Conformation Investigation – Chip

This week we get to take a look at a yearling! I’ve been excited to share this one since she sent in the photos. It’s so great to be able to look at the babies and see what their potential is. And to also see what they may need help with as they mature.

Something to think about as well is, yearlings often go through a kind of ugly duckling stage. So though they can look quite “ugly” at that age, if the overall structure is there, you are golden, since fixing posture can make huge changes to their overall appearance as they age.

Also, something to consider is, if they are well rounded and well balanced as a yearling this can change between 1 and 4 years of age. So even if you are starting with a beautiful baby, really pay attention to how you work them to KEEP things looking beautiful and balanced. Working them incorrectly with side reins or tight over checks (without a good working knowledge of HOW to use these things) can cause their shape to change, and not for the better, over time.

This is Chip. He is a yearling miniature horse who currently measures 31″ tall.

He is a cute little guy and not too badly proportioned for a yearling. They often appear to have large heads when they are this age, and this small, but his head is a nice size and a lovely shape.

When you look at him from the side the first thing you may notice is the shape of his back. It’s rather flat and just slightly appears to be a roach backed. A roach back is when the middle of the back goes up or is very flat instead of slightly sloped.


As a comparison, below is a photo of my colt, Zorro, as a yearling.

Now keep in mind that Zorro is a bit goose rumped. So, what we will see in this photo is a bit of the opposite effect from Chip’s back. There is more of a dip just in front of the point of his hip because the point of his hip is a bit too high. But I think this comparison shows the slight slope of Zorro’s back compare to the flatness of Chip’s back.

This also makes the angle of Chip’s hind leg look a bit different, more pronounced, where Zorro’s angle is more straight due to the goose rump. It’s interesting how something like this changes the lower limb alignment as well, isn’t it!?

Here is a photo of another yearling. This is Wallace and he is a bit smaller than Zorro, but bigger than Chip. I think this shows what a “normal” back should look like since we saw two that were a bit different than “normal”!

Chip has a lovely width of hip and will develop a well balanced shoulder, as shown here. I only had to make the box slightly wider than it is tall which shows that he has a nice length of leg as compared to width of body. He has lovely bone as well. His neck appears to be a little ewe necked, but that can be attributed to his age as much as anything. As he works and learns to lengthen his top line and engage his core muscles his neck will fill out. If he is driven in a tight over check rein or worked in side reins, it’s possible the ewe neck would become more pronounced.

In the above photo he is reacting to a big horse coming up behind him. But you can see he will need some help to learn to lower his neck and use the muscle along the top more than he uses the one under. You can start this by always feeding him from the ground and not giving him toys and salt licks that hang above his head. Encourage him to look down more than he is looking up. You can set up an obstacle course and take him through it in hand, encouraging him to lower his head and look at each obstacle. A great way to do this is to hide treats around the obstacle course. Once he understands there are cookies on the cones, or on the bridge or under the cones or under the tarp, he will immediately start hunting for those, thereby lowering his head to better see them!

Another fun thing to do with the babies is to take them on grazing walks. I will walk down the road or through the field, expecting them not to try to snatch the grass (this is a great time to teach them manners around grass as well. This will serve you well when he is hitched to the cart!) and find the best greenest patches of grass for him to eat. Allow him to eat some, then ask him to walk on. This also encourages them to walk with their head lower as they too, search for the yummiest grass.

I wouldn’t spend much time long lining a youngster like Chip because circle work can be hard on young joints. But he can start ground driving as a yearling. I would just ground drive him in his halter with two light weight long lines attached. Nothing too strenuous, but nice walks and learning to whoa, walk and trot in straight lines is a great way to use this time as they grow and mature.

Chip has nice straight front legs and back legs. Something I look for at this age is that the fronts toe out just a touch and the hinds be a bit cow hocked. I like them to start this way because usually as they put on muscle and fill out, the muscle will straighten the legs. I have seen babies born with perfectly straight fronts end up pigeon toed as they muscle up and fill in, as there is no where for the legs to go but in.

He has nice clean, flat knees and a nice length of cannon bone versus forearm. And again, he has the sweetest face!

When you are shopping for a driving pony it’s important to consider the type of driving you want to do. If you want to show in the breed ring then you’ll need to think about which breed ring, AMHA (which only allows minis 34″ and under) or AMHR (which does allow for the taller B minis, up to 38″). Do you want to compete in CDE’s, dressage, cones and marathons? Do you want to mostly trail drive?

What type of vehicle will you be using? How much will it weigh? It’s always crucial to take into account the weight and balance of your vehicle as the smaller the mini, the lighter and better balanced your vehicle better be. If you want to trail drive then I suggest you only ask your mini to pull it’s own body weight, as this will help keep it healthy and driving for a long time. But then you must consider how much you weigh PLUS the weight of the vehicle. So if you are a larger person then you’ll need a larger mini.

Buying a baby can be tricky because even if the parents of the mini are both A size minis, sometimes they will throw a mini that grows to be a B size! It’s not an exact science. My mare Sky, is 36 1/2″ at the last mane hair, 37″ at the withers. Her first foal matured to be 35″ tall. Her second foal, by the same stallion, who was 34″ tall, matured to be 32″ tall. Her third foal, Zorro, out of a different stallion who measures 35″ tall, grew to be 40″! No rhyme or reason for sure. There are breeders out there that have perfected their breeding programs and can be quite accurate in their guessitmates for mature height. Sometimes one will throw a wrench into things, but often they are quite close. If you are showing this is going to be very important to you. If you are trail driving then you may be thrilled if your B mini suddenly grows too tall. I was quite happy when Zorro topped out at 40″!

I could go on and on but I think this post is long enough for now. If you made it this far, thank you for reading! And if this post brings up more questions about choosing a young horse as a driving prospect feel free to ask in the comments below.

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