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How to evaluate a yearling

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  • How to evaluate a yearling

    Let me preface this by saying I have zero insights into babies or breeding. I've heard folks talk about the "ugly yearling" stage, and I'm wondering what that means and how you'd evaluate a yearling given its awkwardness.

    I saw a yearling for sale (interested only out of curiosity, because one of its TB forebears sired some horses I really liked back in the day), and I was a bit put off by its relatively long back and short neck. He was slightly butt high too, but I understand that's not unusual with babies. Breeding wise, he's a a mix of Holsteiner, Welsh, and TB, if that matters.

    So, my question is: Would you worry about a shortish neck and longish back in a yearling? And, more generally, how DO you evaluate a yearling's conformation?

  • #2
    Personally, I don't think a longish back and short neck are attributes that will go away as the horse matures. Just my 2 cents worth.

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    • #3
      At a year, it's entirely possible, and even likely in certain lines, for the back to have lengthened but not the neck, especially when the horse is also butt-high.

      But, "shortish" and "longish" are VERY subjective, and a back can look "long" if you're used to looking at horses that have a postage stamp-sized saddle area

      There's a good reason people don't often buy yearlings- they are HARD to judge! But if you've looked at thousands and thousands of them and see what they looked liked as foals and then again as an adult, you can start to see through the yak stage.
      ______________________________
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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      • #4
        In my opinion all bets are off when it comes to looking at yearlings. They can have ewe-, short or long necks, be long or short in the back, butt high, and still turn into the best looking horses you'll ever see (or not).

        The only thing I do look at in youngsters that age is their length of leg in comparison to the body. I believe you can tell whether or not the yearling will end up with longer or shorter legs as an adult, but that's about it.
        Siegi Belz
        www.stalleuropa.com
        2007 KWPN-NA Breeder of the Year
        Dutch Warmbloods Made in the U. S. A.

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        • #5
          Are there any older siblings you can look at? While not a guarantee, it can help give some additional insight.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by siegi b. View Post
            In my opinion all bets are off when it comes to looking at yearlings. They can have ewe-, short or long necks, be long or short in the back, butt high, and still turn into the best looking horses you'll ever see (or not).

            The only thing I do look at in youngsters that age is their length of leg in comparison to the body. I believe you can tell whether or not the yearling will end up with longer or shorter legs as an adult, but that's about it.
            This. If there are good pictures and video from an earlier age, they may be very helpful in predicting how a youngster will ultimately develop. Looking at yearlings can be terribly confusing, especially if the person looking has not seen a lot of them and how they developed.
            Mary Lou
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            • #7
              I have a mare who was quite literally The ugliest yearling I had ever seen, skinny ewe neck, rump high, no rear end, etc. Lovely evenly built hunter type by the time she was six. I have a 2 yo who was looking pretty ratty about six months ago who has suddenly shot up, beefed up and evened out to look fairly promising....

              Then I have the yearling who looks fabulous and balanced.... Actually kind of worrying me!

              Jennifer
              Third Charm Event Team

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              • #8
                Studying yearling conformation is complex but workable.

                But be wary of buying yearlings with overly short croups, long bodies and/or shorter limbs, as these traits will not improve with maturity.

                Girth depth, neck thickness, and the upper forequarters can all be expected to significantly improve.

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. They make a lot of sense... I guess I'd take a close look at the baby pics, the siblings, and the parents, see if the yearling "spoke" to me in person, and hope for the best! (Since I'm not at a stage of life where I'd be buying another horse, let alone a yearling, it's all academic.)

                  ThirdCharm, I hope your beautiful yearling stays that way!

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                  • #10
                    What is it that "they" say - best to assess babies at 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years.

                    Is there merit to this?

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                    • #11
                      Three days, three weeks, three months and three years.
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                      • #12
                        ThirdCharm, my WB gelding Rio never ever went through a gawky stage (and I have pics to prove it LOL) and he turned out quite nicely
                        ______________________________
                        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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                        • #13
                          Good to know! LOL

                          Jennifer
                          Third Charm Event Team

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                          • #14
                            I don't know about the three days, three months, three years. Three days and months they usually look pretty good. Three years--eh. My four year old was a stunning baby. Then about a year--jeese. It was bad. I think she stayed at least an inch, up to 3 butt high for three years, no chest, nasty short stump of a neck with a hammer head on top. She still moved like a dream, but it was bad. She's about four now and you can still see things evening out, but she's looking very good. That neck came back and looks almost where it was.

                            I have her two year old full sister who has been stunning all along, until about a month ago. She has always had a beautifully set long, arched, neck. It's starting to look pretty bad now. I fear we're heading for some years of uglies.

                            I remember looking at my GP horse when she was a yearling wondering what I had done. It was not attractive. She ended up a stunning horse, and obviously very athletic.

                            I don't think I would ever trust myself to be able to evaluate a yearling.

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                            • #15
                              You can see a lot at 3 days and 3-ish months (often 3 months and a week or two or three is better than the exact 3 month mark)
                              Most 3 year olds have not finished maturing, so some will look better than others but it still gives you a pretty good idea about proportions, angles, etc.
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                              • #16
                                Yearlings are tough! A lot can depend on the mare family (fast maturing vs. slow) and then timing a growth spurt.

                                The 3 days/weeks/months/years is pretty accurate for the most part IMO - until you have a big, slow growing baby. We have a bunch that fall into the 'slow' category but 3 days/weeks/months definitely is the time to give them the hard stare and memorize/photograph/video how they look at that time!

                                I have a friend from Australia and he told me a fascinating story a year or so ago -

                                When they first imported 'warmbloods' to Australia (so in the late 60's/early 70's), they brought over stallions (mainly) to cross on their domestic stock (TB, cross breds, etc). The mares foaled the next year, babies look great and a year goes by. The farmers/ranchers/breeders brought the soon-to-be-yearlings in from the big pastures (think Man From Snowy River) and were horrified that they had been sold a bunch of garbage making horrible stallions. They slaughtered the majority of the yearlings (the ones they could catch). A few mares had already been bred for that year, so the 'experiment' was abandoned, mares were turned out and they went about their business. 2 years go by and the youngsters that had survived the initial 'cull' had matured and grown into their big heads, necks had lengthened and they looked fabulous! Then the breeders figured out that it was not necessary to panic at the sight of their unfortunate yearlings - there was hope!

                                True story.
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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Tasker View Post
                                  True story.
                                  In any event, I have one of those right now. And yes, she's kept hidden and I cringed when I have horsey friends over who want to see the fabulous filly from last year... Sigh.
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                                  • #18
                                    yes you can evaluate yearlings. Here is one of mine from the past at the "long yearling" age of about 16-17 months. At ANY age you can see knock knees, or offset knees. At 12-14 months you can see developing club feet. At all ages you can see general croup length and angle, stifle angle, shoulder angle, neck set.
                                    Overall balance is hard to see at 12-18 months in some of them as they go butt high but if you can see the parents it is a big help to predict.
                                    PS, he couldnt run a lick. He ran five times, finishing last in four races and second to last in one , so he became a great lesson horse for kids. He loved people, not hard work .
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                                    Patty Stiller CNBBT,CNBF,CLS, CE
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                                    • #19
                                      When this one was a yearling, I had her well behind the barn with a bag over her head. Here she is in the fall of her three year old year in a Materiale class.

                                      Edited to say that I realize that head will never be "pretty," but the body came together pretty well.
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                                      Last edited by Home Again Farm; Mar. 10, 2012, 11:47 AM.
                                      Mary Lou
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                                      Member OMGiH I loff my mares clique

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by siegi b. View Post
                                        In my opinion all bets are off when it comes to looking at yearlings. They can have ewe-, short or long necks, be long or short in the back, butt high, and still turn into the best looking horses you'll ever see (or not).

                                        The only thing I do look at in youngsters that age is their length of leg in comparison to the body. I believe you can tell whether or not the yearling will end up with longer or shorter legs as an adult, but that's about it.

                                        THIS!!


                                        Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                                        Three days, three weeks, three months and three years.
                                        Well, not always.

                                        I had a 3 year old who looked just plain ugly. She was a very pretty baby until she hit about 6 months of age and then the uglies hit ............ and stayed............. I was getting really worried by the end of last year which was her 4-year-old year... but then suddenly she has blossomed and now she's looking rather beautiful. She's turning 5 this year.
                                        Practice! Patience! Persistence!
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