I'm really enjoying working through the DVD set as well as the Principles of Conformation Analysis book. The techniques are brilliant and are explained clearly and concisely.
I'm looking at applying this analysis to racehorses as most of my clients are in this industry. I just have a few questions -
In your opinion what would be the most desirable and conversely least desirable conformation qualities in gallopers?
Does it differ for stayers versus sprinters?
Is this something you could identify in a yearling or do the proportions change too much as they grow and mature?
Dear C. Donovan: All the questions you have asked about racehorse conformation have been answered in detail in the following:
(1) Back issues of Equus Magazine, from about 2005 through about 2010, which was the latest incarnation/published version of my conformation analysis feature column in that magazine.
(2) Back issues of Equus Magazine, from about 2010 and continuing, which contain my feature pieces on the history of horse breeds. The editor is still running this under the general heading 'conformation insights.' Specifically you would want to obtain all the installments that deal with the Thoroughbred horse, culminating in the article which was the big feature issue on American Pharoah (winner of the last U.S. 'triple crown' championship).
(3) The back issue of Equus Magazine which contains the feature article I did analyzing the horse Secretariat. Secretariat won the Triple Crown back in the early 1970's and was the last horse to do so prior to American Pharoah; and in general was the greatest 'classic distance' horse ever to live. In that article I compare him to two other very great horses, Man O'War and Phar Lap.
To obtain these materials, go to http://www.equusmagazine.com and figure out when you're there how to get back issues (I'm sure there is some way they have for people to do that).
Finally, you had previously expressed to me an interest in purchasing our new "How Horses Work" workbook no. 1, "Conformation: Basic Skills." A beginning on understanding the differences between riding horses and race horses is covered in there, to wit, the first and most important difference, that in racehorses the overall body balance needs to run downhill, whereas in riding horses (a completely different type), it needs to be as nearly level as possible. The shorter the distance over which the horse is intended to run, the more downhill the OBB needs to be; and conversely, the longer the distance, the more level he can be and still be a winner. In Australia where you live, there are still races of up to four miles, as well as steeplechases, hunt chases, point-to-points, timber races and the like: horses suitable for that are balanced near level and therefore also, so far as that one feature goes, conform to the riding horse type.
The other teaching that is essential here is to point up and emphasize, that there are five types of horses in today's world that we can usefully recognize. They are:
(1) Riding Horses
(2) Race Horses
(3) Carriage and Harness Horses
(4) Draft Horses
and last but certainly not least --
A 'project' I define as any horse not being used within its type category; i.e., an American Thoroughbred, i.e. downhill one-miler, being used as a hunter, which is to say as a riding horse: this takes special training, knowledge, and conditioning. Likewise for example a small draft horse being used under Western tack for reining. Or again likewise, any Warmblood weighing more than 1300 lbs. being used for anything other than carriage and harness.
This should get you started. Of course there are other important conformational points that have to be considered before making any wise and informed purchase. Once you've obtained the appropriate back-issues and studied them, and the new workbook ditto, then please feel free to write back again with whatever further questions you may have. -- Dr. Deb