I was going to write a blog post on what conformation you should be looking for in a new horse, based on what discipline you wanted to ride or compete in. But after doing some preliminary research, while there are certainly some more desirable characteristics, it seems to me like you can’t really choose or discount a horse based on conformation alone.
From what I’ve read, it’s up to the horse. Some horses can overcome their conformational set-backs and become high level competitors. For example, I was reading “Selecting The Dressage Horse” by Dirk Willemstad Rosie, with commentary by Anky, and she states that her Grand Prix dressage stallion, Cocktail, had a hollow back. Other conformation books I had read in preparation of this article – and even books on purchasing horses – said to bypass horses with hollow backs as they were weaker and would likely be unable to perform at higher levels. These books also said that hollow backs were often early warning signs of a sway back.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, if a horse is hollow backed, how could he possibly round his back and properly come up under himself?” Well, in my research so far, it seems that a horse’s natural athleticism can overcome a number of conformational obstacles.
Now, I’m not saying to go out and buy the next hollow backed horse you see and he’ll take you to the Olympics! And certainly if the horse has a number of conformational faults, the likelihood that they will be a successful competition horse in any discipline is low. I’m just saying that maybe, sometimes it boils down to attitude, athleticism and the horses own willingness and drive to compete. Which is another topic for another time… Be sure to watch for my post on finding the discipline that suits your horse, and not trying to suit your horse to the discipline – coming soon to a blog near you!