Assessing The Youngster

Predicting how a growing baby will finish is tough.  Though we know the general rate at which the horse’s bones grow (see pages 7&8: Equine Studies – Ranger Article by Dr. Deb Bennett ) and we even know that foals are born with approximately 80% lower limb length, that still isn’t enough information to correctly predict final bone lengths and ratios, or joint angles; all of which can play significant roles in athletic potential for specific disciplines.

*Take the time to read the entire Dr. Deb Bennett article I linked.  It has invaluable information in it.

Here are some things we do know with certainty:

  • LS joint placement is set.  If it’s poorly placed in the youngster, it will remain poorly placed in the adult.  We’ve discussed before the importance of this joint location as an athletic potential gauge and for future ease or difficulty of engagement
  • Shoulder angle is set.  A closed shoulder angle (less than 90 degrees) is a serious fault in the horse.  If the youngster possesses one, it will remain so as the individual grows.  It must be noted, though, that the ‘crooked baby leg stance’ can artificially close the angle
  • Shoulder slope is set.  Since the withers are not fully developed, and therefore the highest point of wither is not easily seen, slope can be harder to see
  • Neck set is set.  This can be harder to see in the baby because, again, the withers are not yet developed, the scapula (that which we use to determine set) is still growing, and babies go through awkward stages of growth that can temporarily distort how the neck is held
  • Depth of neck is set.  This is purely an aesthetic trait and has no bearing on athleticism
  • The location, shape and set of the eyes and ears are set.  Any faults (such as pig eyes) in the youngster will remain into adulthood
  • If the neck, back or loin are long in the youngster, they will end up long in the adult
  • If the hind legs are post-legged in the youngster, they will end up post-legged in the adult

There are other things, but that’s enough to get us started.  Let’s examine a few youngsters and see what we can see.

Baby #1 – QH colt – Mozzie Man, owner: bokojones (Thank you!)


Right off the bat we notice the huge hip on this baby, but that’s not surprising to see as it’s a trait we’ve come to expect to see in QH’s.  Already he shows the big muscle masses he’ll carry as an adult.  He’s compact front to back with a deep and super short loin (last rib is practically on top of his point of hip).  While this doesn’t mean he’ll end up with those features as an adult, it does increase the odds that he won’t end up long through the back and/or loin.  To know for sure, we’d have to look to his parents, grandparents and siblings.  His LS joint is solidly placed.  He also has a gorgeous neck, set deeply and higher than is often seen in QH’s; none of that will change as he grows.  He also has a beautiful large, almond shaped eye.  Currently he’s downhill and there’s no way to know if he’ll level out or finish downhill (though, a large percentage of QH’s are downhill built), other then again examining his parents, grandparents and siblings.  We should note here that currently his upper hind leg bones are ahead of growth compared to his upper forelimb legs. (Elbow and stifle are very close in height.)  This happens in a lot of individuals to various degrees, often associated with breed.  (Meaning, there are breeds that tend to grow more evenly than others.) 

So far there’s a lot to like about this youngster.  I do question that shoulder angle, though.  It looks like it’s closed (85 degrees with the horse currently standing with the joint artificially more open than it truly is with that front leg stance), which is typical of a lot of QH’s.  This results in limited stride length of the foreleg.


 Baby #2 – Arabian colt – Sir Alie, owner: Abby (Thank you!)


Right off we notice this youngster’s long neck.  It’ll finish long (and that’s a fault), but it is set on well.   It’s hard to tell from this angle, but it doesn’t appear his LS joint is as well-placed.  Certainly there is more general loin length and less depth than the QH suggesting this youngster might finish a bit weak behind in structure.  The overall longer, lankier look of this colt is partly due to breed and partly due to growth phase.  He doesn’t carry nearly as much hip as our QH, but then we wouldn’t expect him to.

Notice this baby is pretty close to level built.  Arabians are one of those breeds where individuals tend to grow more evenly and certainly most end up level or close to level in build.  We can assume that for this one as well. 

The front limbs look straighter, whereas our QH baby looks to toe out.  This is a non-concern for our QH.  Wide chested horses will often toe out as babies, and you want them to because as the chest widens the forelimb will rotate in its socket and straighten.  Arabians are much narrower bodied individuals, so you don’t want to see them toeing out noticeably as babies.  

This one has a better shoulder angle, even though, he too is standing with it a touch artificially open.  He possesses nice length to his vertical humerus bone (an excellent trait) and has a loose elbow.  This youngster will finish with much more expression in his front leg gait and a longer, looser stride through the entire length of his limb than the QH.

The picture cuts off his right front foot a bit (and I can’t see the left at all), but this youngster seems to be carrying more heel than is normal.  It might be a farrier issue, or it might be this one has a club foot.   

Baby #3 – Spanish Norman (AndalusianXPercheron) filly – Alexia EP, owner: Sarah

Now let’s look at some progression pictures.

15 Days


Very leggy, big hip, laid back shoulder, long humerus, short forearm and deeply set neck are the features that stick out at quick glance.  Forelimbs toe out a lot and that’s not just from an awkward stance. 

4 Months


Looks like a different horse already, eh?  That deeply set neck looks ultra-short (but we don’t worry about that, yet, since the neck is one of the last things to stop growing) and the hip appears to have lost its size.  The other difference to note is that the loin suddenly got long.  At this early stage of growth, that’s a bad sign and likely foretells of a long loin in adulthood.  The forearm still looks shortish, but the humerus is long.  Look at the right front…there’s a hint of the toe out.

10 Months


Phew!  The neck lengthened and the hip grew, but that loin still looks too long for this early on.   We’ve also hit a phase of butt highness and this has stressed the horse’s posture.    That forearm still appears short.  Look at the front limb stance, toed out.

18 Months – 15.2h


She’s looking more compact again, but that loin lacks depth.  Notice the toed out stance, still.

3 Years


The hip shows plenty of length, but the loin is long.  Much less toe out in front.

5 Years – 17.2h


As an adult with the same deeply set neck, set high on a laidback shoulder, and a good sized hip.  The loin finished long, the humerus has good length, and though the fence cuts off the rest of the front legs, the forearm is shorter than ideal.  The horse no longer toes out.

10 Years


This picture shows the massive width in the chest and why as a youngster this horse toed out so much.


The best indicators for baby growth will always be examining the parents, grandparents and siblings.  An individual will be a combination of traits of its parents and to a lesser degree its grandparents (and negligibly great-grandparents), where recessive genes and traits that ‘skip a generation’ can come from.  There’s absolutely no use pulling out a picture of some distant relative and thinking that’s what you’re going to get, unless the sire or dam look like that.

If you breed a short-backed horse to a long-backed horse you aren’t going to get a medium-backed horse.  You’re going to get either a short-backed or a long-backed one, so if your goal is to shorten that long-backed mare, then the stallion should come from medium-backed parents, be of a medium back and be prepotent for that medium back, otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll get a long-backed offspring.


46 thoughts on “Assessing The Youngster

  1. A minor note on the Spanish Norman mare and the Ranger article, a big draft cross like this mare is not fully mature even at age 5, she will still be growing through the spine and withers, she will be adding bone to bones that have finished growing up but not ‘out’. Please read the Ranger article, few horses have stopped growing by age five, larger horses have significant growth in years six and seven, meaning growth plates are open, and potential for subtle but lasting damage to the back, remains.

    A note on newborn foals, it takes a bit of time for ligaments and muscles to stretch after being folded up for months in gestation. So most foals look to be short necked with rather high neck placement if you don’t locate the base of the neck carefully. The shoulder and hip angles will open more immediately after birth when the foal begins to run and play. So don’t try to do your analysis on a ten hour foal, get it out moving, wait a couple days. But a straight legged foal is a bad thing, foals should be overangulated a bit (remember conformation is a game where an inch is a lot), they have most of the adult length of their legs and a tiny short back and shorter than adult hip bones.

    The other thing I want to emphasize, this series speaks to ideals, the perfect horse, with perfect placement of each joint, each angle, etc. There are tradeoffs, however, a perfect jumper is not a perfect cow horse. And less than perfect horses distinguish themselves as athletes, companions and trail buddies and babysitters for little kids, every day. What eventually you take away should be that you choose the key points for what you need, a few of what you like, and then you work with the individual horse. Few horses are born so badly conformed that they can’t do some form of riding. The trick is to know the weak as well as the strong points, and train accordingly to strengthen and improve your horse to protect its weakest structures, choose things it can do, and do them well. Know that an ewe necked or long backed horse will never be a top athlete, and don’t ask it to be an Olympic level eventer. Know that if you like to train, to spend years rebulding a horse’s body just to see that you can, it will make a good trail horse, a good low level hunter, maybe the best packer ever in local wp classes, etc., or carry you through your first dressage lessons.

    Look hard at the picture of ten year old Alexia, it is not a conformation shot, but that is a relaxed mare, moving well with no problem carrying a rider. She exhibits many of the traits of her draft breeding, the neck and shoulder structure built deep and wide to pull, the stifle set that is high, typical of the ‘low gear’ bred into drafts, and yet what she has she is using fully, having totally engaged and brought the foot under towards the midline at a relaxed walk. A good mind and well trained movement will take you a long way in any discipline.

    • on the other hand, why you would want to start with the best conformed horse for your discipline:

      a foal with enormous potential who can produce naturally what people want starts with advantages you can’t train in. The danger, as we have seen with many of the shots of high level dressage horses being ridden below their potential, is that many trainers can only take away from the gifts that nature gave this horse.

    • You are right, I used the term ‘adult’ loosely at 5 years of age in the same way we call an 18 year old human an ‘adult’, when in many cases it’s the furthest thing from the truth.

      Thanks for your comments here and reminding everyone its all relative.

  2. The Spanish Norman has a lovely aspect in her 5 y/o picture. I’m certain that she is a barn favorite for her personality alone in spite of the unfortunate photos. I wish her well.

  3. I would offer this:

    Babies often toe out because their necks are short and their legs are long. As they reeeeaaaach their fuzzy little necks down to graze starting at about three days or so of age, they place their front legs wide apart. Over the hours of the day spent doing this the inside (medial) heel of the hoof wears significantly more than the outside (lateral) heel. Now when the foal walks, the long lateral heel hits the ground first, causing the leg to twist outward as it lands and exacerbate the issue by further grinding down the medial heel.

    This is why it’s just not an option to trim your foal’s hooves. Get them trimmed by an EXPERT by the time they’re two weeks old. There’s no excuse, in my opinion, for the grey mare’s hooves to have toed in like that for so long, and I believe that the regular hoof care provided to her once she started to work may have had something to do with her sudden correction, as well.

    Most two day old foals are straighter than they are at two months, and this really burns my biscuits. It’s part of the breeder’s responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the health and soundness of their foals before they leave the breeder’s care, and that includes frequent, correct hoo fcare.

    This is a real peeve. It makes me sad and angry to look at a horse and think, “Dammit, that could have FIXED!”

    • I find the issue of feet, and how much to do to feet and when, very confusing. Some things are a problem of the foot and in the foot. Some things seem to be in the boney conformation of the leg itself. Here is an article from the Horse, featuring Ric Redden talking about corrective/trimming and or devices for young foals with limb issues. He recommends against doing much lateral wall trimming in the first 90 days because of effects on the growth plates in the fetlock, which close early in the foal.

      Do you think his comments should be taken as a general rule or only in the context of an existing deformity, not a straight legged foal?

    • Babies do not often toe out because of some awkward grazing stance they adopt. They often toe out because of their genetic predisposition to conformation traits involving rotated leg bones and on some occasions soft tissue issues.

      The typical way for a foal to stand to graze is to place their dominate leg ahead and split their stance front to back, not in the splayed fashion you’re suggesting. The normal way of grazing will in *the odd case* artificially create what’s been termed ‘grazing foot’, where the foot constantly placed back grows more heel.

      What you failed to ask (and take into account) is how, where and why the youngster toes out. Toeing out from lateral vs medial heel imbalance presents entirely different than toeing out from a rotated cannon bone, a rotated P3, or toeing out from a rotated ulna etc…

      The horse in question didn’t toe in (typo?), she toed out and the toe out was created in her upper leg bones.

  4. I have to disagree with LadyFarrier about having to meticulously trim a foal. If a foal is out on pasture with a firm footing, hoof wear should proceed naturally, just as it did on the Steppes. If you see a problem developing (for example, if a sidewall breaks away, twisting the foot) then trim it, but for the most part with my colts, I just eyeball them at the watertank and see if the hoof edges are breaking off evenly. I try to keep mine barefoot until 3 at the minimum, and quite often only start shoeing when intensive training starts to wear down the hoof faster than it can grow. My colts have BIG feet and I am proud of them. I currently have a two year old who is a bit splay-footed, but I know she will mature with a deep chest and those legs are going to turn as her chest expands and the hooves will end up pointing straight ahead. On the other hand I have a three year old who had a rear leg injury as a baby, and he developed leg length disparity. I have to watch for clubbing on the same side front hoof. He is probably always going to have a tendency to club, but trimming the heels and keeping the toe trimmed back so he breaks over is helping.

  5. I raised 3 full sister QH’s, extremely similar in traits though the one I still have, with the widest chest of all, toes in. It appears to deviate from the pastern down, nothing about the fetlock. Neither parent was toed in, mom was reasonably straight, dad toed out slightly on one front. Breeding is a crap shoot.
    I was always told that a foal resembles its adult self most at the age of 3 months. I’ve found that to be somwhat accurate and also the last time they look balanced until growth is finished.

    • Youngsters can sustain a relatively minor injury (slight sprain, knock – anything that causes inflammation and it can be so minor as to be undetectable by eye) that causes interrupts or disturbs growth of the growth plates or permanently does damage, in turn causing twists/rotations of bones. Bones and joints can also be compromised from temporary nutritional issues and create the results you are seeing.

      QH’s are one of the breeds that are more susceptible to those kinds of things because of their fast growth. People for years have praised the *seemingly* early maturity of TB’s and QH’s, but that comes with a price. We also see these kinds of things occurring in certain dog breeds that get too big, too quickly. It’s always better for an individual to grow slowly and methodically so that soft tissue doesn’t get ahead of bones, or so that weight doesn’t stress joints and soft tissue.

    • I disagree that breeding is a crap shoot. Highly disagree. One can certainly turn it into a crap shoot, but with some research you can quite accurately predict the outcome quite reliably a significant percentage of the time. Let’s just use color genetics as an example. People who’ve studied that can give you not only the color options, but the associated percentages.

      Sure, there are an infinite number of ways that genes can combine to give you an individual, but genes also have to obey the laws of dominant and recessive and there are individuals who are prepotent all day long, every day.

      The greatest risk involves first time breeders who are not prepotent for diddly squat. Of course you don’t know that until you start breeding them. Still, though, if you look at the individual’s separate parts you can narrow down the results quite a bit and if you pay attention to their parents, you can do even better.

      There will always be a surprise or two, but it doesn’t have to be a ‘throw your hands in the air and then pray’ exercise – unless you want it to be. 🙂

      • I have no disappointments in any of the foals I raised – except one. The $1200 stud fee (in the 90’s) that produced a wobbler. My stud, basically a middle of the road individual at best, produced very usable foals, I still have 3 at home. That said, the 3 fillies have more traits from their dam than sire – though he tended to throw nice heads/necks. Stud was bay, mare was dun – had a bay, dun and grulla (silve or black as you’d porbably prefer) I’ll throw up a pic of the pigeon girl later, just shod so she’ll look considerably straighter than she is.

        • Is your farrier putting grabs on the outside of the front shoes or using weight to turn the hoof while in flight? Just curious.

          • Hell, no! This mare hasn’t worn shoes in several years but preparing for a heavy fall schedule of rocky trails. I’ve been trimming her myself for about a year, rarely have to take anything off the lateral walls but medial have a lot of growth. She’s middle teens and sound so I’m not going to change what works for her – keep it simple.

          • I’m not saying this is the issue, and you’ve stated she’s rotated in her bones, but uneven hoof wear is often the result of soft tissue issues and/or skeletal misalignments due to falls, trips and things of that nature. It can also result from the hoof consistantly not being trimmed balanced in the first place.

      • Fire away. I raised her so I have full history. She was never grained heavily to encourage growth, she’s 14.2, 14 yrs and has been toed in her whole life. She lands on the lateral wall and rolls to median. When her hoof is lifted to pick, the imbalance is very evident as the leg rolls in. Far from ideal. With shoes she doesn’t wear down her walls like barefoot, she grows a LOT of hoof. I trim her every 3-5 weeks, sole is barely touched, walls trimmed to seat of corn, leveled m to l, roll the walls. Her breakover is nowhere near center, medial toe is always longer. Right is worse as you will see.

        This pic shows how her hooves point inwards unweighted.

        • I can’t draw any lines on these photos to show the limb crookedness. Need a frontal, level shot from a further distance with the horse standing square and including head to toe so that we can see the breast box and the entire front leg. Not really seeing a toe in. Both feet actually look to toe out to me, most evident in picture 2, but I don’t know if this is an awkward stance for her or not. In pics 1 & 2 her left knee looks benched, but in the close up it looks like the left cannon bone is deviated and her right cannon bone looks offset. But again, need to see a better picture.

          • Not enough time to take her out, hoped these would work for you. 😦 She does look straighter with shoes (or post trim) but give her a few weeks and she turns in. I try hard to stay ahead of those feet. I agree on the left bench knee though. This post makes me want to dig out her baby pics (the kind on special paper…popular at one time) and take a hard look at her.

          • A benched knee on a horse will turn in in the toe often.

            So, none of the other siblings, father or mother have benched knees or offset cannon bones (to any degree?) This is usually a genetically passed on trait.

            The last time I saw a prevalent case of it was a trait that skipped every other generation. In other words, the mare I saw had it, her grand dam had it and a great great grand dam had had it. Because of the history of the issue skipping a generation I agreed to breed my stallion to the mare. The resultant filly was as straight legged as they come…of course my stallion had a good set of legs with no history of such a trait in his lines.

          • Pulled out a bunch of pics of my stud, mare, the 3 full sibling fillies, my gelding, his dam, others, and I don’t see glaring bench knees. Not to say these horses are perfect but the worse deviation is the bay mare. Full sisters are much straighter. As a weanling, she looks straight from chest to hoof. The sire/dam are horses that came into my life 25+ years ago when confo was much less important than a pretty face or color. Though in defense of my horses, the foals have gone on to make people happy, are athletic, versatile and pleasant to work with.

            Of course after reading your blog, every horse I encounter gets the full critique. Oy vey.

  6. That was wonderfully informative, and quite inspiring — apparently even decent looking horses have the awkward teenage photo from hell to content with. I’ll be re-reading all the rest of the blog to fully absorb all the info 🙂

    It did make me think, though, of all the questionable crosses, where you’re really rolling the dice on some very odd traits. Just recently I’ve heard of a Friesian/Quarter mix, the whole Akhal Teke/Appaloosa Nez Perce horse experiment (?!), and Quarabs always left me scratching my head a bit too. I would love to see some comparison photos of the best you can hope for from those mixes, versus what you usually get.

    • Growth patterns are an interesting subject. I’m sure we all know the ‘Beauty Queen’ who went through that ‘ugly’ stage. Some are gorgeous from the day they hit the ground until the day they die, just as some are ugly the day they hit the ground until the day they die, and everything in between.

      Yes, there are some crosses that should never happen that make me scratch my head as well, and other crosses that just make sense. Friesian/Morgan works all day long, every day. Arab/Andi not so much.

      It would be an interesting article to pick a cross and compare several individuals of that cross. On the list! Or if someone would like to tackle that themselves, I invite you to do so and send it to:

    • I think the oddest cross I’ve heard of (on paper) was a Morgan x Tennessee Walking horse mare. In person she was incredibly solid, with big, ground-covering strides at all gaits and an incredible level of natural impulsion, lift and collection (she could canter in place easily while in pasture shape and would do so of her own volition when excited)

  7. Interesting you would say Frisian/Morgan works. I agree. One of the stories told about the ancestry of the original Morgan, Figure, is that he descended from a “Dutch Horse” on his dam’s side. I never really gave much credence to that until I saw my first Frisians. The resemblance, even after 200 years, is striking.

    • They are of the same conformation type (with the carriage background) and possess many of the same conformation traits. They are a match made in Heaven. And as you say, share some ancestry.

      One of my most favourite crosses. You really can’t go wrong if you start with two solid individuals. You have to watch out, though, because some of the modern Friesians are crap. The Morgan breed seems to have survived most of the *Americanization* we see of so many breeds today…that is turning everything into another TB version.

  8. Something I’ve been curious about. Does anyone have a citation for horse growth that is not Dr. Bennett’s “Ranger” article? I see this piece cited over and over again on the internet. It’s not that I disagree, I do not have the background to do so, but the natural skeptic in me dislikes that never seeing another other than Dr. Bennett cited on this topic.

    • Dr. Bennett had references in a bibliography to her article, the closing of the growth plates is fairly well documented in veterinary literature, texts the public rarely reads. There are some books on back injuries that reference growth plate closure, but I am not sure that is really what you doubt.

      Dr. Bennett’s conclusions based on the data, and her personal observations of horses for her own research are not something most vets opine on. They look to disease or injury, and certainly can point to overwork, slipped discs on vertebra that had not yet fused, there are studies showing significant numbers of racing tb’s retire with broken vertebra, etc. I am not sure that any have set up a research project to state when to ride a young horse. I do know of the ones Dr. Bennett critiques in her article.

      I also know that when horses were working animals, the animals were rarely backed before three, and most cavalry manuals I’ve seen, works of the classical masters, indicated that most serious under saddle work, jumping, etc. was done at age five or older.

      So I have no, reason to doubt the conclusions drawn from the data, that it is better to wait later to enter a horse into full work. My youngest horse was a very weedy three year old, after ground work from the tradition that Deb Bennett advocates and includes Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, etc. who were all students of the Dorrances, he has developed better balance and more muscling than my other horses had. He has been very lightly ridden in his fourth year, mostly to introduce him to tack, standing at the mounting block, and to see if our groundwork had progressed his understanding of riding. Now that he is five, he will be ridden more, but still not as if he were an ‘adult’ horse. His back and loin have filled out, the consitency of muscling has improved.

      I have a 27 year old mare, a qh started young and ridden hard in team penning in her younger years, that has definite ossification in her lumbar spine area that is becoming more apparent as her topline begins to give way to the demands of gravity. I bought her after her team penning days, she always had trouble getting under herself, I think that a heavy western saddle and a cowboy sitting too far back on her at a young age robbed her of flexibility and caused damage, I can’t prove it, but I think that is the fate of too many horses. I used to cut as well, the damage down by intensive training starting at 18 mos. to the minds and bodies of those horses is too apparent to argue with.

      Deb Bennett puts her information out for all to see for free. No one has ever come up with a scientific refutation of her conclusions. Some people don’t like it, usually the ones who have the most to gain from exploiting very young horses.

      • I have nothing to gain from riding horses at a young age. I jumped at the chance to buy a horse who wasn’t started until age 7 because I’d much rather a late start than early one. It’s not that I doubt Dr. Bennett’s conclusions. I just have some mild discomfort that the universally-cited source for horse growth is that Ranger article. Which was self-published by Dr. Bennett and is not a peer-reviewed scientific publication. I see no harm in starting horses at the ages she recommends, but I also don’t think anyone can claim there is scientific consensus on the subject.

        • You conflate the scientific evidence of growth plate closure, which has been independently verified and written up in peer reviewed literature or widely published veterinary books, and training recommendations, which are not science per se, but science blended with experience. Quite frankly, do you really think she misstated the closure time for the lower end of the femur?

          Again, I believe her article is so universally cited for the growth plate tables because it isn’t behind a fire wall protecting the rights of some internet publisher, as most scientific papers are not available for free. But Deb Bennett isn’t the only source if you care to actually do your own research for the science. How one chooses to apply the principles from the science to actually working with horses is the second part of the Ranger article. It is an informed opinion, but still an opinion. Dr. Bennett would probably admit that the majority of horses survive early riding with no or minor issues that affect their usability for a typical amatuer rider. But race horses, saddlebreds with genetic tendencies towards lordosis, stock horses broken very early for futurities where they will be treated as full grown horses, they tend to show chronic issues later in life. Nor does she tell anyone they can’t start their horses early. She just tells them they don’t belong in her classes/forum because they aren’t willing to accept her standards.

          Dr. Bennett is fully aware that the Ranger paper isn’t a peer reviewed article, she doesn’t advertise it as such, it was an answer to a question on her forum, later expanded. If you really want to know the bona fides behind the research, go ask her, send her an email. She’ll probably give you a half dozen or more scientific papers and / or veterinary textbooks to acquire and read, if you ask in a way that indicates you really want to know more.

  9. Mozzie’s Mom. To offer a little more information. Mozzie is 3 1/2 months in this photo. I will say that he was level at birth and up until about a month and a half old when his bum just shot up. His dam was a awful stage grower as well. Dam is up hill with good withers, sire slightly down hill with no withers, half sister (sire) level with very little withers. Head and neck are both are from the dam, I ended up with more of the sire’s shoulder than I had hoped. Dam has a slightly long back, sire and half sister both short. All 3 relatives have a great hip, and are level headed all around riding horses. I also believe that intelligence and personality are heritable to a degree, and it seems that he has the smarts of his dam in addition to cool confident independent attitude of the sire and half sister who are both also very smart and easy to train.

    • My gelding has his father’s disposition and personality so nearly exact that it’s scary. Good nature absolutely breeds through, lucky for him because his confo leaves a bit to be desired!

  10. Excellent article. It’s nice to have some of the ‘givens’ laid out. Analyzing a youngster always scares me a bit. I know when I like them, but am nervous about what might change. I think your advice of looking at parents and siblings is invaluable and often overlooked. So important.

  11. I have very little time to spend online and I have to be careful of the detail monster, so I tend to scribble quickly. This leaves me painting with a pretty broad brush, despite the fact that the Farrier’s Credo should be “It Depends”. I think that these are the first two words you should hear out of your farrier’s mouth when you ask a question.

    So, I’ve spent this weekend in a hoof clinic and brought up the question of when to trim foals. An accumulative -/+ 300 years of experience overwhelmingly responded with (“It depends”) a foal should absolutely be trimmed… as soon as it needs it. And often… if it needs it. And agreed also that foals absolutely tend (often, it depends…) to wear the inside heel more than the lateral heel due to their grazing stance unless they’re on very large acreage and able to wear the hoof in straight forward movement to adequately balance it. I also know that time and turnout straighten and heal many, many things and that you have to wait a bit for most foals to unfold after birth and kind of shake things out. But I also know that you have, as stated in the article, a very tight timeline on certain “fixes” and that’s why I recommend having the foal trimmed within two weeks. The wise farrier will only actually trim if necessary, but you want them seen right away by someone with very experienced eyes and a good sense of humor.

    I have found that horses who are born toeing out and are left untrimmed before the age of 90 days usually remain toed out. I find that horses born toeing out who have *excess* wall regularly removed (foal hooves grow very quickly) will toe out significantly less or not at all. This is my own observation over 30+ years.

    And to the fellow who doesn’t shoe his horses before the age of three, good on ya’! I wish that folks would wait until the horses were five. The coffin bone can continue to widen until then. You’ll get the biggest feet that the horse can have if you just wait a while. Two more years at the beginning is worth ten at the end!

    • Okay, we’ll go with the *it depends*. Next time you might ask before you assume as the horse you claimed could have been different was:

      a) turned out on large acreage of varied terrain 24/7 for her entire life-indeed was born outside on that large acreage in a herd environment – about as natural as it gets
      b) has never seen a shoe in her entire life – she’s 11 now
      c) got trimmed by an experienced farrier whenever she needed it
      d) was turned out high up in her limb and as I said, toe out created from unbalanced feet presents entirely differently
      e) never grazed splayed legged and in fact used to stand at the bottom of inclines in said pasture and eat ‘uphill’ to make the reach to the ground easier
      f) finished straight-legged, so any assumption about trimming her differently making a final (better) difference is silly

      • If the rest of the bony column is aligned below the “turn out”, then it will certainly show in the feet. All balance of the entire animal will show in the feet. It shows in every other part of the animal as well, so not claiming exclusivity there! 🙂 Anyhow, if the feet don’t show unbalance, then there’s nothing to “fix”, hoof-wise. It sounds like those involved in this filly’s upbringing were knowledgeable and experienced enough to read the signs correctly and treat her appropriately. And, viola! What a cutie!

        • “If the rest of the bony column is aligned below the “turn out”, then it will certainly show in the feet.”

          Ah, but I didn’t say it doesn’t show in the feet. I said ‘it presents differently’. And because it presents differently that means the result is different and the fix is different.

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