When I did the “New Year, New Giveaway” contest back in January, I asked everyone to leave a comment telling me a subject that they wanted me to write about this year. One of the most popular responses was people asking me to write about evaluating young horses, mostly by way of conformation or potential. I have a lot of opinions on that, and I’ve spent a long time honing my eye and reading books and studying pedigrees and going to clinics and looking at horses. I’ve made a hobby of it, and I absolutely LOVE to talk to people about it. Seriously, it’s my favorite subject.
But at the same time, I don’t really feel comfortable writing about it. I think mostly because a lot of that stuff comes down to personal opinion. And mostly because I never ever want this blog to take on an “instructional” feel. I just really hate that. I’m a low level amateur rider that just so happens to have a major information in conformation, breeding, and young horses. Anyone could learn what I have, if they wanted to. I’m not a professional. I don’t feel comfortable acting like I am. I am not qualified to write about things like that.
A couple months ago the local Pony Club asked me to come do a lecture on sporthorse conformation, and I have to admit that my initial reaction was 100% total discomfort at the idea. Like I said, I just don’t feel qualified to do anything even remotely “instructional”. But I thought about it and a) I can’t say no to Pony Club, that seems like 1000 bad karma points, b) I kinda thought it might be fun to have a discussion like this with these smart, educated kids. I very hesitantly said yes, and spent some time really thinking about what I wanted to talk about and why.
When it came down to it, I thought to myself – how do you make a bunch of teenagers interested in something as boring as conformation? So I took the “functional conformation” approach, very much along the lines of what Judy Wardope teaches, where we’d really focus on certain aspects of the conformation and how they directly translate to performance. I picked a couple areas of confo that are really important for eventing that a lot of general texts rarely touch on – specifically the LS gap, the pillar of support, and the length/angle of the humerus. I got a lot of glazed eyes, as expected, but I also got a few kids that were as excited about learning a new approach as I originally had been. Honestly… it was kind of fun to share my MegaNerd enthusiasm on the subject. We had some great discussions. I hope a couple kids walked away with a new tool in their toolbox, or at least a re-kindled interest.
I was kind of energized by that experience, and thought about sharing the notes and printouts here. But that situation was a lot different from me sitting here and writing some kind of “here is how it should look” instructional. Writing a blog post just doesn’t have the same effect as an in-person group discussion. I won’t do that with conformation and breeding, I won’t do that with training, I won’t do that with riding… hell, I even feel uncomfortable doing basic DIY’s, or sharing my conditioning/care routine. There are a lot of different ways to do things, and a lot of them are correct. Plus, like I said.. I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL. I’m happy to tell you what I personally do or think, but I’ll be the first to admit that my way isn’t the only way, and maybe not even the right way.
So really, it’s important to me that the tone of this blog remains conversational. If anyone ever wants to have private discussions about stuff, I’m totally on board with that. My blog’s facebook messenger is always open, as is the contact form here, for peer-to-peer conversations. I just don’t want to sit here on my silly internet platform and pretend like the fact that I have an audience means that I’m qualified to preach. Opinions on other, minor things, or current events? You’ll get those all day long. But a teaching situation on a grandiose subject… nah.
Since I’m not qualified to write about things like this, I’m more than happy to point you toward someone who is. To the people who asked me to discuss conformation or evaluating a young horse, I highly recommend investing in Judy Wardrope’s ebook, Equine Conformation for the Olympic Disciplines. It’s a little pricey, yes, but it’s 400+ pages of photos, diagrams, and new ways of looking at conformation that you probably haven’t seen before. To me, this is the sporthorse bible. In my experience, much of what she writes about holds true in practical application. If you’re at all interested in the subject, this is a must-own item.
If you’re not ready to invest in that, you can get an idea of her approach/concepts by reading through some of the free articles posted on this page.