In this series, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux to critique your off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) eventing prospects. Would you like to have your off-the-track Thoroughbred featured in the next edition of OTTB Critique presented by Athletux? We are looking for our next horse! Email your tips to [email protected].
Bred and owned by Thomas Bateman Jr., Brush Dance (Dance with Ravens x Phyxius) found his way into prominent racing trainer Timothy Keefe’s barn, which is where he stayed throughout his short-lived racing career. “He was a sweet, athletic horse but just didn’t have much interest for racing,” Keefe said. After just five starts, Keefe decided racing was just not meant to be for the youngster and instead brought him home to the family farm in May of 2017 when he was three. He was only at their farm for a day before Keefe’s daughter, Ryan, a talented young event rider in her own right, took him with her to Sharon White’s Last Frontier Farm, where she was a working student. The Keefe family was eager to see what White thought of their latest prospect.
It was nothing but up from there as once he was at White’s farm, Brush Dance was introduced to Cornelia Dorr, another very successful young rider, who was immediately drawn to his personality, potential, and work ethic. She scooped him right up and the two began to build their partnership. In just a little over a year together, Dorr and "Denny" earned top placings up through the Training level and USEA Young Event Horse classes. It has been an impressive year and an impressive start for this young OTTB who shows nothing but promise in his new career.
This month, we have Holly Hudspeth here with us to critique Brush Dance. Hudspeth is no stranger to eventing and OTTBs. She has produced many young horses through the levels finding success through the CCI5* level which included a ninth-place finish at the 2003 Pan American Games held at Fair Hill. Those young horses include a very special OTTB, Last Monarch. Always known for being exceptionally talented, "Stewie" and Hudspeth finished 17th at the 2010 Rolex Kentucky CCI4* and landed a spot on the shortlist for the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Hudspeth is excited to review this talented prospect of Dorr’s.
Hudspeth began by telling us a little bit more about what she looks for in an event horse and she starts with the canter. She noted, “The canter is the one gait we use in all three phases. It needs to be the strongest gate. In general, if a horse has a good walk, it will have a good canter.” Hudspeth also places a high level of importance on how uphill a horse is. “You also need to start with a well-balanced horse, built uphill, and not too long in the body. The longer the frame and the more the horse is built downhill (neck not coming up and out of the shoulder), the harder the balancing will be when riding,” she added.
Moving on to Brush Dance, Hudspeth began by noting that, “He is a well-proportioned horse. He has plenty of substance without being heavy and is not too light in the frame where the rigors of eventing could take a toll.” When she moved further down his body she touched on his legs. “The legs look straight with a nice 45-degree angle in the pastern, which nicely matches the angle of the shoulder. His cannon bones look short and strong, which is huge when the majority of the weight is on the horses front end, and they look straight from knee and hock,” she detailed.
Hudspeth also pointed out, “The shoulder has a nice slope to it which will help with the concussion of galloping and jumping. The neck comes nicely out of it, and in an uphill frame. This will help greatly with the horses’ natural balance.”
Besides the placement of the neck out of the shoulder, another very important conformation trait is the length of the back. “Brush Dance has a well proportioned back with the rest of his body,” she said. Why do you not want a long back? “Horses with a long back and straight shoulder will not be as well balanced,” she added.
Next, Hudspeth transitioned to his hips and hind end. “His hips have a nice gentle slope to them, which will aid in the rotation of the hips for collection and stepping up under himself with his hind legs. This also helps in following through with his hind end in the air when jumping,” she explained. “If you draw the imaginary line from point of buttocks to the ground, it runs nicely parallel along the back of the legs,” another positive feature Hudspeth pointed out.
After Hudspeth critiqued his conformation, she moved on to his technique. She started by saying, “Brush Dance carries himself in an uphill way. That means he naturally carries more weight on his hind end than his front end. His canter to the jumps is light upfront, which helps with the balance at the takeoff.” Hudspeth couldn’t stop raving about his jump style as well. “He has a beautiful bascule in the air. His expression is keen, and it always appears he is looking for the next jump,” she said.
As she continued, Hudspeth added, “Due to the angle of his hind end, he easily can follow through with his hips in the air. With this power from behind, there is a great deal of scope in his jump. That means there is room to spare between his belly and the jump!” Overall, Hudspeth said, “He has a lovely, soft expression in his eye, looks confident, and appears to enjoy his job.”
While Hudspeth did note, “He could have his forearms a bit more parallel to the ground when in the air and his knees could also be a bit more elevated,” she also added, “This will get better as this youngster gets stronger and more confident.” She is very impressed by Brush Dance and all of the qualities that point to him continuing to blossom into a very successful event horse. Hudspeth is looking forward to continuing to follow Dorr and Brush Dance as Dorr continues to produce him through the levels. With a horse like this, the sky is the limit!
In less than a month, eventers will wrap up the year at the Sheraton Boston Hotel for the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention on Dec. 12-15. Sixty years ago, the USCTA (now known as the USEA) was formed after a meeting that took place at the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago. From 1959, the USEA has grown from a small 20-member organization to an organization with thousands of members across the country of all levels and ages. History will come to life at the 2019 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention as the USEA will honor 60 years of the sport that we all know and love.
Start teaching your horse to jump by working over cavallettis first at the walk and then by trotting over them slowly. Then school him over a variety of small fences at the trot. Schooling over low fences will build the horse's confidence. Then do the same thing at a slow canter. Remember, never force your horse over high fences as he will lose his confidence.
The St. Johns Horse Trials takes place at the St. Johns Equestrian Center in Saint Johns, Arizona (Area X) in April of each year, offering Pre-Comp through Preliminary/Training levels in addition to a derby class meant as an introduction to the sport for new horses and riders.
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