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 indicative of his breed code,” Chris Ryan first observed of this 5-year-old Oldenburg/Welsh cross gelding. “We had an excellent Welsh/Thoroughbred at the USEA Young Event Horse West Coast Championships last year – this individual lacks that kind of refinement.”
“He has a good, generous, and kind eye (mirrors the soul!) and a good ear. He is showing a good length of rein for his proportions. Imagine you are sitting on him and you see plenty in front of you. He shows good muscling on the crest of his neck (and the muscling over the loins) which suggests he holds himself in carriage very well. If you see that muscling on the underside of his neck you can read what’s going on. The head-to-neck connection is a little strong and the shoulder is pretty straight.”
“His body has good depth and covers a nice bit of ground which gives him range and should make for a comfortable ride. Powerful back end with well-defined withers. The straight shoulder can impair the length of stride.”
“The pasterns and angle of feet are catching my eye – the pastern might be a fraction slack. An over-upright pastern can aid jarring and an over-long one can put extra pressure on the ligaments at the back of the knee. His lower limbs might be a fraction light for his top but are generally indicative of a light action. He has a good hind leg with good hock and hock angle which should give him very good forward propulsion.”
“Clover Hill, one of the great Irish Sport Horse stallions, had a straight shoulder and threw a very straight one, a prolific sire of international show jumpers. I’d prefer some more angle for an event horse to give easier ground cover, but overall this horse has a lovely, kind outlook. I bet he gives a smashing ride!”
Make Some Noise is now a 6-year-old Oldenburg/Welsh gelding standing at 14.2 hands. Sired by an Oldenburg show jumper and out of a Welsh hunter pony, “Echo” is the happy accident that occurred when his dam jumped the fence in with the stallion. “He was an accident, but he’s a pretty cool accident,” shared his owner, Shoshana Rudski.
When it became apparent that Echo wasn’t going to mature past the height of a pony, he was passed to Rudski. “His owner didn’t need something that small, and I’m tiny, so he got passed on to me” shared Rudski. “He has more talent in his awkward little body than I have seen in most full-sized prospects. He’s insanely athletic but definitely has a pony attitude.”
Rudski had been competing Echo at unrecognized Beginner Novice level competitions and schooling Second Level dressage at home when he got injured while out in pasture last summer. Given his age, Rudski made the decision to turn Echo out for a year and let him heal slowly before bringing him back into work. “That’s horses!” she shared good-naturedly. “I’m taking it really slow with him – slow is always better! I’m extremely fortunate that the lady I bought him from has her own place and offered to let me turn him out there for a year and then see where we are. He’s really cool so I want to give him as much time as he needs.”
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.
As they hiked through the Galway Irish countryside, Shelley Bridges and John Whelpley soon found themselves amid a herd of curious Irish Draught mares grazing calmly around them. Bridges, an endurance rider extraordinaire with a well-known, educated eye for all things horse, noticed one of the mares in particular and said, “What about that one?” and our unlikely story began.
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