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 past FEH/YEH Championship judge Chris Ryan is sharing his insights into young horse conformation in our Conformation Critique article series.
“This is a quality sort,” Chris Ryan began when looking at this 4-year-old Thoroughbred. “The Thoroughbred is a renowned breed improver/refiner for all the sporthorse stud books, and the pure Thoroughbred has his own register. They are the elite of the species as regards to refinement.”
“He has nice light connections from head to neck and neck to shoulder,” Ryan continued. “He is built quite uphill, which is always an asset as it makes it easier for them to engage their hind leg. He has a good shoulder, giving plenty in front of the saddle and a good length of neck which should give him good balance."
“He has a good front leg with enough bone,” Ryan complimented. “Some Thoroughbreds can be very light of bone. He has good, correct angles to the pasterns. His feet and heels look good to me – not the very flat feet some Thoroughbreds can have. I’d like to check his near hock. I can’t quite see it from the angle of this photo.”
When looking at his movements, Ryan said he shows “good walk and overtrack. He should be well able to gallop. His movement looks correct – I like to see the tail swing from side to side when they walk away from me. The trot is lengthy and light and shows good engagement. His trot can score very well in the dressage test.”
“This one is a good sort, ticking a lot of boxes,” Ryan concluded. “I wish him well!”
Meet Pour Decisions (Giant Oak x Frisky Kitty), a now 5-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding. “Kudo” as he is known in the barn was born and bred in Kentucky and ran in two maiden claiming races in the summer/fall of 2020. After coming off the track, he traveled to Washington state in October. Sarah Lawrence bought him in November of 2020, very underweight, and spent a few months getting weight on him.
“Now he’s going like a champ under saddle in the dressage, trails, and is lunging over fences including ditches, banks, and water with and without jumps!” said Lawrence. “I’m planning on taking him upper level eventing in the future, as far as he is capable of going, and hopefully to dabble in the jumpers!”
Interested in submitting your horse to be critiqued? Send your high-resolution conformation photos to Leslie Mintz 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.
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