Breaking Down The Sale Ad – #1

I put my pelvis out and twisted my sacrum playing Wii. When I showed up at my chiropractor’s office she was hobbling around in a walking foot cast, her fourth week. No, she didn’t break her foot playing Wii – that would have been hilarious – but neither did she break it doing something risky like skiing, climbing or descending stairs, or even running to make her plane. I won’t out her on my blog. Suffice it to say, I didn’t feel nearly as badly about my injury.

Anyway, here I am in bed, full of muscle relaxants, and grumpy from the pain. Because I believe in sharing, I’m going to take my grumpiness out on an unsuspecting equine ad.

Irish TB 9 YO Gelding 16.1HH $18,000

Irish TB 10 YO Gelding 16.1HH


River is a 16.1 hand 10 y.o. Irish TB gelding who has shown in the hunters but has potential for dressage, hunter paces or jumpers. River is a lovely mover, generally winning the hack, with a lovely jump and auto changes. He is always brave and never looks at the jumps and has fantastic flat work. Stick and spur ride. Great mini-medal type! Eligible pre-green, top ribbons at Hits, Vermont, etc. Finished 4th overall at his first Hunter Derby October 2011 out of 35 entries. He likes trails, easy to tack, groom, lovely personality. Good for farrier, trailers well, good in a group for turnout or in a stall, steady mount for a man, woman or teen.

At first glance, this looks like a pretty decent ad. The horse is wonderfully groomed and in good flesh, the photo is a good conformation shot, and the background doesn’t distract. The text of the ad is well-thought out and tells relevant points about the horse. And yet…

Is this horse 9 or 10? The title of the ad says 9. Directly below that the ad says 10. In the body of the ad the horse is 10. Perhaps a typo, but it would be an odd one to have. Either way, 9 or 10 isn’t a big deal, but remember I’m grumpy.

…but has potential for dressage. Why the owner felt a need to put this in, I don’t know. This horse has no more potential in dressage than any other randomly chosen TB of Irish, or American, or Australian, or English heritage. If a horse can’t ‘easily’ do medium dressage without a lot of ‘professional training’, then it doesn’t have ‘potential for dressage’.

Medium dressage, in case there’s any confusion, is not Training Level, or Level 1, or Level 2. There’s a huge step up from Level 2 to Level 3. It’s that stage that separates the men from the boys and is much like the difference between Training Level Eventing and Preliminary Eventing (in Canada). Most horses top out at Level 2 dressage, like most horses top out at Training Level Eventing, making them low level horses.  That’s not a bad thing.  Most owners/riders don’t have the skills or ever will have the skills to progress higher, so there’s plenty of opportunity for low level horses.

What stops this horse from that ‘potential for dressage’? Its racy TB conformation; downhill build and straight leg behind are the two main points. The low point of shoulder, upright shoulder, low set neck, and high knee also play a role.


Stick and spur ride. What? Does that mean you have to ride the horse with a whip and spurs to get him to go?

Okay, so I found this ‘Spur Ride’ video on You Tube:

Oh, and here’s a ‘stick ride’.  Not a great head, imo, but the spots are to-die-for.


$18,000. WHAT? Is that a price premium for basic ground manners?  It can’t be for any extensive training since it is still Eligible pre-green.  That had me scratching my head.  What comes before a green horse?  Shouldn’t it be ‘eligible untouched/wild’?

After some digging I found out that Pre-Green has mostly to do with the height of the fences, and a little bit about the horse.  See page 8 of this link –

Basically, we’re talking a lower level horse here, but what had me really chuckling was a) it makes no difference what a horse did at 3 years of age in the ring (and don’t tell me nobody has ever jumped a 3 year old this height in a class before), and b) there’s another ‘reinstatement’ rule allowing experienced horses at this height to compete in this class as long as they didn’t jump more than 4 times in competition at that height prior to September 1, or didn’t jump this height after September 1 of the same year.  WHAT?!

It’s no wonder the regular folk get so frustrated with the Hunter World and the ability of those with money to buy made horses, stick on their child or paying client, and clean up.  If that’s not a rule inviting such activity, I don’t know what is.

My guess is that the premium pricing is because of temperament.  A horse being a steady mount for a man, woman or teen, especially if it can also jump the lower levels without much rider input can certainly command a rich price.

I question this horse’s soundness.  And no, I don’t think the horse is head bobbing lame, but there’s some real issues going on with this horse’s body.


The odd muscling behind the poll signifies an issue. The large lump at the base of neck is also an issue. Neither should be there, and neither is ‘normal’. The line of muscling in front of the scapula is also ‘extra’, and the wither has a lump of muscle on the front half of it and none on the back half of it.

While this horse is telescoping its neck in this photo, it’s not quite right. The uneven, flat development of the horse’s crest supports that. The neck is out of alignment, significantly. And I suspect it has been that way for quite some time by the incorrect muscle patterns of the neck, shoulder and wither.

That disruption extends into the horse’s back with a tight, angular topline, saggy abdominal muscles and too much breast muscling.  Despite being of downhill persuasion, and with the straight hind leg, the horse’s posture should be better for one competing in the show ring.    He’s got a medium back with a ribcage that carries back very well adding flexibility and strength.  His loin is short and deep, and he’s got a great hip and solid pants muscling.  This horse has not yet been ridden off his forehand.  Good thing he’s got that dressage potential.


23 thoughts on “Breaking Down The Sale Ad – #1

  1. OK – happy to say I am learning. My first impression was ‘nice neck’ quickly followed by ‘uh oh – pathologic muscling.’ Also noted the withers bulge. I have a question about the hindquarters though. The hind legs are long but the stance still looks tight to me – with him being asked to stretch and telescope forward, he shouldn’t be under himself like that. Looks quite goose-rumped. Do you think something is going on there?

    • The first instinct is to say those hind legs are long because the horse’s croup is high, but they aren’t. They are actually short. The more Z shape created in the hind leg, the more length they have. These hind legs are quite straight. If they were the same length, but had more angulation to them, that horse’s croup would drop significantly.

      I drew the plumb lime so that it would be easier to imagine the leg if the horse was standing correctly. I actually think this horse is functionally post-legged, but the only way to determine for sure is to measure total hind limb length (which we haven’t discussed yet). It’s too bad the horse’s other hind leg is hidden by the tail.

  2. Sorry about your pain medicated situation. As for this very pretty horse, it could be the lighting on the shiny chestnut color, but the joints look a tad puffy to me. As far as the Hunter world being frustrating, horses in general can be hard for newcomers to navigate, even if they can get past the sticker shock. But there was a very interesting article in the LA Times about high end polo being touted in China, and the newly wealthy can take a class called Introduction to Noble or Expensive Sports, where they learn about golf, polo, skiing and dressage. Some things go full circle.

  3. There’s something about this horse’s haunch that I don’t like. The hip appears shortish as if something is squeezing it between tail and hip and it’s popping out the top, at or just behind the SI. Either way, not a 5 figure hunter, jumper, dressage horse. Maybe the Aussies are on the right track…..less the overflexion

  4. How sales horses get priced has always seemed completely random to me. A few years ago I watched one very nice young greenbroke jumper propspect go from $15,000 to $10,000 to $5,000 to “someone please free lease this guy for the winter while I’m out of the country,” He’s back on the market with a different owner as a “safe and bomboproof” ten year old with show miles up to 3 feet for $11,000, Without knowing anything about the situation I’d bet that means they’ll take $7,000 which would be just about right for a good teen’s BRonze leveljumper locally.

  5. if it was a western pleasure prospect I would have said the tail accounted for $5,000 of the price tag.

    Overlunged in sidereins, ridden with martingale too tight, probably had some tying incidents, all can mess up the horse’s neck and consequently the back and hips. Down hill, probably worse for a hunter a little low and flat in the shoulder joint itself so he lacks scope, but will certainly stride nicely without much knee action. While he needs belly therapy and general fitness, the one structure of the SI joint and hip are good enough for sufficient power, slightly over straight is an advantage for jumping, improve this guy (presuming vet can’t find bony changes in vertebra/back) with correct riding, body work, and you’ll have a nice looking substantial low level hunter. If his personality is bomb proof and he can do his changes, he’d make a very competive adolescent/junior mount.

    And there comes a point where you are too old for too much Wii, however you spell it.

    • Ha! I noticed the tail too….a few #’s added to that one.

      Can you elaborate on the straightness of the SI area? There’s something about it that looks pointy and short to me.

      I was going to comment on the age thing and Wii, but thought better of it. Brave woman you are….

      • The straightness jrga was referring to was that of the hind legs, not of the SI. The croup is a touch peaked, partly due to stance.

        On the whole Wii thing – I will return to it when they bring out the Bridge or Euchre version of it.

      • what Mercedes said, straightness is of the hind leg, exagerated slightly by the stance, inside foot both forward and slightly rotated outward, a horrible looking stance in a picture. What is good about SI is that it is at the point of hip, with a good muscular connection over the loin, though perhaps tight, the lip of muscle from the hip attaches and carries forward well into the loin. That is a powerfully muscled butt, again a little tight, needs work yet the raw material is there. He has sprinter’s butt, very tb ‘apple round butt’ in muscling, but the bone is fairly angulated (steep) with a fairly high stifle, the top of the z shape will close fully and quickly, giving digging power and quickness, not a bad thing for manuevering tight courses at speed if properly trained, not a dressage build though where you would like a longer femur and the stifle a little lower and forward relative to the trunk of the horse.

  6. I was watching a Manolo Mendez video and he was rehabbing a dressage mare that had been trained with hyperflexion. One of the first things he pointed out when going through her physical ailments was the tell tail L from hyperflexion. It was an “Ah Ha” moment for me, I see horses with it all the time.

  7. There is no clip but you can apparently now purchase and download it online. It’s at the end of his inhand DVD he goes over a few horses he rehabbed with problems that he wanted to draw attention to.

  8. I appreciate your clarification of medium level dressage. There’s nothing I love better than the training or first level schoolmaster. WOW, your horse can go at all three gaits without bolting or giving you a bloody nose…must be worth a mint lol. I swear dressage potential is as common in an ad as the would be a good trail horse tagline.
    Hope you get to feeling better.

  9. I often find bulge-before-the-shoulder coupled with hollow-behind-the-shoulder to be related to caudal pain. Under run heels, anyone?

    • Certainly unbalanced feet play a large role in creating pain, changing movement, and contributing to poor muscle patterns.

      If you’re seeing a pattern as a farrier, where horses consistently have that muscular pattern and also have under run heels, then it’s quite possible the two are related. I haven’t noticed it myself or made that connection, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’ll pay closer attention to that specifically in future.

      The horse in question doesn’t appear to have under run heels, but he clearly has a lot of stuff going on with his neck, which is directly connected to his shoulders and withers.

      • Not just under-run – any hoof condition causing pain in the heel can cause the horse to stand with it’s shoulders “flexed” to tip the hoof forward taking the pressure off of the heel and will also often fail to fully extend when moving, thus the hollow behind the wither.

        Heels that are too long, whether upright or run under, almost always mean bars that are too long. Walking on overgrown bars is like walking on sharp little edges poking back up into the hoof and causes a whole lotta’ overlooked issues with gait and soundness.

        In my opinion, and as usual due to time constraints, I’m painting with broad strokes.

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