012, 07:24 PM
Agree with much of what has already been said, but more fundamentally, a refocusing/acknowledgement by those setting YEH/FEH criteria and those who are judging of a few things: (A) the program is intended to identify upper level talent so as to assist breeders in getting these horses into the hands of riders who can/will/will want to compete them internationally; and (B) that because the FEH/YEH classes are intended to be predictive, that the following factors ALL be taken into account:

(1) the actual breeding of the animal (sire/dam/ancestors);

(2) the phenotype of the horse -- both conformation and type (for example, is it overly heavy or, if immature, likely to become heavy, and therefore be unable to make time at the upper levels);

(3) if available, past performance in recognized competition, especially on xc (for YEH); and

(4) performance during the FEH/YEH day (to be used primarily for assessing gaits (with an emphasis on correctness and efficiency), technique and mind/attitude for eventing).

It needs to be acknowledged that successful 4* horses still have an indentifiable profile. Since 2005 (excluding Pau 2011, which I have not analyzed yet), there have been 218 horses that have placed in the top 10 at a 4* event, the WEG, or the Olympics. Of those approximately 208 have publicly available pedigree information from which the xx/ox blood % of those horses can be identified or estimated:

40% were pure TBs or Anglo-Arabians.

66% had blood of at least 75%

70% had blood of at least 70%.

83% had blood of at least 60%

96% had blood of at least 50%.

I actually believe that the percentage of xx/ox blood is higher than what I have reported above, due to gaps in some of the published pedigrees and xx/ox ancestors that exist outside of the first page of a pedigree.

I am no misty-eyed TB apologist, and I am highly critical (from a conformation standpoint) of many of the race-bred TBs I see out eventing. I also am quite aware that the paper might not reflect the animal being considered. Warmbloods and other breeds can certainly become upper level eventers, and if they have the talent and backing to do so (and if they don't get siphoned off into dressage/showjumping homes), they'll get there.

But if we are trying to create a pipeline and [I]predict upper-level potential (not just judge how precocious a young horse is at ages 1-6), shouldn't the FEH/YEH judges include as a significant part of their evaluation whether a horse is bred with the profile of successful upper-level eventers?

Jan. 3, 2012, 10:04 PM
I agree with what you are saying PF, but I think (in my opinion) what you are identifying should be a goal for the outcome of the program, not a judging component.

Let me see if I can explain this, it's pinging around in my brain. The way this is formatted as a competition means the horse in front of you needs to be evaluated on its merits on that day.

The criteria for determining those merits needs to be changed I think, and you seem to agree with me there. Adding the pedigree in as part of the scoring would create (in my mind) bias one way or another in the judging. Maybe the judge is a big fan of Irish horses, or dislikes Trakehners or really likes a certain stallions offspring...

What I mean when I say it should be a goal is that the judging criteria should be reworked so that the horses who are ideal candidates for 4* competition are identified as the winners of FEH/YEH, and therefore their pedigrees are also identified (by the results) as good for top level eventing. Those pedigrees should be the end result we are working towards, the program needs to be reverse engineered to select those type of horses.

I don't know if that makes sense! I need to think about it some more...

Now, if we were talking about some sort of non-competitive evaluation, then perhaps introducing pedigree as an additional points category to indicate probably suitability for UL eventing would make sense...

Basically what I'm trying to say is if the criteria for judging were correctly written, then the horses you have shown in your analysis would be the clear winners. The commonalities amongst those horses need to be identified and grouped into judgeable criteria, they should become the "Standard" against which the YEH/FEH horses are judged!

Jan. 3, 2012, 10:44 PM
I am wondering, what are the right horses then?

Mine, of course. :D

While it is impossible to tell in a young horse whether or not will make a good 4* horse until they are going at 4* level, what traits, both physical and mental, do you think would give a prospect an advantage to get there?

Balance -- does the horse naturally balance itself and maintain that balance?

Gallop -- ground-covering, light and adjustable. You can see a youngster do this in the field.

Forward -- this is more complex. An event horse needs to be forward-thinking as much as forward-moving. What is the horse's natural response to new things or unexpected obstacles, like a stream or ditch in the field?

Adjustability -- this is the combination of forward and balance. Does the horse make adjustments on his/her own?

An eye for a jump -- Hard to know this at FEH ages but a good eventer needs to have a good natural 'eye' for a jump. Not all horses have this, and it's not specifically just the eye, it's about the horse having a good innate sense of where and how he can successfully take off at a jump. While you can improve the eye to some extent with training, a top eventer really needs to have this in spades, as XC will always be, to some extent, unpredictable.

Resilience -- an event horse has to brush off mistakes. Not every fence is going to be perfect, not every line will come up right, he might knock his legs or brush against stuff -- but he still has to get on with it.

Blood -- TB blood, lots of it, or if not that, lots of Anglo-Arab and TB. We cannot get around the fact that top event horses are usually more than 3/4ths TB. If the horse does not have sufficient blood, it is unlikely to be a future CCI***/**** horse. This is something that separates eventing from dressage or showjumping. The horse must have blood and we're kidding ourselves if we don't acknowledge that.

What "tests" do you impose on your young horses to see if they continue on the UL event horse track or not?

I watch them outside in the field but I do little sort-of tests by putting them in new situations, simple stuff like walking them over a ditch or through water on the way in at night. But this is how you get to know your horse.

Including examples of past or present young horses is always encouraged. :)

Here's a future Advanced eventer at 12 weeks (www.flickr.com/photos/28168510@N07/5544385296). She was 13/16ths TB, 1/16th Dutch, 1/16th Gelders, 1/16th Irish. When she was three days old, she cantered down the barn aisle in a straight line doing beautiful tempi changes, then cantered back into her stall (she'd gone AWOL, again) and jumped neatly over my friend who was sitting on the stall floor. Then she cantered another tiny circle around the stall until her mother trapped her in the corner and told her to knock it off.


Jan. 4, 2012, 01:32 AM
Very interesting, so far! Thank you all to contributing.

I would not consider myself a breeder, perhaps aspiring breeder? I decided to breed for my next eventer out my then OTTB mare to a very modern warmblood stallion.

So far, he is showing that he can be an eventer, though he is only a coming 3 yo at this point and still in the FEH program. I would not call him "pretty" right now, but I think he will mature into a very elegant looking horse.

http://a2.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/375567_300757633293943_268347576534949_799172_9985 35056_n.jpg

When he was a wee one, one could already tell that he had superior balance to many other babies as they galloped around the arena.
He again has shown this through his ability to buck when put undersaddle despite his age and inexperience.


He is alertly calm about almost everything he confronts. He is not a dull horse whatsoever, but he is brightly observant of everything around him without ever being dramatic. Hardly anything has caused him to balk (except horse head statues, which I can understand).

So far, in his free jumping, he has shown an excellent ability to get out of tight spots and, when he does crack a rail, he learns and amends his mistake.

His movement is efficient and correct, with enough suspension and elevation in front to be deemed fancy. His canter is better than his trot or walk.

In terms of pedigree, he is 72% xx/xo, with only 11% of the remaining being non-Trakehner warmblood.

We'll see where he will go in the next coming years! :)