Five Day Challenge -- Day 3

After a long weekend of baking, making presents, and playing in the snow (Sadly, only at my house. No snow to play in at the barn!), I'm ready to dive back into the Five Day Challenge!

11. Critique your horse’s conformation:
Hm. Conformation critiques, I love these! Anyone familiar with Jen at Cobjockey has seen her fabulous handle on conformation, and she and I love to trade photos of horses (typically racetrack rejects) back and forth and rip them apart. She's way better than me at spotting issues, but I'll do my best!
Nov. 2013. Please excuse the blurry shot, 
Starting at the front, Guinness has a nice and proportional head. It's a very masculine head, and not delicate and typey like some thoroughbreds. That's a look I prefer, so I'm sold. His throatlatch is nice and clean, making him a breathing machine, and easy collection. One small quibble? His mouth is very small. That makes bitting and fitting nosebands difficult. I've also heard that a small mouth (short mouth?) can cause issues with a horse accepting contact. I'm inclined to believe that...
Neck: On the shorter side, but proportional. I like the tie into the shoulder. It's a pretty good angle for an eventer, and honestly high enough to make him quite capable of a decent dressage frame.
Shoulder: The angle could be wider, and his withers could be set back further, but for a race-bred thoroughbred, I'm not complaining about what I have. His range of motion through the shoulder is excellent and highly capable of 3rd level movement. Additionally, his front legs are set on nicely (not too far back), and tie into the shoulder well. No complaints here!
Front legs: I love his short cannon bones, and short pasterns. Racing has left him with quite a bit of jewelry (read: windpuffs and arthritis galore) in the fetlock joint. I'd recommend that anyone looking at OTTBs take a quick glance at the front fetlock joint for any thickening. I'd suggest that any swelling in this area prompt x-rays on a pre-purchase. It's not a deal breaker (knock-on-wood, he's been sound on these almost all year!), but it is an issue that will limit jumping use and takes quite a bit of proactive care and management. I do love how straight his legs are, and how well balanced over them he is. He's slightly tied in behind the knee, but that's not really much of an issue, and looks worse than it really is due to his enlarged fetlocks.
Midsection: Nice flat back, and the withers, while high, do not dip exorbitantly into his back. This keeps saddle fit fairly easy. My biggest problem is how wide his back has become with our training. He needs a bit of a wider saddle for the back, but a narrow to handle his withers. Basically, we're on the hunt for a narrow tree with a wide channel. Anyone seen one? Bah! Also, notice our funky hay belly. This never seems to go away. I'm currently trying to supplement protein to see if I can get it to reduce some. A consistently negative fecal rules out worms, so I'm a bit at a loss.
Haunches: Nice and proportional hind end, and good angles back here. His lumbosacral joint is pretty optimally located (maybe a hair back too far, but that's really picky). His hind legs are just about as nice as his fronts. I'd argue that his canons are a bit longer back here, but not enough to really make much a difference. He's developing windpuffs on his rear fetlocks this year (uh oh ...), but so far those seem to functioning fine. In the picture above he appears camped out, but that's really an illusion. He's a hair out behind, but really pretty functional and steps under himself without a problem.
Overall? He's pretty darned capable. I'd easily take another horse built just like him. His body is a bit front heavy, but proper work is really bulking up his hind end enough to easily take the load.

To expand on this, I'd like to show how a horse can change through muscular development. Here's a photo of Guinness during my pre-purchase exam ...
November 2009
Being a thoroughbred, Guinness is always carrying some sort of muscular development. Once a horse (or person!) is in hard shape (like a career racer is kept in), it's hard to lose that base of muscle development. It comes back much easier, too. I completely advocate fitting up young horses (but not stressing them to the levels that race horses are stressed! Just fitting them up!). I think it helps make their lives easier as sport horses. The 2009 photo shows him in a soft and unworked condition. Here he had basically been in a pasture, and only pulled out for occasional rides. The 2013 photo shows him after 2 weeks of rest and a hard season of showing and dressage training.
The two things I want you to notice? The development of topline (the bulge of muscle in front of his shoulders along the top of his neck), and the rounding of his hindquarters. There are more changes, of course, but these are the ones obvious in a photo. Not shown? The drastic changes to his front feet. Wow.

12. Horse’s favorite riding exercise
Hands down this is galloping with buddies. There is still a little bit of the stakes-level competitor in there! Beyond that, I'd have to say canter work and flying changes.

13. Favorite spa day products
I don't actually use shampoo on my horse unless I'm preparing him for clipping. So, my favorite spa day treatment is a good curry and rub with a rag. Sometimes I'll spray some Vetrolin Shine or Showsheen on the rag, but really only for shows or lessons. He's a very fastidious horse, and naturally keeps himself pretty free of mud and nastiness (this may be my favorite thing about him!).

14. Three best things about your horse
1) See above about the fastidious thing...
2) His lovey personality. He's very much a one person horse, and will follow me around (including escaping his stall at a show and wandering over to hang out with me, instead of running around like a fool). He'll spend an hour licking me and actually seems to enjoy falling asleep with my arms around his head. Silly horse.
3) He's the perfect amateur mount. He's safe and trustworthy, but is still opinionated and spirited enough to be really fun and challenging to ride. His occasional bucks and rears actually make me laugh, and I love knowing that I can take him from full race-gallop to collected canter with a snaffle and my seat.

15. Favorite picture of your horse
This was tough. Here's a few ...

On high alert at a horse show.
My snowy Secretariat-wannabe.

Pretty redhead.
Fancy boy!


  1. Love the 2009-2013 photo comparison! He really is built well. (Oh hi, catching up on blog commenting, I realize this was days ago...)

    1. Thanks! It's really interesting to me to see how much he's changed...


Post a Comment