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Form to function. Hmmm, is that the real question here?
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Form to function. Hmmm, is that the real question here?

At some stage of my early horse loving days I have had someone (and I am sure you have too), walk up and tell me point blank, “my god he is ugly”. Yes, just maybe he was through their eyes, but he was my pride and joy. He did the job I wanted him to do, and, yes, maybe they had the prettiest horse in the world, but guess what, I was still able to beat them when it came to running the fastest barrel run. He was built for speed. He may have had a big jug head and long legs for a short bodied horse, but those low hocks with strong cannon bones made him run like the wind. I have seen some of the worst conformation on some horses who were the best of their field, for example, cow horses, jumpers and kids horses. Do looks have to matter just that much? No!!! But not everyone in this world is going to love the way your horse looks. They may have thousands of dollars to buy some fancy four-legged ex champion, but that still does not mean they are the best.

So you probably have heard people talk about “Form to Function“ when buying a horse and wondered if what they say relates to how my horse may do his job or to the horse you intend to purchase. In a lot of ways it certainly can, so maybe you should consider learning more about it. Especially if you still cannot, after having your horse with a trainer, do what you would really like to do with him. Well they say the basic rule of thumb is first impression. Or is it? I have looked at horses that looked awesome and fell in love with them until I saw them ride. They may have been straight legged and well balanced overall, but their shoulders were a little too straight or their feet may look a little small for their bodies. But you still like him, so okay we will see and then when the horse moves, he looks short strided and looked sore footed in front, which in turn makes the horse look as if he is walking on hot coals. Yes, it is true that a pretty head is important and nice to have, but remember that pretty isn't always, what pretty does. LOL. Some very pretty movers are not always very pretty looking horses when you take that saddle off their back. It is amazing what a nice rider can create out of the average looking horse if they are ridden correctly.

So maybe you have a reiner, for example, and he cannot stop. Is it his training, his breeding or is it just he is not built to be able to stop? You are asking yourself one or all of these questions.

Let's start with the breeding. Well bred reiners stop without any effort. So is he by two reiners, or does he have running blood on one side? This makes quite a difference sometimes. Reining and cutting/cow horse types go together, but take a reiner and pleasure horse and you may not get the big stopper you want. Yes, he may stop 6 feet but not 25 feet for example. Same applies if you want to run barrels. Breed a runner with a pleasure horse they may not wish to run while halter horse to a runner probably won't work either but will may make a good calf roper. But do not forget there are always exceptions to the rule with breeding.

Now on to the training. A good trainer can teach a horse to perform, but they, like you, may not be able to take the horse past a certain level. If he does not like stopping then he may never stop hard and long. You cannot make a horse do something that he cannot do with ease if he's just not built for what you are asking. Like asking a big English type, who loves doing the faster extended gaits, to go out and perform a super slow western pleasure. He just may not be able to go quite that slow because of his natural striding. He may do it, but it may not look that great and at the same time you may be actually screwing up his natural free flowing English striding. However, take a smaller pleasure horse and ask him to extend for hunter under saddle for just a class or two, and he will be more inclined to learn because it is not so hard for him to change. Again you will come across those exceptional horses that can do it all.

Now to the conformation. Their conformation is why some can just about do anything you ask of them without a care in the world, because their bodies make it easy for them. Reiners need to be a little shorter in height or be shorter coupled. Long sloping shoulders and deep well sloped hip. Deep heart girth. Low hocks, set underneath their body when they are standing. Wide chest with a V joining the front legs tying into their chest for good crossovers for the turn arounds, long flexible neck which ties about half way down the chest. And so on. The general rule is the length of their back goes approx 1 & 1/2 x or more under their belly. The underside of their neck is half the length of the topline. From their fetlock to the point of his elbow should equal the length from the elbow to the withers. It also tells you how much a young horse still has to grow for his finished height. If everything balances correctly, even 16 HH reiners can stop and turn. Reiners are mainly Quarter Horses or Paints.

Dressage and jumping horses need some height, long legs, and again slightly lower hocks so the horse can engage and collect deep under itself whether for passage or jumping, etc. Longer frame with the neck tying and coming out at a higher angle at the withers. Deep heart girth. Withers should be slightly higher than the rump to aid in easier collection. Same sloping shoulder and hip. Should again stand underneath himself while standing. These are generally are Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, etc, and some Quarter horses.

Then you have the western performance, halter, game, breed horses and so on, so I won't go on boring you anymore, but as you can see, the type of event really dictates the type of horse you need for your sport. So before you blame your horse for being worthless for what you want to do, stand back and wonder if you could use him for something else, and experiment especially if you do not wish to sell him yet. Turn your barrel horse into a sorting horse or an all around game horse, or take your dressage horse and try jumping him.

Do try something else before you totally give up on your horse!!!

Happy Riding.

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