Also, I want to see an elevated head/shoulder coming up to the jump. If this is the horse's natural way of going, you'll save a lot of time because they'll set themselves up for the fence.
Lord Helpus, as you're so close by, why not stop in at JMP and have a talk with Mike about eventers? He knows a lot, to put it mildly, and is always rather succinct about a horse's abilities and potential. Even the photos in his office are an education. His is a brain you should definitely be picking.
Personally, when buying a horse for a rider to compete, I think you need to be very very honest about your goals and your rider's strength/weaknesses right from the start. There are lots of super riders out there, but they all have their strengths/weaknesses.
If the goal, for instance, is to genuinely end up with a competitive international horse, my approach would be a different depending on how strong my rider was in the sandbox. If I was buying for WFP or someone similarly talented at delivering on day 1, I would not be so concerned about finding a really super mover. If the rider can genuinely compete on that stage, and squeeze every point from every movement...my focus and money would be on finding the real deal when it comes to jumping.
On the other hand, if I am buying for a rider with less experience or ability when it comes to getting the most points on the flat, I would be more inclined to take some chances on something a bit fancier. It may mean taking on something that is a bit chancier when it comes to having the endurance necessary to get the job done with a minimum of time penalties and still be fresh enough to jump well. The nice bonus of this approach being, as the OP pointed out, that this type of horse can often be sold on into another discipline for good money.
By the same token, if the goal is really to have a 3*/4* horse rather than competing for a team slot or having top ten performances at big events internationally, I would once again give up some fancy in order to up my chances of finding something that is the real deal cross-country.
If I were shopping, I would look for good feet, slight length of back (not short coupled), good withers, a neck that comes out at a good place (not too high, as it stifles galloping), a canter and gallop that is not "heavy" and is efficient across the ground. If I'm looking at a horse who is already jumping, I want scope but not *boing* if that makes sense. I want efficiency over the jumps and not one that is yanking knees to eyeballs over everything. And of course, the brain. I want the trainable brain, because that's the most important thing. As you walk through upper level barns, you'll find Allllllll kinds. Chunky, tall, lanky, crooked, cribbers, lug-heads...but they all have a trainable brain that love the job.
I have been looking for a stallion for my Selle Francais mare and I have found that there is a nice video that those stallion who have completed the testing for the last few years have and it is similar for each stallion...a bit of dressage, a bit of jumping, and a bit of cross country. The neat thing is that they are doing the same thing over the same courses and you get to see how they each handle the elements. There is one for Bon Balou http://www.dreamscapefarm.com/HorseDetail.aspx?ID=566 for example and while he is a warmblood and an exceptional jumper he also takes the rider to the jumps cross country and has good foot speed and loves cross country. There is anther video of Contiano http://www.branscombfarm.com/breedin...09-contiano-bf who is also exceptional over fences and is an outstanding young stallion but he is much more over jumping the cross country fences and not the galloping horse taking his rider to the fences on cross country. His galloping style is less efficient for eventing. Nevetheless he is a superb jumper of exceptional talent but not an eventer type. Now this is less about conformation as theses are very well conformed or they would not be presented for the performance test. It is more about how they are excellent but not necessarily eventers. The other Branscomb stallions I think also have this video to compare...super useful to me. It is interesting to compare very good stallions with similar video. PatO
I may not be an experienced eventer, but have some experience with TB and types and jumping cross country, and my concern at the higher levels is soundness - and you, OP, correctly notice the big engine and I think its important, because when the TBs are trained as racers, you watch them and they really pull from the front - watch the new mare in the recent thread, Jess, off the track, and her hind end trails and her front end pulls and she looks heavy on her front end. I think she can be a fantastic eventer, but she and other horses like her who learn (through dressage, probably) to sit back and USE their engine, develope their engine, and learn how to stay lighter up front, can probably stay sound for the upper levels in eventing, besides use that engine for the big jumps and to get themselves underneath for the bigger banks-up and things.
So to address my thoughts about the OP, a horse with a smaller 'engine' may well need simply to be more rigorously trained to USE that engine rather than pull with the front end, and thereby may do well.
You're right = the successfull eventers have and engine which enables them to jump and also to stay sound enough to get through the higher levels.
My horse had soundness problems as a youngster moving up to the higher levels, but has a TB naturally front end heavy way of going. After some years off, and two years of dressage training, we are now bringing him back to eventing by developing that engine strongly to see how that will change his ability to handle the complexity and scale of upper level eventing. If he can stay light and use his engine, we think that is the ticket for him and probably many many other horses between topping out at Training and being able to go on from there. His new eventing coach for this season is very dressage-centric, too, and we hope will nail down the regimine he needs to build that engine and use himself athletically and thus remain sound and strong in the upper divisions.
We'll see, but these are my thoughts on that "engine" the OP is talking about.
You want an uphill gallop that covers the ground with a free, open shoulder. The shoulder can be free and open because the horse is pushing forward with the hind end and the withers are elevated.
Since we're talking about ideals here, it's just so much easier to start with a horse that has this gallop than to try to work with a gallop that's forehand-heavy or (in the case of many WBs) has too much up-and-down and knee action.
And also because we're talking about ideals, here's a video of one of my ideal event horses, Hooray Henry II, who is now 32 and still being ridden regularly. (He's only 30 in this video.) He was as natural a galloper and jumper as I've ever seen.
Same goes for Welham, the not-so-well-bred son of a TB teaser who went on to win $1M show jumping with John Whitaker. Welham won the Hickstead Derby at age 20, then went on to fox hunt and show in veterans' classes. He was one of those athletic individuals who could have done anything.
Tom Reed's proposed eventing studbook has got an analysis and description of what they think an UL event horse should be. It's quite detailed and worth reading. You can find it on his thread on the Breeding board.
I'm not quite sure what they mean by a dry texture of the legs, though. Anyone know what is meant?
Akhal-Tekes are supposed to have dry legs. I wish I had a close-up of my 1/2 AT's skinny legs and 'goat' feet (as JMP calls them) -- they are very dry indeed. :)
(The YEH judges were quite taken aback by her conformation, although her legs and everything else are very much in keeping with Tom's ideal. The dry factor in a 14.2hh TB-Teke was a bit extreme for them.)
"Tom Reed's proposed eventing studbook has got an analysis and description of what they think an UL event horse should be. It's quite detailed and worth reading. You can find it on his thread on the Breeding board."
He appears to have for the most part cut and paste the conformation analysis from his jumping stud book (which for the most past is mainly made up of his own stallions). I can understand listening to jer's opinion, but I am not sure why you would rely on TReed to tell you what to look for in an eventer, although i am sure he will not be lacking in an explanation on why he is an expert on the subject.To me it looks like he has had to modfify his business model to sell himself and his horses.
It has to have a big heart.