Have you ever wanted to look through the judge’s eyes and see what they see when evaluating a horse's conformation? Now is your chance! Using only a photo and information on age and breed, legendary horseman and past USEA Young Event Horse Championship judge Chris Ryan is sharing his insights into equine conformation in our Conformation Critique article series.
Nottingham IPH has refinement. He possesses a nice fine tail hair and coat and an interesting shape. He is a little in two parts—what’s in front of the shoulder and what’s behind. I’d prefer to see his near fore forwards by 6"-8” and hind feet the same apart as the front to achieve an ‘open stance.'
The camera angle should be square to the girth. His stance in this photo suggests a rather straight shoulder and a straight hind leg. Interestingly, a straight shoulder often accompanies a straight hind leg. There must be a reason, but I don’t know it!
He has a long length of rein and nice light head-to-neck and neck-to-shoulder connections, which I like for freedom of airway and scope. The neck is quite well set to the shoulder. We can see a well-rounded ribcage and enough depth. I get the impression that he can come up more through his withers as he matures; he’s only rising 4 years.
A horse matures from his feet up. From about 18 months old, a horse’s forearm is normally fully grown and they just come up through their hind quarters and lastly the withers. There’s a useful measurement from the cap of the elbow to where the suspensory ligament goes into the top of the fetlock joint. This measurement equals the length from the cap of the elbow to the top of the withers (not vertical but over the shoulder) in a mature horse. I use a lead rein or piece of string. I find it very accurate in forecasting the potential height of a youngster (I should make a video showing how). But, back to business.
I like his rounded quarters. Nottingham IPH has good short cannons with good bone. The feet look a good shape as far as I can see on the surface. When viewing a horse as a potential purchase, I like to see them on a hard, core surface. It also shows how light and regular they are on their feet by my sight and hearing.
This young horse has a good swing to the walk and is nicely correct. I like to see a good swing to the tail when walking away from me. That tells me there’s a length of stride and good use of the hips and back end (which equals engine power). The shoulder doesn’t look straight in movement, and I see a good length of stride with good back end engagement. At the trot, I see lovely elevation and rhythm, and he is nicely straight. He’s going to have some fancy moves.
Might lack some refinement for upper-level eventing, but this is a well-balanced youngster with some nice elevation. He looks to have a good temperament and has been well-handled and produced, such important foundations even in hand. I find that a horse who moves well in hand goes easily in front of the leg when ridden. It all comes down to training!
Interested in submitting your horse to be critiqued? Send your high-resolution conformation photos and video to Meagan DeLisle 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.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
After not running in 2020 and 2021, the MARS Bromont CCI Three-Day Event returned to the Bromont Olympic Equestrian Center in Quebec, Canada, in 2022. America's Jennie Saville (née Brannigan) and Twilightslastgleam won the CCI4*-L, as the chestnut Thoroughbred gelding (National Anthem x Royal Child) bred and owned by Nina Gardner moved up from eighth after dressage into the lead after cross-country with the fastest round on wet ground over the tracks designed by Derek di Grazia. Canada's Lindsay Traisnel and Bacyrouge, a bay Selle Français gelding (Mylord Carthago x Lelia) owned by Patricia Pearce, finished second, and they are among four from the top-10 in the CCI4*-L in 2022 that return in 2023.
Hannah Sue Hollberg of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was on a winning streak at the Essex Horse Trials on Sunday, claiming victory in both the $10,000 Open Intermediate and Open Preliminary divisions with two horses that are fairly new to her. Some difficulty on cross-country did not stop her mount Hachi from claiming victory in the Open Intermediate with a score of 101.6, while Open Preliminary partner Rockster finished on his dressage score of 27.3.
The great football coach Vince Lombardi said, “We win our games in practice.” With the goal of having the most effective practices possible for horses, their riders, and their coaches, Cathy Wieschhoff explains some signs that can indicate when horse and rider should repeat an exercise, switch it up, or be done with that activity. Wieschhoff brings perspective as a five-star rider that has competed at the Kentucky Three-Day Event and Burghley Horse Trials, a USEF “R” Course Designer for eventing cross-country and show jumping, a former Area VIII chair and member of the USEA Board of Governors, and a Level V USEA ECP Certified Coach based out of Carriage Station Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.