“Look at him! He’s beautiful!” she said. I asked myself if I agreed. Sure, he was a stunning looking horse, tall, arrogant, nearly white, with a flowing mane and tail. And going around the arena he was rhythmical and almost seemed to float, his trot was so springy. That was what we saw that day at the horse show. What I have learned from working with horseman over the last fifty years is that you sometimes have to look a little deeper, and look at specifics. True,there are horses that overcome their conformation faults. I remember one day my friend Barney asked me to assess a gelding tied near his arena. I said he was ewe necked, long-backed, camped-out behind, with a short, flat, croup, and didn’t look like he could easily collect. He grinned and said that the horse was a super big stopper and a champion calf roper! It’s the old “Look at’em and learn to love’em!” That horse had what we refer to as “want to.” You can’t see it. You only find out if a horse has it when you ride and train him.
The ranchers and cowboys of my youth were trained to look at the hooves and legs first. “No hoof, no horse” they said. Only then would they look at the head, neck, back and hindquarters. The mane was rarely a consideration, and the color only slightly more so. I was taught “There is no bad color to a good horse.” I remember one cowboy paraphrasing Shakespeare’s “Many a man hath more hair than wit,” “Many a horse has more mane than brio!” (Brio=want to) So now you ask what are the things you look for in a horse? I’ll paraphrase verse out of the Bible for this: soundness of mind, smooth gaits, and soundness of body, but the greatest of these is soundness of mind!