New Series! I was asked if I would be willing to look at YOUR horses and ponies and weigh in on their conformation via photos and possibly videos. I thought that was interesting and yes I would be willing to do that! Please remember this will be MY opinion based on my experience with the horses I have known and those I have trained and those I have watched work, as well as based on my many years in the horse industry in many different venues. Though there are some horses and ponies bred just for driving, there are similarities in all breeds that equal a well conformed horse. Also, remember, if your horse isn’t perfect that may not matter in the long run, as long as you are aware of their short coming so you can help them over come them.
What kind of photos do I need to do my investigating?
Quick let’s talk about what type of photos I’ll need if you want to participate in this fun new series! (And to be honest we won’t be able to make this a series without your horses and ponies!)
First I’ll want two good side shots, one from each side. The ideal way to take these photos is to stand back from your horse or pony and use the zoom lens. The zoom lens seems to take away any distortions that can occur with the photo. If you stand at the horse or pony’s shoulder or just behind it, that will give a good side shot without making the head or hip seem larger than normal.
Then I’ll need one photo from the front. Stand right in front of them so I can clearly see the knees and hooves. I prefer you don’t take photos in tall grass or someplace that obscures any part of the horse.
and one from the back, standing right in line with their tail. If your horse or pony has a long thick tail you can tie it up so I can see the hocks.
It’s totally fine if you take them from a little distance – and that is actually my preference because I’ll need to crop them and re-size them for the blog: This is the same photo as above. I just cropped it!
Our first pony is owned by our very own Kirsty Bedwell. I’m sure you will recognize him as Jasper the Friendly Mini! (link goes to his Facebook page) You can also find him on Instagram @jasper.thefriendlymini Head on over and show them some love! Jasper will be 4 in September and is 34″ tall. He is a stallion.
We will start with the side shot – in a box!!
As you can see Jasper totally fits in a box! AND his shoulder, back and hip are all equal. When you look at his photo without the box it almost doesn’t look like he would fit in one. So this is why the box is so helpful…
Keep in mind he has his winter coat and a little hay belly from the winter. When he is in shape and all muscled up things will shift and the picture will come together in a cleaner way, which will make him look like he fits in a box – even without the box!
Jasper has nice clean legs, with those flat knees we’ve talked about. He has a lovely angle in his stifle, gaskin and thigh area.
I wanted to post this photo again without the box so we can look at his neck. It’s a little bit short and heavy in the throat latch area. If he was a show stallion (and he is a stallion!) he would need to wear a neck sweat to tighten up that area and make for a cleaner silhouette. He has a beautifully shaped head and lovely large eyes. His head is very nicely sized for his body. He has a nicely angled shoulder as well. Minis will often have what I describe as a chest/neck, in which the chest and the base of the neck are basically one. He has this a little bit since his neck ties in low on his chest. What I have found is this does allow them to move with a nice low head set. So though he wouldn’t be a roadster or a Pleasure horse he would make a great Western Pleasure or Country Pleasure (with some training) Driving horse! I happen to know his owner is looking into do CDE’s with him and he is built perfectly for those. I’ll bet he will be a beautiful little driving dressage horse. (Side Note: I don’t see too many driving horses that wouldn’t excel at CDE’s with the right training and conditioning.)
For fun let’s look at Jasper in harness!
In this photo you can see that Jasper’s Comfy Fit Harness fits him beautifully! He has a treeless saddle and a Standard Curve Breast Collar w/russet leather lining. You can see that the ring of the breeching sits right in the middle of his flank swirl. This is ideal when fitting the breeching. The breast collar sits right above his point of shoulder and just below his wind pipe. Sometimes it’s very hard to get the more straight breast collars to do this on horses and ponies with even lower head sets, this is when we suggest the Deluxe Style Breast Collar. So conformation matters when making your harness choices!
Here is a photo from the front so you can see how his breast collar fits:
And here is one from the back that shows a very nice placing for the breeching:
Breeching placement is very tricky. I recently received a private message from a driving trainer that stated my harness wasn’t adjusted properly on Zorro. He went on to say that if I were to do hills his breeching would move up and get caught under Zorro’s tail because I have it adjusted too high. I thanked him for reaching out and being so kind in his message. Then I explained that Zorro and I do LOTS of hills and very steep inclines and he needs his breeching to be higher. If I had it lower it tends to want to sweep his feet out from under him, due to how his rump is shaped. So don’t buy into having certain parts of your harness adjusted only one way. There are a few ways to set them so they function as you need them to, in the situation you are driving, providing your horse is not uncomfortable due to the harness. If this is the case I am more than happy to look at photos of your set up and help you tweak things!
Below is Jasper hitched to his little wooden cart:
You can see how the shafts and the traces make a nice straight line from his breast collar back to the single tree. However the floor of the cart is tipping up a bit. This is because this cart is actually a little small for Jasper. Kirsty is saving up to buy a different cart for him. But this is a great example of a cart seeming to be the right size but there is just something off about it. When Kirsty sits in the cart that tip will be bigger, causing the shafts to pull up a bit on Jasper’s tummy. She is aware of this and makes adjustments in her body to accommodate that.
You can see the exaggerated tip of the seat with Kirsty in the cart. She is leaning forward with her upper body to try to help balance that. But this shows how the cart is too small!
Jasper looks so happy though:
And in the above photo you can see why he would make such a lovely dressage driving pony.
So, this is the first post in our new series of Conformation Investigation posts! If you would like to be included you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kirsty at email@example.com. We will want the photos to be emailed to us along with:
- age of horse
- how tall the horse is
- and if it’s a stallion or gelding or mare.
I hope you enjoy this series as much as we do!
Mindy & Kirsty