Next up in our Conformation Investigation series is Jessia. She is a miniature horse mare, 38″ tall and 11 years old.
First we will look at her from the side. This mare has a bit of a ewe neck. In my experience this is simply caused by poor posture. If you have ever seen a horse skeleton you know that they are naturally shaped this way. It’s the muscle that changes to make a better top line. So rest assured! This is something that can be changed. I do lots of exercises that encourage them to lower their head and look where they are going to start to build that top line. Also feeding them from the floor and not hanging hay nets helps. And any toys or lickits that you provide should not be hung either but put down at floor height to encourage them to lower their head and build the top neck muscles.
I often see this type of lower neck development if a check rein is being used incorrectly. If the rein is tight and they are trying to avoid pressure on their neck they will often sort of suck their neck back into their shoulders. Side reins on a bitting rig can also cause this.
What are some exercises I do to help change this?
- Seeking exercises. I will hide cookies on the top of cones and as they learn to look down at the cone to find the cookie, I will get trickier and hide the cookies UNDER the cones! I play around with this type of game on the long lines or in hand on a lead line.
- Point-To-Point. This is one I do while walking down the road or around our field. First your pony or horse needs to understand when it’s alright for them to graze and when they are not to. EVERY driving horse or pony needs to thoroughly understand this before driving anyway! I will walk down the road and then focus on a particularly nice patch of grass. As we approach the grass I will signal that the pony can eat that exact patch of grass. If they try to eat a different one then I will ask them to continue on. It doesn’t take very long before they really start to pay attention to what I am looking at. It’s amazing really how they will hone in on the EXACT patch of grass I am looking at! This exercise encourages them to walk down the road with their head down as they are also focusing ahead to the next patch of grass. You can decided how many steps you want them to walk before they get to eat. Sometimes I ask them to go 10 steps, sometimes 1/2 a mile. This is also a game for the long lines or in hand. This one should NEVER be played with a harness and bridle on.
- Obstacles. Put out obstacles, tarps, bridges, pieces of plywood, trailer mats, and then ask them to cross them. They will naturally want to look down at the obstacle as they go over. You can do this one on long lines, in hand or hitched to a cart!
Jessica has a bit of a bigger body than her legs are long. This makes her look a little shorter than she actually is! Her back is a bit long but with some muscling of her forehand and her rear end those parts of the box will change. If she is encouraged to move with her head lower that will really help both ends of her muscle up nicely.
She has a nice fine neck, with a clean throat latch. So once she learns to be on the bit correctly she will be able to collect up quite nicely! her neck does tie in low on her chest. She would probably benefit from a deep V style breast collar. This type of conformation makes it hard to adjust the breast collar so it will clear the point of shoulder and not interfere with the wind pipe. Her head is a bit long, but she has a beautiful large eye.
It’s so hard to tell in photos but it looks like she toes out a bit from the knee down. The left a bit more than the right. She seems to have a lot of extra heel which may be causing her hooves to be out of balance. With a good trim this may change how she stands!
She is slightly cow hocked, but personally I like that in my driving horses! Provided they aren’t over turned out. Also as her hind end fills out those legs will straighten a bit more. The muscles fill in the between the legs and cause them to change a bit.
In my opinion this mare will benefit hugely from driving! It will help her build muscles and develop a really nice top line, if done in a way that encourages her to properly use her body. I would remove any check reins and encourage lots of head down, as shared above. I love her coloring and in the video sent to me, she is super willing to move forward and seems quite happy in cart.