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PonyGirlAlways

Heart Vs Pure Talent And Confomatiom

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Do you think there is a difference and do you think it matters ? Say on a competitive level. Such as a horse with lots of heart and maybe less then ideal conformation vs a horse with the right conformation and potential but less try.

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In the long term, yes. Conformation is there for a reason. If you compete at top level for the main part of the career, then you're running the risk of the horse breaking down earlier with the stresses and strains from whichever conformation fault.

However. If you were willing to risk this, then yes, if the horse has the heart and talant there, then for an unpredictable amount of time, you will have a potential winner on your hands. Howver, it's whether you want to push its limits and keep at a level it's unsuited for in the long term....or keep it at a maintainable level and keep it sound longer.

I can think of various horses with conformation faults which have been pushed out their boundaries over a period of time. Yes, for a couple of seasons they did very well....then went rapidly downhill quickly through various stages of breaking down, arthritis, etc.

That said, it really depends what the conformation fault is and how severe. And what could be done from a young age if caught early enough to try and correct the fault.

Equally. I've seen more damage done in an older horse with a conformation fault someone then tried to straighten out too late, than what it would have caused to leave him how he was with the fault.

Swings and roundabouts. I'll always insist for soundness, you have to have the conformation there first.

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I would first have to know what the conformation defect is and for what purpose the horse will be used. Some are more serious than others and can or will eventually affect performance. A horse with confidence and athletic ability used for jumping can pretty easily overcome a bit of a too short or too long back or incorrect shoulder angle.

Edited by psmitty

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I think it depends on what you are trying to do.

My first OTTB was built downhill, had a funky hindend, long weak back, terrible feet and a ton of heart!! He would do anything I asked him and would try so so hard. If he had had better conformation he would have been a little more athleticly inclined and would have been easier to ride and probably would have competed at a higher level.

We evented through prelim, knowing what I know now I would have stopped at training level. Ignorance is bliss + brave horse + brave kid = doing stupid stuff.

He know has a new kid and they're doing BN. Depsite his build and the help of a good farrier, he was never lame.

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I'd say heart beats a so~so albeit conformationally perfect horse. Looks don't mean a thing if they don't have try/heart!

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I was just curious my very nicely built arab gelding just did have the heart he was a very emotional horse that would quit on you if pushed him just a bit. I sold him to a friend whose kids ride him happiest horse ever. My current gelding is a grade ranch bred has a bit of weird comformation slightly long backed, his neck ties in high and he is cow hock. He is so honest and has a huge heart. I can take him to the local cross country course or cbase cows on him in the Wyoming terrain. He won't quit on you. Lucky though he has good bone and excellent feet and ridiculously long legs for a 15.1 horse

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Maybe it's just something I've noticed or it could be a trend others have picked up on too. But the ugly, horribly built, plain, simple, just-all-together-not-good-looking horses will almost every time give you more effort and try than the ones who are conformed to do the job properly. I know a few personally that are just a little unfortunate looking but MAN, they are good horses, in which I would do almost anything to own one.

ETA: And while some of the uglies do not have the conformation, they sure DO have the talent!

Edited by hunterguy398

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I had a really interesting conversation with a gentleman I consider quite the authority in the sport about this over the weekend. I will post the wisdom he shared with me tomorrow when I have a computer to type it up.

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In a clinic with a world class rider a friend of mine asked the clinician about the conformational weakness of the horse she was riding, and what he thought it would mean for the horse and his prospects long term.

The following discussion about conformation versus heart was fascinating. In an effort to be accurate I'm going to give this as close to my memory as possible.

My friend and I each had a big young jumper horse to ride. My friend was mounted on a lovely 4 year old gelding, and I was on my own 6 year old mare. The gelding is very big and strong in the front, but drastically uphill, and small and weak behind as compared to his front end. The mare is long, lanky, incredibly flexible and should grow into being a pretty well proportioned horse.

The gelding has a HUGE amount of heart, and is a rare type that gets better, sharper and even jumps just a bit higher as he understand something better from doing it more. The mare is more traditional and will get lazy and bored once she settles into an exercise completely.

Our clinician said the gelding was not as correct or athletic as the horse I was sitting on. He continued to say that the gelding seemed to have the mind to be a world class type horse, being a very try-hard horse who not only has a lot of heart but gets better and better as he understands the exercise better. While most horses get tired or bored and will eventually canter through jumps a bit, this horse would try harder and harder as he understood from working a particular line or turn more times. On the other hand my big mare is more of a normal mind set who settles in and will eventually get lazy about things as she gets bored. My mare is more tentative and easily scared by a mistake, while the gelding actually went better immediately after a bad jump. Had I made the same mistake on my mare it would have scared her and the jump would have taken a few times over to settle her back to normal.

The point was made that the gelding was still plenty capable even if his conformation didn't stack up to my mare. Something to the effect of "[the gelding] could jump 6' courses and be fine, while [my mare] could jump 8' courses" but the point was made that Olympic trails are at 5'3, so the gelding would be capable of that with some room to spare, and his mentality might be what makes up a bit for his physical weaknesses. On the other hand my mare being more correct and a bit more athletic gives the rider more margin for error at the same (hypothetical) Olympic trail of 5'3. With a limit of scope just a hair above the jump height the rider can NOT miss. With scope much greater than the jump height the rider could miss by a foot or two and the horse has more than enough athleticism to bail the rider out.

Back to mentality or heart- my mare would bail me out of a bad distance at most any height if she was confident, but me being wildly inaccurate will rattle her and make her worried. At a certain level of worry and certain jump height she will stop, being careful and a bit tentative by nature. The gelding on the other hand is the type to jump for an impossible distance, even if he's not physically capable of making the jump from there. His heart would really be evident at the next fence after he jumped through one trying to make a bad distance work while my mare would be backed off and hesitant... on the very next jump the gelding would jump extra high and tuck his legs extra tight just to be sure he got over clear.

The other somewhat related point our clinician made was that conformation is not always as important as some people think. He stated that if he were to line of 15 hunters with fairly good conformation a panel of conformation experts would not be able to correctly pick the hack winner from the still horses. They would be able to pick 3 of the top 5 hack horses, but even worlds experts would not pick the best mover based on conformation.

So for these reasons this clinician doesn't place a great deal of stock in conformation, and prefers to buy young horses he can "ask questions" of to test their mentality rather than purchase based on conformation. He does place some stock in bloodlines as some part of mentality is similar with related horses most times.

The other conformation point to consider is that really awful conformation can contribute to lameness and longevity problems. However, when you talk about upper level hunters or jumpers you're usually looking at horses with reasonably good legs as those who are really terribly built don't make it to the middle/upper levels or don't stay sound there beyond a season or two. By the time a horse has the amount of time and training it needs to do grand prixs or national level derbies if it's conformation was going to hold it back it would have already shown up.

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Everyone has great points. There are no perfect horses, and I'd take one with a lot of heart and good conf/talent over a physically perfect and talented horse with no try. When it comes down to it (if you really want to win), the horse simply has to have that will to give and give. My horse has meh conformation - his legs are clean and he has overall good lines, but his back is swayed and he has little quirks about his body. His form is not bad; he routinely gets his knees up to his eyeballs, but he doesn't jump with a round back; he's more of a skimmer. But my gosh, he'll turn on a dime and give you everything he's got in a jump off, and it works.

So you need a horse with good enough conformation for everything to "work" and stay healthy. You need a horse that knows what to do with his body over jumps. If he can manage those two things and love his job and fight for you, those are the keepers.

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