At what age do you feel comfortable evaluating the quality of a foal's walk? Does it vary by the breed?
I was at seminar yesterday where the well respected clinician stated that the poor quality of a horse's walk was always the fault of the rider. She also stated that a foals walk could not be evaluated until the relative length of the legs to the body had decreased which she stated did not occur before nine months. What has your experience been?
I agree that you can tell on a younger foal. The quality of the walk is really determined by how well the horse uses their whole body. When they are loose through their loin/back/neck/shoulder they get that "slinky" walk. A horse with a tight connection will have a shorter walk. How well a foal uses their body can be seen during those short periods of time when they are balanced in their growth stage.
For example, last summer we were shown a ~3 month old foal by Fabregas (now in Canada) at Ingo Pape's (during the course) that had the most free shoulder I had ever seen in a foal. This foal when walking just stretched his neck down and out and moved through his WHOLE body. At trot and canter he looked like he was water skiing...hind legs well under him and front legs moving out from his shoulder. Now that foal may not have looked so great 1 week earlier...he was in the perfect growth stage to evaluate him.
It is true that the long legs/short back means all foals seem to take big strides with big overtrack, but the more foals you see the more you are able to tell the really good walkers from the rest. Slinky is a good word for it. I have two youngsters at the moment with exceptional walks, a TB and a Hanoverian. It was very evident from 2-3 months old, and it was remarked on from judges at 4 months.
... She also stated that a foals walk could not be evaluated until the relative length of the legs to the body had decreased which she stated did not occur before nine months. What has your experience been?
she is right with respect to relative length of legs to body being the most important factor to allow for walk valuation.
a rule of thumb says a horse completes 60% of it's growth by yearling age.
but even yearlings still tend to be higher than longer.
the shorter the horse (a foal is the shortest format) the further the legs "step over" in walk.
of course they do. for the simple reason that a single step of yet (too) long legs (realtive to back) bridges far more than the short back at that point in time requires.
that doesn't mean they have a good walk.
i would even go so far and state that due to still incompletely streched length of back in young age they also cannot show a clear use of back, either.
a foal or young yearling doesn't make "use of back in walk".
they move. some further, some lesser so.
however, even in more mature age the quality of free walk doesn't give any hint of quality to walk under saddle. and this again is not a question of making use of back (or lesser so) but mainly a question of nerve and interieur.
we know prominent (stallion) lines who produce outspoken elastic horses with excellent ability to make use of back. no physical restriction whatsoever given with respect to walk.
still, they do not walk well under saddle and start shorten their step once in hand or ridden.
this has nothing to do with exterieur or physics.
it is a simple question of mind.
if you watch these horses in total relaxation roaming round the pasture they display excellent walk.
thus, with respect to certain lines i do not rely on quality of walk in free walk, no matter how old the horse is.
you can only tell once under saddle if they keep moving loose or not and even this has nothing to do with poor riding.
a lot of horses simply don't walk well once under saddle and it is usually getting worse when you add outside influence of excitement (shows, tests).
a 6 or less score in walk is usually not a question of exterieur. not today with the modern sport horses we breed who almost all come along with close to perfect frame conditions.
I hear what you are saying Fannie Mae...I agree that a horse under saddle may end up with a completely different walk (or any gait for that matter) than naturally given due to tension/ anxiety/ rider/ etc. And it is their gaits under saddle that is most important as that is where we are judged at a show.
Where I disagree though is that during the growth of a horse up to 3ish years old we only have the ability to evaluate/ make judgements about a horse gait either free or in-hand. This applies when looking at a young horse to purchase or even at mare or foal inspections/ evaluations. And when evaluating a foal or young horse walk it is important to see how that animal uses their whole body. If I am understanding you correctly you are essentially saying a horse's walk cannot be evaluated at all until under saddle. Then why so much emphasis on the "walk ring" at mare shows? IMO and experience it is because the judges are looking at how those mare's use their whole bodies.
In addition, I think it important to start with a young horse that has the natural ability to use their bodies in the walk/ trot/ canter. The quality may end up being diminished once under saddle for many reasons but at least you started from a higher point. Better that than starting with a young horse with already poor walk free or in-hand. It will not be improved under saddle and possibly made even worse.
....If I am understanding you correctly you are essentially saying a horse's walk cannot be evaluated at all until under saddle.
but what use does that have?
we breed riding horses and riding is under saddle.
thus, walk - and anything else - needs to be proved under saddle.
Originally Posted by Blume Farm
Then why so much emphasis on the "walk ring" at mare shows? IMO and experience it is because the judges are looking at how those mare's use their whole bodies....
what use do in hand shows have, anyway, when the point is to evaluate potential riding horses?
skip mare shows, go for mare performance tests under saddle.
that's what they are designed for.
it's all about under saddle.
reason why even licensing processes are questioned.
just came from a meeting with the oldenburg verband last night and dr. schleppinghoff asked:
what good is a licensing for when we know nothing about how the respective stallion does under saddle?
since we allow them to breed prior to the stallion test under saddle we know nothing about them.
very valid point.
he favours a licensing process in a way that the running at liberty/in hand part is used as a preselection for excterieur criteria only.
half year later those who have passed that part need to be licensed under saddle and under saddle only.
he came up with a few video examples from the last oldbg under saddle licensing where he showed stallions in hand/running at liberty. audience was asked to make their judgements (exactly like the licensing committee at that point in time did, too).
then the same stallions were shown under saddle.
completely different appearances.
people (and committee) had chosen different ones over the other simply for the completely different quality horses displayed under saddle in comparison to how they seemd to have done before in hand/running at liberty.
do you see the difference?
even the licensing committe at that point in time had to change their mind and approved differntly afterwards.
it is all about riding horses and under saddle.
schleppinghoff is very right so and according to him the matter is discussed with the various verbands.
we will see where that is gonna take us in a few years from now.
i would be the first to applaud to the abolishment of licensing based on in hand inspection. as it does not suit the matter at all.
neither do mare shows.
that's why we have mare and stallion performance tests under saddle and ideally they should be taken before the respective horse is added to the breed.
Great discussion even though we have gotten away from the original topic of walk in foals I am not posting to be argumentative (so please do not read my posts this way), but rather to learn as I find your vie point super interesting.
I do not disagree at all regarding that a sport horses final evaluation should be how it performs under saddle. I also agree that a horse can change from something not so special as a youngster to great under saddle, and vice versa. Hence, the risk of buying a youngster....you never know if they will have the mind for sport/ competition, the athleticism, hold up health wise, etc. I think waiting to license a stallion until it completes a SPT is a great idea. The last mare inspection I went to the mare that was not the best mare conformation wise was the best mare under saddle. However, she was also the best mare moving in hand at the walk.
However, according to what you are saying there is no point in evaluating a youngster as it will have no bearing on how they are under saddle. This is where I disagree (to some degree). I think there are folks that are really skilled at evaluating young horses, mares at mare shows and stallions in hand. They can make an educated guess as to how that horse might one day perform movement wise. I would hazard to say that someone like Ingo Pape is probably pretty good at looking a foals to 3 year olds and deciding which ones he feels are most likely going to succeed as they age. Of course, sometimes he will be right and sometimes wrong, but he will surely be right more times then me If no one did this there would be no one purchasing prospects, no? If you were looking to buy a 2 year old as a dressage prospect (say you didn't have enough money to buy one already under saddle) how would you evaluate the horses?
Again, please do not take this as argumentative....I am really interested in your view point on this!
.... They can make an educated guess as to how that horse might one day perform movement wise. I would hazard to say that someone like Ingo Pape is probably pretty good at looking a foals to 3 year olds and deciding which ones he feels are most likely going to succeed as they age. Of course, sometimes he will be right and sometimes wrong, but he will surely be right more times then me If no one did this there would be no one purchasing prospects, no?
... an educated GUESS
totally agree with you!
an educated guess, which still leaves a lot of room for right or wrong.
professionals (no matter who) build their business on buying prospectuses of any kind. look at PS. he is said to buy hundreds of foals per year hoping to come up with a small percentage of above average horses in the end who have to finance the rest.
part of any business is manage risk.
the way to manage such risk is a consequent selection process while these foals and youngsters mature.
part of the business is, that we never (very seldom) hear again from those who are being culled due to selection.
and even here professionals sometimes fail (nothing wrong with that).
i have noticed it several times at the hanoverian licensing that a dealer introduced a colt that became licensed and even sold for a good price, and that colt was intially bought cheaply form another professional at younger age having been culled, obviously mistakenly.
everything is possible.
later celebrities being promoted by professionals only represent the top of the iceberg.
question yourself how big the number of underlying cullings might be to produce a handful of succesful mature horses in the end.
i'ld say closer to 80% or even higher rather than less.
that's part of the busines and the unsual rule of thumb.
the reason why you can always buy cheap horses at professionals or find them at nearby dealers who -again- live from picking up the culled ones for small money to sell them on as riding horses later.
Originally Posted by Blume Farm
....If you were looking to buy a 2 year old as a dressage prospect (say you didn't have enough money to buy one already under saddle) how would you evaluate the horses?....
exactly how everyone else does:
watch them run at liberty and try to make my educated guess :-)
So I will take from this discussion...it is still important to learn to evaluate young stock as it is the only "tool" you have when taking the gamble of buying a young horse. However, don't be surprised if your gamble didn't work out!
When adding a stallion or mare to your breeding stock they should have some sort of under saddle performance test/ sport success before breeding...ie; don't just base it on success in in-hand classes. This is completely agree with. Not only with how their gaits change/ improve/ worsen under saddle but how they mentally hold up to rider pressure.
I still believe with good training one can learn to evaluate gaits and use of body in young stock (including foals). And starting off with a young horse that naturally shows these attributes will have a great chance of continuing this under saddle. Versus starting with a below mediocre horse and later excelling under saddle (IMHO not as likely to occur).
Thanks for all your input! Completely respect your opinion/ skill/ knowledge. And sorry to have hijacked the thread
Last edited by Blume Farm; Feb. 27, 2013 at 08:58 PM.