There are horses out there at are better at 3'6" than 3', if I was looking at a pregreen horse and looking at it as a 3'6" horse there are things I would look at. I would look carefully at the canter and its rhythm. Also if the horse is large I would like to see it jump something higher as some big horses can be sloppy at 3' and knock them out of top ribbons.
A nice horse is a NICE horse, and most horses can do 3'6". I think I would say that a really nice winning pregreen horse should be able to be a 3'6" horse, a so-so pregreen horse could be a good 3'6" horse if 3' is just not enough jump for them.
I don't think there is a hard and fast rule. However, I find that generally, there are two types of horses that excel in the pre-greens: those that *have* to try hard at 3' and thus put a lot of effort into their bascule, and those that simply have beautiful technique and remain impressed enough to offer it over the (relatively) low jumps in the pre-green ring. The latter tend to be the sort that go on to a lot of success in the 3'6" rings.
it's quite true that most horses can jump 3'6", but not all of them can reliably produce the perfect bascule at that height out of the consistent quiet canter that is rewarded in the hunter ring.
********** We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
I have had more than one trainer say that most "winning" 3 foot horses are winning because it is the limit of their scope . I think you could follow the careers of top 3 foot horses if you want to do the research -
but what whbar and Luscassb added were there are "other" horses that can do well in the 3 foot and then move on successfully.
the other factor of course is that many of the winning 3 footers get bought as 3 foot horses by folks who will never ever try them at 3'6" -
"Her life was okay. Sometimes she wished she were sleeping with the right man instead of with her dog, but she never felt she was sleeping with the wrong dog."
Interesting topic. I have a young mare that will be moving up to the first years next year. She has done very, very well at 3'3" this season although only attending half the shows (because of my work schedule) she still pinned third in her division. Her consistency over the courses and her slow, rythmic steady canter no matter what seemed to be the key. She most definetely jumps "better" over the higher fences however, really tucks her knees up to her chin whereas in the 3'3" foot height she brings her knees up but not quite the tight tuck that seems to be so rewarded these days. My trainer and myself are really excited about moving up to the higher heights...4 feet should be a real blast! How she will do? We will have to wait and see. I do wonder however did a horse like Popeke K really look phenomenal over the smaller fences or did he really start to excel over the bigger stuff. I remember seeing him through the jump chute as a youngster (3 years old) and at his stallion inspection and I quite honestly saw nothing really fantastic in his jump. It obviously developed later in his show career.
It also depends a lot on management. A horse with a lot of scope and step can get dull quickly at the pregreens, but, with limited showing and careful training to keep them sharp, they will be able to be successful at the important shows and make a big impression as a pregreen. They're going to be the winner at the 3' if they go at the best of their ability, and they will go on to be winners in the 3'6".
If they are overshown at the lower height though, the small jump and the constant suppression of their step is going to make them go lackluster, and they will be beaten by the 3' specialist who can carry more pace and is challenged enough to remain sharp.
Many times it's step that keeps the horse from moving up to the 3'6", rather than jump. It's much easier to fake it at the 3'.
Anyway, you can't really judge a horse on a pregreen record on paper. You have to see what the horse actually is to determine if it is going to continue to be successful, or if it is going to improve.
Thanks CBoylen. I really appreciate your opinion on this. I think you are right on the money as well. My mare really likes to move out a little more between the fences as the distances seem a bit short for her natural stride at the 3'3" height. When we bump the fences up to 3"6" and she has to open up her stride a bit to make the distances she is MUCH better over the fences themselves. It appears the smaller fences have shorter distances between....not so good for a big moving hunter.
Some years ago, a friend of mine found a very nice young horse in Europe. He imported it in December, and took it to Florida to sell in January. By the time the horse was ready to show, my friend had told several people about him, how nice he was, etc.
So his first day in the show ring, he did the pre-greens, and got low ribbons, maybe 5th and 7th out of a pretty large division at WEF. Several people liked him, but asked if he would be able to do the 3'6" height.
My friend said, "Well, I'm moving him up to the First Years tomorrow, come see for yourself!" So on the second day of the horse's show career, the horse did the First Years at WEF. He won both jump classes out of about 90 horses, got a good hack ribbon, and ended up champion. He also got sold, lickety split.
He went on to be very successful at 3'6", and was champion at just about all the major shows on the East Coast. He certainly won more at the bigger height, but since his pre-green career only lasted one day, it's hard to say how he might might have done in that division.