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Whatcha talking about Wofford?

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  • Whatcha talking about Wofford?

    Even though I am not an event rider, I often read Jim Wofford's article in Practical Horseman. I usually find it interesting or entertaining. However Oct. issue has a few holes in it. In this article he asserts that a top show hunter's fabulous form is due to being "well-trained" and being in "relaxed self carriage". Well no not necessarily Mr. Wofford. A top show hunter has a lot of natural talent to jump with those even knees and fantastic bascule. It is not just the training. A ton of horses do not make it as hunters because they do not have the right form, instinct or disposition for the job. You can put the best hunter training in the world into those horses and they will still not jump well. Honestly, a lot of those end up being eventers.

    There are a lot of horses out there, who no matter the quality or duration of training, are not going to have that great balance and ability to canter beautifully around a 3 foot hunter course, let alone have enough talent or balance over a cross country course. Unfortunately many of these horses are still out doing the cross country courses. Hunters are ridden over good even footing over a very straightforward course. For a naturally talented horse with the right disposition doing this in beautiful effortless fashion is not so difficult. Eventers are ridden over varying terrain, difficult questions, etc. It is much harder to keep that perfect hunter form under those circumstances.

    A horse that is very talented to become a hunter, is pretty easy to train. It will be naturally fairly balanced from the get go, even tempered, fairly ambidexterous, have a great canter rhythm, and that natural hunter form. I have trained a horse like that and it went from unstarted to A show pre green winner in less than a year. I am not a real pro so it wasn't the training.

    I spent a lot of years in the HJ world and we used to joke that if a horse was not quiet and fancy enough for the hunters or talented enough for the jumpers, sell him to an eventer. He may not fetch as high as a price but if he is sound enough and brave enough, an eventer will give him a go.

    I have been to a lot of events over the years and watched a lot of upper level event horses. Quite frankly a lot of them don't jump that great- they don't use there backs, terrible bascule, untidy in front, legs off to the side, twisting this way, that way, whatever. Sure they can clear the fence and they are brave with a lot of stamina but I don't care how much great training you put into them, they will not jump like a big time hunter.

    Another thing I would like to point out is a lot of event horses are off the track. More than 1/2 the horses off the track have some kind of chronic thing going on with their backs. I think a lot of the eventers which started out as a race horse probably have back issues which make that fancy hunter bascule not so likely to ever happen. Like if you actually took the horse and had a nuke scan, xrays, ultrasound etc, you would see it is not as sound or ready for the job as you think. I see a lot of lower level event riders competing on something that is not really sound. If I were going to run at solid objects, I would at least make sure my horse was not in pain or compromised anywhere (especially the back).

    A hunter is not ridden like a dressage horse. It is basically put on course and rhythm and let go to do its thing. Most hunters do not have a lot of buttons. They are not ridden on contact or through. This is the simplicity Wofford seems to like but it will not get you anywhere in the dressage ring (which they say is becoming more and more important to one's success in eventing) A dressage horse is ridden on contact and needs to be through and submissive. It needs to wait for its rider and not anticipate or take over. If an event rider is working so hard to get this in the dressage, a lot of horses would be mighty confused if during the jumping phase the horse was then ridden like a hunter.

    Wofford also talks about cutting horses and how they are taught to make their own decisions. This is true if the horse has natural talent and cow sense. Not every horse even those bred for it can make it as a cutting horse. Many become reiners because they don't have the natural cow sense.

    In the same vein not every horse has great natural jumping sense. A lot of the horses out there doing the job are not perfectly cut out for it. They are not all going to know how to bail you out of a tight spot. Especially not a horse without the best natural jumping form or sanest mind. Even the horse with great sense to bail you out can make a mistake and if the horse is not naturally super talented in jumping obstacles, it is going to be harder for it to recover from a bad decision.

    Of course some event horses are super jumpers and super talented. Many are not. I would think if you are going to do such a difficult discipline which requires so much stamina, versatility and negotiating of potentially dangerous situations, you would want the most naturally talented and fancy horse you could find. Instead I usually see event people bargain hunting. They do not throw down the prices on a young horse that a hunter or dressage person will. They will often ride something that does not move well enough for straight dressage or jump well enough to be competitive as a hunter or to get around the bigger jumper courses cleanly. The top event horses usually have more the courage, stamina and ability to stay sound doing very grueling work, than the beautiful gaits or amazing jumping form that fetch top prices in the HJ or Dressage world.

    I just think that if you are going to evaluate the qualities needed to do cross country as safely as possible you should not just focus generally on the training involved or more specifically of the goal of "self carriage" and forget about the very important ingredient of the natural talent of the horse and the true suitability of that horse for the job at hand. Just because a horse is game and is brave and can usually find a way over the fence does not mean that it is well suited for the job and definitely does not mean if you train it well it will jump with a pretty bascule and or achieve self carriage.

  • #2
    Hmmm....food for thought....lots of thoughts....whole lotta thoughts.....I guess I agree that the PH column was a little wacky.

    I've ridden a couple of cutting horses (my parents raise champion Angus cattle, and I've been around cattle and horses my whole life) and Woff definitely needs to sit on a cattle horse. Some are like carrrappp to ride. They work cattle, period, and ride like you are sliding off a bad park bench, (not to mention the western saddle which I hate). I can't see the corollary between good event horses and cutting horses at all. There's no comparison with any aspect of either's competitions or athletic achievements. JMO, having ridden and trained both.

    Not being a heretic, love Woff, mostly love his stuff, but you're right...this one is slightly wacky. He must have been uninspired this month by any of the usual eventing/competition stupidities...I got a million of'em.....such as ....trying to get 3 and 1/3 strides in a four stride line, etc....(that one just today at Flora Lea)
    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

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    • #3
      Last edited by TampaBayEquine; Sep. 27, 2009, 11:49 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think when you look at the eventers you are talking about, the ones with imperfect gaits, jumping, and dressage you have to compare results.


        What I see is that lots of these horses stay stuck at Novice or BN. They are stuck because their dressage isn't good enough to win and they continue to take down rails in stadium because of their jumping style or a lack of self carriage that makes leaving the rails up easier. They could benefit from more dressage training in self carriage and more hunter like skills making a course smooth and flowing.
        http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

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        • #5
          Don't have time to address everything in the OP, but I have to disagree with one thing: contrary to what the OP seems to be saying, there is no direct correlation between price and talent/suitability for the job at hand.

          Luckily I didn't drink that Kool-Aid, which a lot of breeders & sales agents/trainers would have you believe.
          Blugal

          You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

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          • #6
            Originally posted by kkj View Post
            I have been to a lot of events over the years and watched a lot of upper level event horses. Quite frankly a lot of them don't jump that great- they don't use there backs, terrible bascule, untidy in front, legs off to the side, twisting this way, that way, whatever. Sure they can clear the fence and they are brave with a lot of stamina but I don't care how much great training you put into them, they will not jump like a big time hunter.

            I'm sorry, I haven't read Wofford's article, so I may be taking your points out of context. But I feel compelled to comment on this statement.

            In most cases, an upper level event horse jumps in the most efficient manner possible. Its jumping style varies according to the obstacle at hand, and the preparation before it. I would never encourage a horse to jump with a lofty bascule over a steeplechase fence; why waste so much time/effort in the air? Similarly, over most gallop fences, the horses jump flat and may knock the top of a table with their hooves. Approaching such a fence, at speed, with a "flat" type gallop, encourages this flatter jump. This is usually desirable in such situations.

            Coming into a bounce, or coffin, the canter is completely different. It is round, active, and "bouncy." The horse needs great energy and flexibility in its neck, back, and hocks. Here, you are more likely to see a more "hunter" type snapshot, with lowered neck and square knees (hopefully!).

            I guess what I'm saying is you cannot paint all event horses with the broad brush of "flat, hollow jumping style." The horse's style is impacted by the task at hand, not just his natural tendency. I would bet that some (not all) of the upper level horses would jump much more like hunters if ridden over a rampy, flower-box-filled hunter course in a flat ring from a steady canter... compared to flying over ditch-and-walls trying to make time.

            My own personal examples:
            Advanced mare's normal jumping style square knees, nice bascule.

            Adjusted for a wide galloping table square knees, but high head, flat back. Again, to a wide corner off a difficult long distance.

            I don't have any pictures on hand of her twisting or hanging a knee, but I can assure you it happens occasionally. Doesn't mean she is an unsafe jumper, just that we got in an awkward situation and she was able to get out of it (even if it was momentarily ugly!).

            There are definitely UL event horses out there known for unorthodox style-- hanging knees, etc-- but they compensate for it. And there are others who literally jump the moon with knees to the eyeballs-- like Phillip's Rolex winner, Connaught, and Buck's My Boy Bobby. Would those horses make good show hunters? Probably not...but not because they don't jump well.
            “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
            ? Albert Einstein

            ~AJ~

            Comment


            • #7
              It will be naturally fairly balanced from the get go
              I think that was his point.
              Janet

              chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).

              Comment


              • #8
                The thing that bothers me most about the OP's post is that it implies that Hunter is ultimately the most highly desired discipline. That event horses are untalented hunter rejects or off-the track rejects. I'm not so sure that hunters is the priority, or top discipline. Particularly seeing as it is not an olympic sport while Dressage, Eventing, and Jumpers are. (if this is not your intent I apologize)

                As a past eventer and current jumper rider (with hunters in-between), I do agree with snippets from OP's post (have not read Wofford article in question). However, there are a lot of amazing eventers out there with scope, style, and elegance to boot.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kkj View Post

                  Another thing I would like to point out is a lot of event horses are off the track. More than 1/2 the horses off the track have some kind of chronic thing going on with their backs. I think a lot of the eventers which started out as a race horse probably have back issues which make that fancy hunter bascule not so likely to ever happen. Like if you actually took the horse and had a nuke scan, xrays, ultrasound etc, you would see it is not as sound or ready for the job as you think. I see a lot of lower level event riders competing on something that is not really sound. If I were going to run at solid objects, I would at least make sure my horse was not in pain or compromised anywhere (especially the back).
                  Do you have any type of research to back up your statistics or did you just make them up?

                  Obviously a lot of horses come off the track with issues, issue that prevented them from racing or made them not as competitive as one would like but that doesn't mean they are unfit, unsafe, or unsound to event.

                  As far as back soundness goes there was an interesting study that came out that over 50% of horses at a recent Hanoverian Auction had kissing spines, these horses selling for 6 figures.

                  just my 2 cents
                  http://www.clarkdesigngrouparchitects.com/index.html - Lets build your dream barn

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Having just read this article tonight, and being somewhere between a hunter and eventer, I feel compelled to comment.

                    Originally posted by kkj View Post
                    A hunter is not ridden like a dressage horse. It is basically put on course and rhythm and let go to do its thing. Most hunters do not have a lot of buttons. They are not ridden on contact or through.
                    Going around on course on a steady, consistent rhythm, "doing its own thing" is carrying itself, which is precisely what Wofford was talking about. A good hunter should be working through, from back to front. No, it's not going to go around in the same frame as a dressage horse will, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be working correctly as well. The "long and low" dressage carriage is pretty similar to what you want to see in a hunter--you just don't collect the hunter back up and piaffe away

                    I just think that if you are going to evaluate the qualities needed to do cross country as safely as possible you should not just focus generally on the training involved or more specifically of the goal of "self carriage" and forget about the very important ingredient of the natural talent of the horse and the true suitability of that horse for the job at hand. Just because a horse is game and is brave and can usually find a way over the fence does not mean that it is well suited for the job and definitely does not mean if you train it well it will jump with a pretty bascule and or achieve self carriage.
                    I didn't take away from the article that a pretty bascule and self-carriage will a Rolex winner make, but rather that a good correct jump and a horse that knows how to make decisions about how to carry itself over terrain, or a fence, or after a cow, are ingredients of natural talent. Not every horse can do that well. Recognizing that those are important skills helps develop them, and create a better horse and a better ride.
                    A Year In the Saddle

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kkj View Post
                      A horse that is very talented to become a hunter, is pretty easy to train. It will be naturally fairly balanced from the get go, even tempered, fairly ambidexterous, have a great canter rhythm, and that natural hunter form.
                      Also known as "relaxed self carriage" which, as Janet already said, was his point.
                      Originally posted by kkj View Post
                      I spent a lot of years in the HJ world and we used to joke that if a horse was not quiet and fancy enough for the hunters or talented enough for the jumpers, sell him to an eventer. He may not fetch as high as a price but if he is sound enough and brave enough, an eventer will give him a go.
                      I spent a lot of time in the HJ world as well and used to hear that same joke. However, it wasn't until I saw the light and defected to Eventing that I realized it was a load of crap and the easy way out for riders who either weren't skilled enough or willing to put in the time to develop a horse who had the talent to do the hunters/jumper, but was not dead quiet or had fixable flaws in its jumping style.
                      Originally posted by kkj View Post
                      I have been to a lot of events over the years and watched a lot of upper level event horses. Quite frankly a lot of them don't jump that great- they don't use there backs, terrible bascule, untidy in front, legs off to the side, twisting this way, that way, whatever. Sure they can clear the fence and they are brave with a lot of stamina but I don't care how much great training you put into them, they will not jump like a big time hunter.
                      Have nothing of great importance to add except to say how very condescending and isn't it great that the Eventing world is populated by true horsemen who aren't blinded by "hunter flaws", are able to recognize a talented horse not matter what its jumping style, and are willing to put in the time it takes to develop some of the most well-rounded equine athletes in the world despite their {gasp} terrible bascules.
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      If the Number 2 pencil is so popular, why is it still number 2?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        haha i was thinking, well i've had horses that are not brave or athletic enough to be eventers, lets turn them into hunters.....

                        it feels a little like we are talking about religion.

                        i think there are true horsemen and women in each of the disciplines mentioned above. i think each of them takes equally talented horses to reach the higher leves. hey, but at the lower levels, most horses can do them all. but just because you are a TB doesn't mean you'll make it as an advanced eventer. just like just because you are a DWB doesn't mean you can do the working hunters. I've seen plenty of "hunters" that are really not that talented....course i go to a lot of local shows.

                        I see a lot of similarities between a nice hunter derby round and a nice stadium round.

                        again, this is sounding a lot like a debate about religion...there are many different paths to reach horse nirvana. of course, my path is better than yours heheheee

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Um I don't think the hunter world is the best world or that hunter riders are the best riders. I think a good hunter trainer is probably better at getting a pretty round than a good event rider and that is about it. A good event rider has a lot of skills that a good hj or dressage rider does not.

                          I do think there is also very often a correlation between the price of a horse and its ability. Sure you can sometimes get a deal, but it is pretty hard to find that horse with the natural balance, the natural great jump and good enough movement to do really well in dressage that is sound at the prices paid in the event world. That is a pretty tall order and when the HJ world or dressage world commands higher prices, that is working against you.

                          I agree that event horses often don't look perfect over a fence because of the speed, the water, the slope, the question asked etc etc. It is not a hunter course. However, I see a lot of event horses that pretty much jump like crap from a jumper standpoint over the stadium courses too and people still push them up the levels.

                          I was told by a vet at UC Davis about the autopsy results from ex race TBs that more than half had chronic back issues going on. When you start a horse at 11/2 what do you expect?

                          I am not saying that you can't get a horse off the track for a good price and have it be totally sound, jump great, have the stamina, move well enough and go all the way, just that many event horses I see are definitely not in this catagory. Those horses are very few and far between.

                          Eventers need more than any other discipline- a balanced horse that is very versatile, sound, can jump well, has a lot of stamina, brave, moves well enough, will listen and be submissive for dressage, and then bail you out cross country. In my opinion this horse should cost more than a fancy hunter. Why doesn't it? Then you need a rider that can master more than one discipline and effortlessly make the change between them. You don't see that very often either.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kkj View Post
                            Um
                            ...I am not saying that you can't get a horse off the track for a good price and have it be totally sound, jump great, have the stamina, move well enough and go all the way, just that many event horses I see are definitely not in this catagory. Those horses are very few and far between....
                            Sorry to paraphrase but I would vehemently disagree with this statement. I believe the exact opposite is more the truthful statement. MOST of the event horses I have seen are OTTB, and any that were sound and purchased for a "good" price are quite good - watched Becky Holder's grey horse in dressage lately? I would not agree that they are few and far between. I believe the average decent OTTB can easily make it to prelim if properly managed, trained and ridden. Actually I have been doing this very thing for about 35 years and I'm not the only one on the board that has, either.

                            Very few horses of ANY breed make it to the top in any sport. Most of the hunters seen in any hunter show will not make it to the top either.
                            Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                            Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              This thread reminds me how much I love you guys.
                              Educate this person please! Totally archaic mindset!
                              Even duct tape can't fix stupid

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by kkj View Post
                                Um I don't think the hunter world is the best world or that hunter riders are the best riders. I think a good hunter trainer is probably better at getting a pretty round than a good event rider and that is about it. A good event rider has a lot of skills that a good hj or dressage rider does not.

                                I do think there is also very often a correlation between the price of a horse and its ability. Sure you can sometimes get a deal, but it is pretty hard to find that horse with the natural balance, the natural great jump and good enough movement to do really well in dressage that is sound at the prices paid in the event world. That is a pretty tall order and when the HJ world or dressage world commands higher prices, that is working against you.

                                I agree that event horses often don't look perfect over a fence because of the speed, the water, the slope, the question asked etc etc. It is not a hunter course. However, I see a lot of event horses that pretty much jump like crap from a jumper standpoint over the stadium courses too and people still push them up the levels.

                                I was told by a vet at UC Davis about the autopsy results from ex race TBs that more than half had chronic back issues going on. When you start a horse at 11/2 what do you expect?

                                I am not saying that you can't get a horse off the track for a good price and have it be totally sound, jump great, have the stamina, move well enough and go all the way, just that many event horses I see are definitely not in this catagory. Those horses are very few and far between.

                                Eventers need more than any other discipline- a balanced horse that is very versatile, sound, can jump well, has a lot of stamina, brave, moves well enough, will listen and be submissive for dressage, and then bail you out cross country. In my opinion this horse should cost more than a fancy hunter. Why doesn't it? Then you need a rider that can master more than one discipline and effortlessly make the change between them. You don't see that very often either.

                                I am sorry, but you make some arrogant assumptions and then continue to try to justify your perception by showing your own, admitted, lack of understanding of the sport. It has been my experience that the higher level the rider/trainer, the more understanding they are about other disciplines. Hap Hansen used to come out to Trojan Horse Horse Trails (that is a event for you) in Scottsdale, AZ in between reining rounds. I never heard him even suggest what you imply.

                                If you had ever ridden with Jimmy Wofford or actually read the article for comprehension, he always holds up the hunters as an example of what a good XC round should be in terms of SELF-CARRIAGE. A big bascule and knee snapping looks has nothing to do with that. If you really understood horses you would see/realize that. Spend some time in the jumper ring watching the GPs. Plenty of great horses jump "ugly" but have the carriage and athletic ability to clear the big fences.

                                The fact you equate price to ability also shows either great ignorance, arrogance or lack of age. I know of too many world cup and olympic horses that were purchased or found for tiny prices and made. YOUR statements are EXACTLY the example of how BAD the business model of the h/j industry is that Denny Emerson has spoken of here and other places.

                                Reed

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  A friend of mine and I were schooling yesterday, in a hunter ring at a local facility. Her horse is quite green, still learning how to figure out all the pieces and put them together. He is being trained to be an eventer because of his talent and ability. Clear off the track not long ago, the horse has a beautiful natural self carriage, a hunter jump, rhythm and auto changes because his self carriage is so great. Off the track. Cheap as dirt. He'd clean up in the greens. He's also going to make a FANTASTIC eventer.

                                  Those things that wofford talks about are the things that we STRIVE for on xc. We strive for a beautiful rhythm on an animal who carries himself balanced and confortably around varied terrain. Often that is achieved to great success. Sometimes not. But we also teach our horses to think for themselves and to get themselves out of sticky situations, which may result in a less than beautiful jump. I've seen some top hunters get put in positions where their jump is less than perfect.

                                  We aren't cantering around courses with diagonal lines and perfect footing. Where every fences is shaped with ground lines and flowers to encourage the perfect jump. You won't gallop up to a 4' perfectly square oxer off a turn to a skinny in the hunter world.

                                  It's like comparing apples and oranges. Nobody WANTS a bad jumping horse. Obviously bad jumping horses are detrimental to a great round. However, just because the horse isn't jumping with great bascule and spending a gazillion years in the air over every fence does not mean that we are going to chuck them out to a different discipline. Sometimes a good jump can be trained.

                                  Hell, I've tried to get my guy to bascule LESS over galloping fences. His first steeplechase was a riot. Here we are at like 640 mpm or something to that effect, get 2 strides off the base of the fence and my horse backs off and sets himself up and clears it by a mile... no. Negatory. Not what we want in this case. It took him once around the track to figure out that that isn't necessarily what we want all the time.

                                  And I've seen a lot of eventers who could put a "top hunter trainer" to shame by beautiful rounds.

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                                  • #18
                                    "I am not saying that you can't get a horse off the track for a good price and have it be totally sound, jump great, have the stamina, move well enough and go all the way, just that many event horses I see are definitely not in this catagory. Those horses are very few and far between."


                                    Realy have an issue with this. Have heard just as many, if not more stories of super pricey warmbloods, bred for the "hunters", end up being big slow lugs, and after the prepurchase never a sound day in their lives. Please don't condemn the very breed that made the hunters so popular.
                                    My big man - April 27, 1986 - September 04, 2008-
                                    You're with me every moment, my big red horse.

                                    Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting a battle of some kind.

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                                    • #19
                                      I am not saying that you can't get a horse off the track for a good price and have it be totally sound, jump great, have the stamina, move well enough and go all the way, just that many event horses I see are definitely not in this catagory. Those horses are very few and far between.


                                      Really have an issue with this. Have heard just as many, if not more stories of super pricey warmbloods, bred for the "hunters", end up being big slow lugs, and after the prepurchase never a sound day in their lives. Please don't condemn the very breed that made the hunters so popular.
                                      My big man - April 27, 1986 - September 04, 2008-
                                      You're with me every moment, my big red horse.

                                      Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting a battle of some kind.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by kkj View Post
                                        Hunters are ridden over good even footing over a very straightforward course.

                                        I have been to a lot of events over the years and watched a lot of upper level event horses. Quite frankly a lot of them don't jump that great- they don't use there backs, terrible bascule, untidy in front, legs off to the side, twisting this way, that way, whatever. Sure they can clear the fence and they are brave with a lot of stamina but I don't care how much great training you put into them, they will not jump like a big time hunter.
                                        I haven't read the article so I can't really comment on it, but the first sentence quoted above is precisely why there is a difference in what you are seeing between the jump of an event horse and a hunter. If you aren't getting a horse in at the precisely right distance in perfect footing every time any one of them will give you a funky jump, its the scopey catty ones that will jump you out of it safely time and time again.

                                        My horse would never in a million years make a hunter, but I think he pulled about 5-6 rails in over 55? - 60 prelim and above horse trials/CCI's, all of which were my rails. Believe me if you saw my horse go in his kooky high headed fashion you would probably keel over.

                                        As Mark Phillips once said to me, "Don't worry, you will probably never find the limits to this guy's scope" I was never overly concerned with his abilities to jump safely and there is no other horse I would have rather been on riding downhill to an oxer to oxer bounce.

                                        My point is that a perfect little box with the front legs with the head lowered doesn't necessarily equate to scopey, powerful, or safe jumping technique.

                                        And even Rox Dene, if galloped at 570 mpm in mucky footing down to an oxer at the base of hill, might not give the pattened Rox Dene jump.

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