I recently purchased my new horse, a 17+hh 7 year old gelding who has been backed and trail ridden, but not "broke" (doesn't steer, has never cantered under saddle etc) but I love that he is clever, affectionate and inquisitive.
I recognize the potential folly in buying a lightly handled/backed adult horse, but I have been working with him over the last month and am completely smitten.
His previous owner is lovely and was very honest about his limited handling. She was intimidated by him and he got away with using his size against her.
When I got him, he had not been in a barn or a stall...he has literally lived his entire life in a field.
At the moment, we do only ground work, using the round pen and doing a lot of basic handling. I am constantly amazed by how quickly he learns! Before I get on him, I would like to continue working a little more on the ground and although his topline has improved, it is still quite weak. Conformationally speaking, his hindquarters are weak, but I am hoping that with more consistant work (walking up hills, ring work etc.) that it can be improved.
My aspirations are not in showing this horse. I want a forever horse to learn with and be safe with and fingers crossed, I think I found him. My intention is to ride him to the level that he is most comfortable and capable with and enjoying hacking out and bettering my ride.
Am I crazy to have bought a long-backed, short crouped horse? Can this really change with work?
Nope don't think you are crazy. I have seen far far worse horses out there showing and enjoying dressage. I have seen some similarly built horses of warmblood derivation back in the day doing fairly decent dressage.
I actually think he's quite cute. The back/hind end confo isn't ideal, but there are plenty of exquisitely bred, perfectly conformed horses who are crap to ride, and likewise lots of fugly critters who are the absolute best riding horses. I'll take less than perfect confo over questionable temperament any day of the week.
I've got 2 rides in on my mare, ever. She's 7 as well, almost 8. I think that it's working in her favor, as she's a bit flighty and her other full siblings have taken a bit longer to mature both physically and mentally.
I'm with Paula about the round pen, unless he needs to learn to lunge. Then they can come in handy if you are working alone. Perhaps when he gets stronger, you can help him a bit by using side reins when you lunge him. My girl is 17.0 as well, and I've found that they help her to learn to balance herself with out me getting in the way. She's starting to muscle up nicely now.
Thank you for the kind and encouraging words! My intention is to start lunging him on a line (possibly with side reins) but at this point, he needed some basic groundwork before learning to lunge proficiently. Too be completely honest, I also needed to work through some of the dominance issues that came from always getting his way. That's why I have been using a round pen...but I will definitely take the advice to heart and see if we can move to lunging sooner.
I really like his neck and shoulder and am surprised by how light his movement is. Next issue though: getting him FORWARD! He is so lazy! I would like to address it from the ground first though, so that I am not huffing and puffing with leg under saddle!
That is a very good strategy. Get the cues down, make them mean what they mean, get forward on the ground. I'm learning so much (theory) from watching my trainer. Get this stuff sorted on the ground before you get on and there are fewer training holes to fill in later right?
He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).
I don't think you were accurate, he is nicer than you made him sound.
To quote my mother, who was a breeder: "The three most important things about a horse are disposition, disposition and disposition." If he has a good one, you will enjoy him a lot more than a horse with better hindquarters and a bad attitude.
I love that quote, ACP! I really want to do this right and create a good partnership with this pony so hopefully I can get a good headstart on the under saddle work with solid ground work.
Ironically Eileen, my other horse was meant to be my dressage mount until by fluke we had him jump...he trotted into 4'6 and the rest was history...the running joke is that we can't let this horse jump because I'll "lose " another one to jumping -land lol!
You arent crazy. I expected to see a train wreak of a mess when the title said "awkward conformation". Ive sen so much worse and I think he is quite cute!! Ive seen way worse doing really well in dressage.
Don't worry about the round pen - it's a great training ground for teaching respect & response; you can use it just as effectively as a lunge line in the early stages: it is much preferred when backing a horse that has had limited handling or has issues.
You then introduce the lunge line (use a proper lunge cavesson or serreta!) & when he's going well, transition to the arena (& be prepared for some WOW! FREEDOM!! moments).
Don't add side reins until he's going well on the lunge line (responsive to commands, balanced etc) - you should be able to ask for (& receive) "slow, medium & fast" in all the gaits: obviously don't ask for canter until he's balanced & moving well in the trot.
Walk with him while you lunge, so the circle is b.i.g - he doesn't need to work any harder in this first year; he is going to be using/developing alot of new muscles.
If you only have a small round pen, I'd do very little canter work there.
Lots of good advice and comments on his conformation. You easily can see where he need to build muscle...through his topline and his loin...long stretchy hills and dirt roads...will do him as much good as lunging. You will need to be careful as he is more than just a little weak in his connection at the loin. His conformation is weak and his fitness is weak. As to his late start date...likely he would not have grown into himself before now anyway...this type of horse needs the time. You have good priorities. Remember that the temptation will be to not get that hind leg flexing and reaching under the body and just deal with what is in front of you but it is going to be hard for him to carry himself. It will be important for you to have the feel for an active hindquarter as opposed to faster, energetic, but not carrying himself. It will mean a lot when you get to canter...he WILL let you carry him for every step of the canter...but you don't WANT to. PatO Been there. If he is a heavy draft cross don't forget about feeding for EPSM...low carb diet.
I think you will be very pleasantly surprised over time with the right training and nutrition program. I agree with the above poster he looks like he could jump and also hills---lots of slow hill work and I bet he will really surprise you. Likely better for him and for you than the lunge line and developing your partnership. Congratulations!
lol! no, I just am a terrible typist and speller. I meant coach altho maybe a couch would be a good thing and let a pro work him for a while to build that oh so important connection.
I think of that area as the transmission and if it is weak or not correctly developed you will have problems.
Its not the end by any means but must be attended to before anything else can be done.
eta: while i think hills etc are a good thing, to correctly develop this or any horse they need to learn to connect with the bit and bend in the body which will lead to roundness over the topline... which is where (correctly fitted - not too short to too long) side reins and correct lunge work will help immensely. Or if the OP knows how long lining is also really great.
He needs to learn how to use his body in an optimal manner - and while hills etc will help - they are not going to teach him how to go evenly into the bit and how to bend both sides evenly .
Nice horse! Great advice above. He looks a lot like a th/perch I had. Take your time with him, because that type of horse is very slow to mature...starting him at 7 is no big deal. Looks like a potential winner down the line to me.