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Supple, forward...Belgian?

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  • Supple, forward...Belgian?

    So I've had this argument with folks before. I have a thing for drafts and am looking for a draft cross that can do dressage, competitive trail, hunter paces, hill topping, etc. I've not looked at many full drafts because they usually have a hard time doing things like a canter depart without running into it, they have a hard time bending, and their straight shoulder lends itself to a hackney trot and prohibits extension.

    I know I know; drafts don't do dressage. Believe you me I've had the dressing down on another board Thing is I like riding big ole drafty horses. Am I looking for a dressage horse? No I'm looking for a horse that can do dressage, among other things. So that rules out straight shoulders, heavy drafts that can't use their butts to lift themselves into a canter, and can't flex at the poll or bend. Like I said: I've been looking at crosses, hoping to have my cake and eat it too.

    Well. I saw an ad for a full Belgian mare, 6 years old, 1250lbs. That's pretty darned light for a Belgian so I emailed the seller and asked about whether her horse was a light as she sounded and whether she could do the things I wanted her to do. She said yes. So I went to see her at her trainers on my way to Meeting today. Couldn't ride because of course I'm in my church/meeting clothes.

    Well. She's been in training so she's a little light right now. However:
    1. Sloped shoulder extended trot (as much as she was trained to do). No high knee action. (You've seen that knee action in Haffies and Belgians).

    2. She's about 16 hh. Not downhill. She might even be a hair uphill, but let's call her level.

    3.Solid WTC. Harder to pick up her canter on the left side.

    4. Bends (cowboy did a side pass - the Western equivalent of a half pass except you're traveling in the direction of the outside curve).

    5. Flexes. Relaxed topline.

    6. Not ploddy. Energetic, forward.

    Soooo did I just meet a supple, forward, dressage....Belgian?

    I'm going to test ride her next weekend.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

  • #2
    I had a full Belgian mare, 17.2H, that did up to 3rd level dressage, jumped very nicely although I didn't let her go much over 2'3" on a regular basis, had as much endurance, forwardness, and athletic ability as any of the TBs in my barn. Keep in mind that just because the horse is a draft it doesn't mean that the horse is dead calm, unathletic, and cumbersome. My girl was very supple, had an excellent shoulder, laterals and collected work were very easy. Extensions/lengthenings took a little longer and more effort. Sadly she developed an allergy to biting bugs so had to move up north for her health. That was a sad decision.

    I now have a 15.3H Pinto draft mare that has only been under saddle for a year. Her conformation isn't quite as good and she's much wider but as far as heart, willingness, ability to learn, athletic ability, acceptance of contact, suppleness, bendability I have no complaints. Any issues we have under saddle are strictly baby issues. We score, usually, in the low to mid 60s on training level tests.

    While neither of my drafts showed signs of EPSM I still fed them a low carb, high fat diet with additional vit E. I also keep them on joint supplement and shod on all 4.

    You may run into a judge that is a little opinionated but I've found a well ridden test is scored as a well ridden test. Anytime I've received a lower score it was deserved.

    I do present my draft with a pulled mane and clipped feathers. That's my own personal choice as I think she looks neater, is cooler. and the braided traditional mane makes her neck look longer.
    Susan B.
    http://canterberrymeadows.com/

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Thank you so much, Susan. I was wondering whether I was seeing things. I knew I had my bias for the heavy horses, coupled with not knowing much about conformation beyond the obvious (uphill/downhill, sickle hock, etc). Thank you also for the information on EPSM. Were you able to keep her in good muscle with your low carb/high fat diet?

      You pull the mane as opposed to braiding or are you saying braiding is also a good effect? I have to admit I find clipped feathers much more tidy.

      One thing with this gal - she was docked so she has a short tail. Would you tie such a tail up?

      Also I have heard feedback from people that Belgians are not nice horses. She seemed like a fine girl to me. Have you heard such a thing?

      BTW I'm going to take a trainer with me when I ride her.

      Paula
      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by paulaedwina View Post
        Also I have heard feedback from people that Belgians are not nice horses. She seemed like a fine girl to me. Have you heard such a thing?

        BTW I'm going to take a trainer with me when I ride her.

        Paula
        I don't have much to add, but I think you should buy the horse that will make you happy, and ignore stereotypes when at all possible . A sound horse with a good mind, a good heart and a good attitude is worth it's weight in gold, no matter what you decide to do with it or what breed it is (in my humble, non-competitive opinion if it's worth anything!).

        And while I know little about Belgians, I always smile seeing non-traditional horses in dressage at any level...so please share how your ride goes and post pictures if you decide to buy her! Good luck!

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Well I do have some pictures on my desktop from this morning. My friend plays with her camera alot. They are a bit blurry. She is skinny. She went into training and dropped alot of weight. Maybe I can post them to my flickr
          et voila http://www.flickr.com/photos/5296733...in/photostream

          Paula
          He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

          Comment


          • #6
            If you like drafts, get a draft. Dressage=training, so train what you love.

            I rode two draft crosses a while back, and one key conformational difference made all the difference in terms of their suitability for dressage, IMO. Maybe this will help you shop.

            Horse 1: TB/Perch: Lovely head, neck, shoulder, bone, but the hind end had the steep downward slope that some drafts have, and the loin connection was so-so. Additionally, the horse's hindquarter was short {horizontally} in relation to its body. Overall, many people would love this horse's look--not drafty, pretty.

            The ride: The horse was archy in the neck, but had real trouble getting past the false frame and coming through. Seemed to struggle with lower back strength.

            Horse 2: Perch/Paint: Big draft head, short wedge neck, sloping shoulder, uphill with a fab loin connection, short back, and big round butt--no drafty "peak." Still, this horse would look like a plug to the casual onlooker. Much homelier than horse 1.

            The ride: While the neck wasn't ideal, this horse had a great natural power and softness in his back. That strong loin/hind end produced an amazingly soft and adjustable ride, and the neck could have been worked around, since this horse was soooo strong in the back. This horse was wayyy greener than horse 1 but was further along and had waaaay more potential. The hind end/loin connection was the key.


            Moving on to the picture you posted, the horse's loin looks good, especially for her being thin. It's a bad pic, so I can't tell if the hind end is really that short, or if the horse is angled a bit. The other pic is more flattering. You can't totally avoid the peak thing with the full drafts, but a good loin connection can help.

            This awesome full perch is a good example of a classic looking drafthorse with a great loin--and thus good dressage movement.

            Check out this month's Equus--Dr. Bennett has a great article on what to look for in the hind end/how much of the horse's body it should ideally take up. Every good (easy!) dressage type I've ridden has had that combo of smooth loin connection and large butt in relation to the overall length of the horse. My own pony has that butt/loin and everything is 100 times easier... Of course we all know stories of confo trainwrecks succeeding...but if you're shopping, that's where I'd really focus.
            2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
            Our training journal.
            1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
            I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.

            Comment


            • #7
              Imho the croup angle is problematic. And it really stands over the forelegs. And the pasterns...mmmm seem very angled. All good things for work in the field, but as a riding horse (esp in canter) not so much. What is the intention for its use? Imho perch crosses can be better riding horses.
              I.D.E.A. yoda

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I appreciate your taking the time to explain that hind end connection. What you're describing is probably why she was able to extend and travel so much at the trot? And probably why she didn't have to run into the canter.

                I had to look back and forth between the two pictures but I understand now what you mean about the hind end looking short in the closer shot. You're right; she is standing at an angle there. The second shot (with her far away) was pure luck, but I loved it so much I grabbed my friend and made her snap it.

                Thanks for the link to the Percheron. I watched the first video in its entirety. I have to say though that the Belgian I saw had a more fluid and relaxed topline and was more forward than this Percheron. At least this was the case under the trainer (cowboy). We'll see if that holds when I ride her next weekend. Of course the Perch had waaay more neck than the Belgian. My amateur eye says the Belgian is more balanced front to back than the perch?

                I'll look for the Eqqus article. I appreciate the reference.

                I'll tell you how it goes.

                Paula
                He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by ideayoda View Post
                  Imho the croup angle is problematic. And it really stands over the forelegs. And the pasterns...mmmm seem very angled. All good things for work in the field, but as a riding horse (esp in canter) not so much. What is the intention for its use? Imho perch crosses can be better riding horses.

                  Funny you both mention the croup angle. When I first saw her I thought she was downhill - that her croup was higher than her withers. But she isn't. She is at least level, perhaps a hair uphill. But her back leg just seem waaay longer than her front legs...yet she is not downhill. What is that? What are the implications of that conformation? If she was downhill I'd say - hard to collect, hard to train to use her hind end. But this is the first time I've seen that looong back leg thing. I guess the test ride will really tell.

                  One of the horses I exercise for my equitation trainer is a very downhill little QH so I really do know what it feels like

                  ETA what is the intended use of this horse: Fun. A bit of dressage, some competitive trail, hunter pace, hill topping, trail riding. Anything interesting that comes along.

                  Paula
                  He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    She can be level with a way too sloped croup (tail almost stuck upwards). Those hindlegs are to lock and stretch into the ground, form for function of slow plowing action. Combine with a shortish neck and it doesn't say riding horse. Definitely NOT a horse for distance riding, nor for any type of quality in canter.
                    I.D.E.A. yoda

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      OP, the visual "confusion" over the hind legs/being croup high, level or uphill, may be that you are seeing a combination of long rear cannon bones and a straightish stifle angle. Picture the rear cannon shorter, and the stifle angle steeper and that may help you make sense of what you are seeing.
                      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                      ---
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        That was an interesting exercise; picturing the rear cannon bones shorter and the stifle angle steeper. You guys are really good teachers.

                        Paula
                        He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think it's great that you aren't falling into the 'must have certain breed' to do dressage. Kudos to you.

                          I have a really neat TB/Clyde cross that has been really excelling in dressage...so ya just never know till you try.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Here is a pic of my Belgian/TB mare doing a training level dressage test.

                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/2398069...57624412067730

                            What she lacks in talent, she makes up for in personality! I am also drawn to drafty type horses!
                            "Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death."

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              The "must have a certain breed for dressage" pressure is very strong but it helps for me to understand that I don't want a dressage horse, I want a horse that can do dressage. Also, the amount of time this search has taken, as frustrating as it can be, has been beneficial. Each time I begin to succumb to the "must have" feeling I get on a big old drafty type like my equitation trainer's 18 year old Perch/TB Lilly http://www.flickr.com/photos/52967336@N00/5602198910/ and remember what I like. She used to hunt with Lilly. Now she packs kids around the riding school and is a great ride for the disabled riders. She still likes to rip and tear with me, but she has a bad stifle (she had a hard start - starvation) so she can't do that as much as she used to.

                              But she informs my search; I want a Lilly, 10 years younger, and with a throat latch that allows flexion.

                              Paula
                              He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Although not a draft in the sense of US draft, if you like or need a larger horse with a kind, sensible personality, check out the Irish Draught/ID sport horse. They are great for dressage as well as being the ultimate horse for hunting (hilltopping/hunter paces). They were bred to be top hunt horses.

                                Our foal this year is out of my dressage mare & by Steeped in Luck who is competing with Olympian Tom Dvorak at I-1. Others such as KEC Double Diamond & O'learys Irish Diamond competed to PSG. I am breding to another dressage stallion this year. Several of my youngsters have sold dressage homes.
                                Epona Farm
                                Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

                                Join us on Facebook

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by paulaedwina View Post
                                  Also I have heard feedback from people that Belgians are not nice horses. She seemed like a fine girl to me. Have you heard such a thing?
                                  I've never heard such a thing. My Belgian Draft horse passed away recently, and there's a thead if you'd like to read about him: http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=303715

                                  Of course, there are "not nice" horses in ever breed, but I used to show in draft shows, and the vast majority of the horses I met there were good citizens. A fried of mine breeds Belgian Draft horses, and most of them are also very sweet and great with her kids. Now, the really fancy hitch horses can be surprisingly hot for drafties, but it doesn't sound like that's what the girl you're looking at is.

                                  Stan, my horse, had his strengths and weaknesses like any horse. He was never going to be a top competitor, that's for sure, but he was an easy willing guy. And at the lower levels, imo, having a horse that really works with you is often more important than innate talent.
                                  "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
                                  -Edward Hoagland

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have never owned a draft, but I rode one for a few months a few years back and he was SUCH fun! Very willing, working to please, good mind, pretty decent mover. He was a Belgian/?? (PMU baby).

                                    Go for what you love!

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Holy wow! Stan was a looker! Do you mind if I use that halter picture as my desktop background?

                                      Okay, going back to reading the thread now.

                                      ETA: Stan was your heart horse. You describe a relationship with him that reminds me of my relationship with my old ridgeback, Milo. He was your boy. I love the pictures; especially the ones of him with that leetle kid perched on him.

                                      I'm sorry for your loss.

                                      Paula
                                      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Plain Jane View Post
                                        I have never owned a draft, but I rode one for a few months a few years back and he was SUCH fun! Very willing, working to please, good mind, pretty decent mover. He was a Belgian/?? (PMU baby).

                                        Go for what you love!

                                        Riding a draft is like driving my Chevy Tahoe. All power, but so comfortable you forget how fast you might be going. Would it surprise you that my Tahoe has a name (Juan Carlo)? Of course not all people find drafts comfortable. The size can be intimidating, not to mention the perceived lack of control. I say perceived because drafts remind you in ways that other horse types do not, that horses are way bigger than you are and that you can't physically overpower them.

                                        Paula
                                        He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

                                        Comment

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