What's the best way to evaluate the potential jumping ability of a young horse when it's unbroken or barely broke? If a trainer is shopping for a potential 4' horse but looking at 3-year-olds, do they put them through a chute or test them on the lunge line or just canter them down to a decent sized fence and see what happens?
"Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?" Sun Tzu, The Art of War Rainy Stash
But they have to be conditioned for that or they will break.
JMO but, if they can get over 3' nicely with room to spare in the chute, they got a shot at more-putting it to 4' with an unbroke colt might hurt them and might not tell you what you need to know. That chute may predict some things but it will not tell you trainability or ability to carry a rider over a course of 4' fences in an unbroke youngster.
Also JMO but it is a little easier looking at a well started and conditioned 4 or 5 year old then an unbroke 3 year old when trying to predict scope with a rider over a course...always remember, even a cow can jump 5'. From a standstill.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
At that age, conformation would be a big factor in determining scope. The conformation articles for big time jumpers in Practical Horseman are pretty indepth.
I would never presume to ask a seller if I could jump their 3 yr old over a good sized fence to determine scope
I also wouldn't look at a 3 yr old jumper prospect if it I could not see it free jump (something I would ask before I got there) - especially if we're talking Grand Prix potential.
There's also that indefinable quality that makes a horse a big time contender and that's what an experienced horse person can "see". Just b/c a horse CAN jump the height...doesn't mean it's gong to make a Grand Prix horse...the heart has to be there.
\"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River
There's a video somewhere (don't have the link and no time to look) of a bull getting spooked before a bull fight in Spain and JUMPING out of the arena into the stands. He literally jumps an six-to-eight foot WALL into a crowd of spectators. No one was killed, believe it or not.
If someone can find it, it's amazing to see.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, / And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, / Do not go gentle into that good night. -- Dylan Thomas
It is a basic gradual scope evaluation of when the scope starts to run out. If a horse starts to lose scope at 3'6" you are not looking at a 4' horse, a 4' horse should be able to jump 5'.
However at 3 it is probably too much to ask, knees are not closed, they are not or should not be jumping much if at all so they probably will not stand up physically or mentally to such an evaluation, perhaps a 3 YO OTT may because they have been doing since 2, but you still have the physical concerns.
Good old fashion horsemanship is the only way I can think of, and there are not many Bertalan's around nowadays, so it would probably be good to wait until they are physically mature and have a proven aptitude for the discipline.
As one person stated, there is always the unknown quantity of a horse, and that is what really makes big fence horses
I think a real quality horse doesn't need to be free-jumped over a large fence to show its ability. You should be able to see their technique, mind set (ie do they back off themselves, will they give themselves a good distance naturally) and scope over something small enough. Riding a 3 yo to a large fence seems a bit much to me. Just lunging it also wouldn't do it justice, I don't think as they may not be so balanced at that age - free is best in my experience at that age.
I'd rather be riding!
If the horse is very young, (not going under saddle yet or not up to jumping much height undersaddle) I would only be interested in a reasonably good individual. If the prospect has no glaring conformation faults I would then consider the horse's eye. After a standing - and walking - evaluation I would want to see the horse jump something all the while paying particular attention to the gallop.
There are certain characteristics that most horses with scope enough to easily jump possess. The above are a few of the ones I'd be looking for.