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 lacks the refinement you’d generally see in the upper level event horse,” Chris Ryan first observed of this 5-year-old Morgan mare. “This is more of what I’d consider a pleasure type. Remember, conformation does not rely on breed type but is a straight study of physique.”
“This mare has a generous and honest eye and ear. Good length of rein. The neck-to-shoulder connection is set a little low and the shoulder is a little straight, putting the horse a little on the forehand. This might curtail the length of stride.”
“She has rather rounded withers with good enough depth. She might be a little tight in the elbow and is quite long in the back - fillies are inclined to be a bit longer in the back than geldings.”
“She is a little back of the knee (look at the anterior line of the front leg from the forearm to the pastern) but she has a nice, short cannon bone. The lightness of the limbs should indicate lightness of the horse’s gaits. The photo makes it a little difficult to outline the coronet and check the shape of the feet and heel.”
“Overall, she has a good attitude and outlook. Plenty of horse in front of and behind saddle. Should make for a comfortable ride!”
This Morgan mare is Merrieworld Quintessa (Dragonfire Kirin x Canequin Reach For The Stars), bred by Merrieworld Morgans and owned by Alice Chan. “Tessa” is a purebred Morgan whose sire holds five World Championship titles in hunter pleasure and dressage and also competed up through Training level in eventing with Jennifer McFall. Her dam has won ribbons in a variety of disciplines including eventing, driving, and endurance.
“I had decided that I wanted to buy my first horse (a little late in life! – I was in my late 40s),” shared Chan. “My then-trainer was a big fan of Morgans and I loved their spirit and smarts – and that's only proven to be doubly true the more I've gotten to know them. I call them the Labs of the horse world.”
“I searched on the web and found Merriewold Morgans – they were a reputable and highly praised sport Morgan breeder in Southern California,” Chan continued. “They had two just-turned 3-year-olds for sale, and I fell for the mare. She had better conformation to start and was super smart and quick to learn. I rode her for about 15 minutes (she was green broke) and decided to go for it, despite my very amateur status! I could tell she was raised extremely well - she had been handled from a very early age, taught to load, lunge, and was very well treated.”
Tessa had about 20 rides on her when Chan purchased her, so Chan and Tessa have done a lot of learning together. “From the start she was always very game, curious, and willing. I didn't start jumping her until after she had turned 4, and not seriously until she was nearly 5. Once we started to jump – I would say I was learning along with her – we did a few schooling shows, doing cross-rails, etc. Around the same time, my son took up eventing and I decided to go for it as well. Tessa LOVES to show. She always rises to the challenge and definitely knows the difference when it's time to turn it on.”
Now a 6-year-old, Tessa and Chan have so far competed together at the Intro level – they placed fourth at their first event together last fall at Twin Rivers and were on track for a move-up to Beginner Novice this spring before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“She is my forever horse,” Chan said. “From the start, my goal has been to make her bombproof, and I'd say we are pretty close to that. She got sprayed by a water truck at a show and didn't bat an eyelid! My own limits will likely be the thing that holds her back – but if it all goes according to plan, I would love to take her Novice at Rebecca Farm one day. My son is also an eventer and he is much bolder than I. If he wants to take her Training level one day, I would be all for it. Her limiting factor is probably her lack of 'blood' . . . the speed won't be there. I definitely would like to breed her before she turns 10 - her personality, braveness, and scope are wonderful traits.”
“She’s not typical, but for a Novice packer she’s perfect. I did not buy her to be an upper level event horse, but when it comes to a horse you want on cross-country, she’s just really game and bold and just goes for it. I don’t think she’s ever said no to anything."
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.
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.
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