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Identifying the "equitation horse"

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  • Identifying the "equitation horse"

    I'm not looking for one, but got curious after watching the Maclay yesterday.

    Most of these horses are "specialized" equitation horses, with a few exceptions (Morgan Geller's Fabricio, for one). How do trainers determine that a particular horse would make a standout equitation mount?

    I know they need to do 3'6" to 3'9" easily and get the step down the lines. I know the riders are looking for a flatter jump than what wins in the hunters. Gaits need not be hack-winning but shouldn't be jarring to ride. I'm sure temperament is key.

    So it seems to me that it takes a VERY good eye to pick a good equitation horse. I saw a lot of horses that winged and paddled or moved like sewing machines in yesterday's rounds. Some had prettier jumps than others but most wouldn't get a second look in an AA junior hunter round - someone going looking for a hunter to win at that level isn't going to even so much as glance at a horse with fair/poor gaits and no bascule over a fence. It'd take a really good experienced horseman to say, "well, he's not much to look at and has nothing in the way of winning hunter form. But I think he'd make a stellar Medal/Maclay mount."

    It's kind of finding that "diamond in the rough", no? I can see why the top equitation horses are so prized and come back year after year.

  • #2
    I think a lot of Big Eq horses are former jumpers (i.e. 4'3, 4'6 level) because after that the 3'6 eq course is pretty darn easy for them! Plus they are already highly adjustable, and can bail a rider out at 3'6.

    On the other hand, horses like Clearway (Lillie Keenan) and Vancouver (Meg O'Mara) are only 7, but they seem like the exception. Does anyone know their stories?


    • #3
      I think there was a thread very recently on this. If I remember correctly, a lot of them were hunters who had the temperament but not the jump, or very rideable jumpers coming down from higher ranks.

      There is some crossover between divisions though. C Coast Z was supposed to be Lillie Keenan's equitation mount, but they had so much success in the hunters (which was supposed to be their warm up!) that they geared him towards that instead. Uno, Jacob Pope's mount, was a jumper ridden by Laura Kraut before turning to the equitation. And I'm pretty sure Jacob Pope got reserve in the junior hunters at one of indoors on an equitation mount.

      ETA: Janeway, there was a great article about Meg O'Mara's mount although I can't remember where I read it. Maybe someone can link you to it?


      • #4
        Here's the article on Vancouver. He was brought along by Elvenstar in Southern California. Amazing horse for his age.. Clearway is apparently also seven.


        • #5
          Rel6, Jacob was reserve at Harrisburg on Kid Rock who is absolutely adorable but is not an eq horse
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          • #6
            Originally posted by supershorty628 View Post
            Rel6, Jacob was reserve at Harrisburg on Kid Rock who is absolutely adorable but is not an eq horse
            Ahh yes you're right, thank you! I just remember reading it was a warm-up for the Eq and got confused.


            • #7
              the phrase "equitation horse" continues to confuse me. equitation is the rider, and the riders ability. it is not the horse. this discipline has been so watered down and so diluted that no attention is paid to the rider anymore, or their skillsets, as long as they have a packer to make them "look" good. there is no such thing as an Eq horse.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Rossco View Post
                the phrase "equitation horse" continues to confuse me. equitation is the rider, and the riders ability. it is not the horse. this discipline has been so watered down and so diluted that no attention is paid to the rider anymore, or their skillsets, as long as they have a packer to make them "look" good.
                I'm not old enough to remember the good old days, but is the "eq horse" really a new thing? Prior to my generation - showing in the 90's as a jr - were they more interchangeable?

                Additionally, is there a chance this thread wont turn into a TW?
                Barn rat for life


                • #9
                  I think rather that the Eq has become so specialized and competitive that a dedicated Eq horse is a major component to winning.

                  This thread is guaranteed to die immediately or become a train wreck. IBTL
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                  • #10
                    Also keep in mind that the idea of the eq horse is more concentrated to the bigeq level. While obviously there are 3ft eq horses, I feel like at that level you see more people using mounts that can double as a hunter or a jumper because the amount of 3ft eq classes are more limited.


                    • #11
                      [QUOTE=wcporter;6653325]I'm not old enough to remember the good old days, but is the "eq horse" really a new thing? Prior to my generation - showing in the 90's as a jr - were they more interchangeable?

                      There are two key reasons for the specialization and development of the "eq horse". One is the proliferation of equitation classes - in addition to the big 4 (medal, maclay, WIHS, USET Talent Search) there are also a host of age group, and regional and local medals such as the New England, PHA in the tristate area, CPHA in California etc etc. A rider can more than fill a horses schedule with enough equitation classes. In fact, it requires so much showing that many riders who are trying to be competitive in all the finals use 2 or more horses to qualify and compete and practice on. Back in the day, there were your 3 o/f and one u/s for your junior hunter and then you used him in the medal and maclay. You used your jumper for the USET.

                      The second reason, I would argue, is the increased complexity of the courses and competitivness of the division. The courses at the top level are really really hard and require answering technical questions that require a horse that is incredibly well broke, has extra scope and stride, and incredible disposition that will take the endless practice, and is very sound. You want a careful, soft, correct, jumper with lots of scope that has a beautiful expression, no spook, lands with the same rhythm it leaves the ground with, has a beautiful lead change, preferrably has a comfortable jump (which often means less or no bascule) and can happily answer all the technical questions that may be asked of the rider. IF you have all of that AND it is an explosive, high, round soft jumper then you have an amazing hunter and you'll go to that ring instead. . .

                      With respect to the rider. . . the courses are very hard. Very hard to do on a good or great horse, much less an average horse. The girls (and guys) at the top are very skilled - sure at 3ft a "packer" can save the day, but before you assume that the 'best' equitation riders are just posers go look at the top 20's records. Most can and do ride anything around (and around the 1.40m jumpers or USHJA International Hunter Derby) - and give the professionals a run for their money on a consistent basis.
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                      • #12
                        I 'think' a lot of the 3'6" level eq horses are ex jumpers because they also have to be able to jump jumps that are sometimes a little goofy or untraditional, in addition to being very trained and adjustable.

                        Speaking as the owner of a 17h sofa with four legs, the 'paddle' is oh so smooth to ride

                        And as too specialization, the fact of the matter is that if you are going to compete at that level (big eq finals) you need to be fairly well off, or have a lot of access to sponser/friends (ie. your parents are in the horseworld and favors to call in So if you are in that position, and you are trying to compete with the 'big dogs' why not have a horse that is a specialist? You can probably afford to have a horse that doesn't jostle you around!