Our sample set of horses contained QH’s, a Paint, TB and Arabian, all breeds of horses used by many people as riding mounts. Indeed, according to this link they represent four of the five most popular breeds in the world.
It may then come as a surprise when I say that none of our sample horses possess true ‘riding’ conformation; that is conformation that allows the horse to easily engage so that it can protect against the weight of a rider and the stresses of various riding disciplines on its body.
Part of the problem is that QH’s, TB’s and Arabians are all used as racehorses, many Paints contain QH blood, and QH’s, Paints and Arabians have show halter classes, all of which take the horse away from riding type conformation. We then have breeders who make bad choices and buyers who don’t know any better. Added to the mix is the generosity of the horse that allows people to think the horse is fine because it plugs along day after day without loud complaint.
If our six sample horses were the last on Earth, which one should we pick as our riding horse? In reverse order:
6. Paint mare:
Classify this one as Fugly. It’s a committee result, each member with a different idea and direction in mind – none of them good choices. The scapula is just too long, putting the point of shoulder and elbow too low particularly in comparison to the hind end, which gives the impression of it being stuck up in the air. The amount of engagement required to get the weight off this front end is not something this horse is capable of doing. The hip is too short, the loin too weak, and the gaskin too long for this horse to overcome. The bull neck and hammer-headedness just add insult. Put a kiddie saddle on this one and walk it around in circles, anything more is asking for trouble.
5. Arabian stallion:
This should be a gelding. Some are going to be fooled by this individual and think he’s a good riding prospect. He’s not. While he does possess some outstanding riding features; well-structured neck set high on a laidback shoulder, well-placed LS joint and what appears a great head for carrying a bit, there’s no chance this horse can engage and carry himself on his haunch. The table top croup, overly straight hind legs, too long gaskin and high hock see to that. And since he won’t be able to shift much weight rearward it means he’ll be living on that right front leg with its obvious crookedeness and clubbed foot.
Here is this stallion’s pedigree chocked full of big name horses.
In this ad you’ll find a video link. Notice twisting hocks at the walk, wide and short striding behind, the pogoing hocks that trail, toe stubbing, and constant clamped, hollow back.
4. Roan QH gelding:
Terrible farrier work aside, there’s just no way around the post-leggedness. It’s too serious a fault (that there’s no reason to discuss anything else) and it shows already in his hocks.
3. Grey QH gelding:
This horse isn’t any more suitable than the others. He gains his position by having some potential to engage, but the longer loin, downhill build and low set neck is going to seriously impede his ability to shift weight rearward. His current owner/trainer/rider hasn’t succeeded in getting him off his forehand.
2. QH stallion:
I like this horse. But not as a ‘riding’ mount. Getting him off his forehand remains a hard task. He’s strong enough behind to do it with exceptional training and riding. And brute strength. He’s very consistantly built for power and speed.
No surprise that this horse has done well as a roping horse. Here’s his website.
And a video of him in competition. (2nd go around)
1. TB gelding:
Wins by default? Pretty much. Not fast, not powerful, but level enough with a really good loin coupling that should allow a bit of engagement. While he lacks substance, his joints are clean. His feet look better than many of his breed. With some solid training he’d do okay as a low level horse for local or fair circuit. The straighter hind leg will help with jumping, but he’s only going to have average jumping form; humerus not vertical enough and knee too high. One thing that will have to be addressed right off is the digestive upset. When easily seen ribs are paired with a bloated or distended belly, there’s a problem.