Let's say you attend an auction this fall. Hay shortages are rampant, and winter is coming fast. You would be foolish to get another horse, but, well... You have fifty bucks in your pocket, and horses are going for peanuts. Your hand seems to shoot up from your shoulder automatically. Oh! You have just bid first pick on a group of little grade weanlings. Crap, your family is going to strangle you, right before falling in love with the new adorable fluffball. But which one do you grab from the group? Quick, the auctioneer wants to continue!
So which weanling did you impulse-buy? Were you dazzled by the pretty color and nice set-up of D? Were you thrown off by A's awkwardness?
I chose C.
The first thing I look for in a horse is legs. I do not like the upright angles and long cannons of B. D is also not ideal, with her upright rear pasterns. A is okay, except that his rear legs seemed pretty cow-hocked, though it's hard to judge in this picture. C, however, was easily the best. Nicely sloping short pasterns, strong cannons, and already his legs seem more "under" him than the others.
Next is shoulders. All the shoulders here are acceptable... except B's. It's short and upright. Ouch. That's not something a horse grows out of, by the way.
On to butts. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I like big butts and I cannot lie! B is a bit lacking in depth (think "pinched"). D has a steeply sloping croup that's going to be good for getting her legs under her in reining... but it's not great for much else. A and C have nice round badonk-a-donks that will power them through whatever careers they end up in.
Now topline. This is tricky. Many people will tell you that a young horse with a high hip will grow into it. This is partially true-- they will even out a bit. But it's a mistake to think that a severe slope will magically go away completely. All the weanlings are currently butt-high except for C. (Yes, even D-- her handler has cleverly placed her against the light background of the sky, so it's harder to tell.) C's even topline at such a young age might result in him growing up slightly uphill... but I'd prefer this over downhill.
If my money was really burning a hole in my pocket, I would also take weanling A. I know, I know, he's an ugly ducking isn't he? He's not necessarily the next best. His rawboned shoulder, funny stance and high hip are not endearing. But he has nice leg angles (aside from possible cow hocks), that shoulder is still nicely laid back, and he may grow out of his downhill build. Plus, D is much more likely to find a good home because of her pretty color, great shoulder and fashionable build, despite those pasterns. What can I say, I'm a sucker. I'm afraid poor B is left at the bottom of the barrel though. With good genes, he may even out slowly into a lanky, proportional Thoroughbred-type (still with a bad shoulder)... but I suspect he's going to end up a chunky monkey on too-long, too-thin legs. Also, is it just me, or is there some puffiness to his rear leg(s) and joints?
To recap, I would choose C, then A or D, and lastly B. How did your selection come out? Post a comment with your conformational observations... especially if they disagree with mine! I love to learn.