May 01, 2020

Conformation Critique with Chris Ryan: Burning Thyme

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Merrick Studios Photo courtesy of Melinda Mueller.

Have you ever wanted to look through the judge’s eyes and see what they see during the conformation portion of a USEA Young or Future Event Horse competition? Now is your chance! Using only a photo and information on age and breed, legendary horseman and prior FEH/YEH Championship judge Chris Ryan is sharing his insights into young horse conformation in our Conformation Critique article series.

“This horse is a smart blood type with lots of quality and refinement,” Chris Ryan began his assessment of this 2-year-old Arabian Sport Horse stallion. “I love the ‘forward look’ of this individual. A horse who looks forward, with his eye and ear, thinks forward and generally goes forward! The expertise of the photographer standing square to the horse’s near shoulder and this ‘open’ stance, which is just about perfect, shows this smart horse to best effect. Horses who have good conformation generally find it easier to hold this open stance than those who don’t. Why? Because everything is in the right place!”

“The head-to-neck connection is perhaps a fraction strong but is not coarse or heavy. I like to fit my fist between the horse’s jaw bones close to the larynx to ensure of good space for airflow. I see a well-defined jugular from this horse and a very good neck-to-shoulder connection and raised, defined withers. The length of rein which, in addition to the slope of shoulder, can be indicative of length of stride is also indicative of balance and scope. This horse’s length of rein is a little short but fits him perfectly.”

“He has a well-sprung ribcage with good depth, facilitating very good lungs and heart function. The angle of his shoulder is a fraction upright and quite heavily muscled, perhaps indicative of his breeding. Sprinter type Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses are generally heavier-muscled than distance types. Think of human sprinters against marathon runners! This horse is quite short coupled, putting the rider's seat quite close to the horse’s hind leg – the powerhouse!”

“He has a good front leg with a very good forearm (and second thigh, behind) and generous knee and lovely short cannon bone. Good, tight, and well-defined tendons and ligaments and joints. I don’t like these to be fleshy or the joints to be big and heavy and round. Pasterns are quite short and seem to have enough angle. I’d like to see this horse move to check he has good suspension. This is needed to help absorb the energy of the footfall.”

“He has a good hind leg and good angle and strong hock indicating great power. White socks and white pigmentation of feet can sometimes have sensitivity issues but are not conformation defects. This horse has good feet and a good heel.”

“Overall, a lovely quality sort with explosive power and good balance. He might not have the longest stride but can go 0 to 60 impressively with that hind end. I can see him getting away from his fences at pace, needing little time to regain gallop. He should be light on his feet, given his quality, to avoid any jarring. I’d love to see him move to check his biomechanics.”

Burning Thyme as a 4-year-old. Photo courtesy of Melinda Mueller.

This horse is Burning Thyme (GL Hawks Firestar x Nutmeg), a now 4-year-old Arabian/Appendix Quarter Horse stallion owned by Melinda Mueller and bred by Fresh Perspective Farm. At the sole USEA Future Event Horse competition on his record, “Gremlin” scored a 74.85 as a 2-year-old at the Windemere Run Horse Trials.

“He's about as home grown as they get,” shared Mueller. “My in-laws raised his dam from a weanling. My husband and I broke her out and I evented her through Training level. Before she ran out of viable maiden years, I retired her and bred her to an Arabian stallion that I always thought was built to event, but his owner never wanted to go down that path.”

“Nutmeg, the dam, was incredibly brave and a point-and-shoot ride, but she needed a bit more endurance and nimbleness,” Mueller described. “Many people thought I was nuts to cross an Appendix Quarter Horse with an Arabian, but I've been very happy with the cross. We are expecting the fourth full sibling any day now.”

“We tend to take things pretty slowly and carefully, so my husband and I have just started Gremlin under saddle,” Mueller explained. “He's extremely personable and quite smart. He also has the nimbleness his mother lacks. He is definitely a people horse and will leave his friends to come to the gate if he sees you step outside.”

“Due to a series of unexpected events, he wasn't gelded the first three times we were planning to. At that point, we decided maybe there was a reason our plans kept being waylaid and we have kept him as a stallion. However, he won't earn the privilege of breeding until he has proven himself under saddle.”

Interested in submitting your horse to be critiqued? Send your high-resolution conformation photos to Jessica Duffy at [email protected] for your chance to be featured.

About Chris Ryan

Chris Ryan comes from one of the most storied families in Ireland. Following in his father’s footsteps, Ryan hunted the legendary Scarteen hounds for 28 seasons. The Scarteen hounds have been in the Ryan family for more than 400 years. From racing in his youth, to huntsman, and now judge and commentator, Ryan has become a regular part of eventing life in Ireland and Europe. One of the foundation selectors of the Goresbridge Go for Gold elite event horse sale held every November in Wexford, Ryan has developed a keen eye for young stock, many having gone on to great things in Ireland, England, and Europe. He is best known in the United States for finding McKinlaigh, the horse with whom Gina Miles won the individual silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and producing him from a 3-year-old to a 5-year-old at his first Preliminary level event. International winning and placed horses including Copper Beach, Cooley Rourkes Drift, Cooley SRS, November Night, Prince Mayo, Glencento, Reenmore Duke, Ballymurphy Mark, and many others all came under his eye and passed the test. All this experience is blended with an instinct for what is required and the genetics to operate at the highest level.

May 10, 2021 Eventing News

2021 FEI MER Changes effective July 1

The FEI passed rule changes impacting Minimum Eligibility Requirements in November 2020 that go into effect on July 1, 2021. The changes will impact athletes who are uncategorized, “D” and “C” athletes competing at the CCI4*-S, CCI3*-L, CCI4*-L, and CCI5*-L levels. Please see below for the highlighted changes. The USEF requirements to compete at these levels remain unchanged, but please remember that the USEF requirements must be achieved within 12 months of the competition. These changes will be adopted into the USEF Eventing Rulebook by July 1. See Appendix 3 for qualification requirements.

May 10, 2021 Competitions

USEF Will Implement New Protocols Regarding the Use of Face Coverings/Masks at USEF-Licensed Competitions

Beginning May 17, 2021, USEF will implement new protocols regarding the use of face coverings/masks at USEF-licensed competitions in response to recently updated CDC recommendations. Please click here to access the full amendments to the USEF COVID-19 Action Plan protocols.

May 10, 2021 Education

USEA Podcast #283: Setting Up for Cross-Country Success

Nicole Brown is joined this week by Irish World Equestrian Games silver medalist Sam Watson as they discuss the road to a successful cross-country round. They cover your basic training at home before your event, what you do when you get to the event and are walking the course, warming-up, visualization, and finally how to tackle the course. This podcast is full of words of wisdom from Sam that will keep you listening to the very end so tune in now!

May 09, 2021 News

Boyd Martin and Luke 140 Claim CCI4*-L Victory at Jersey Fresh International

Boyd Martin claimed the CCI4*-L victory at the Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event riding Luke 140, owned by The Luke 140 Syndicate. California rider Tamra Smith held the lead and second place with Danito and En Vogue, respectively, with the two swapping placings after cross-country, and Martin and Luke 140 maintaining third place through both phases. But two rails down for Danito dropped him to fourth place and En Vogue was relegated to third with three rails down, opening the door for Martin and Luke 140 to clinch the win.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Horse Clothing of the USEA