Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weanling Conformation Clinic

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!

 Weanlings are hard, because at first all you see is "CUTE!" Luckily, however, they're a bit easier to judge than two-year-olds. A young weanling may not have "grown into itself" yet, but they are far less awkward than a 2 year old. They haven't yet hit the massive, weird growth spurt that seems to make horses grow one part at a time. Cowboy wisdom says, "Look at a horse at 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, then 3 years... and never in between!" I would push the "3 months" up to 6 months myself, which is about the age of these guys.

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.


  1. Wish I could start some controversy on this, but I put them in the exact same order. Not wild about D's pasterns, and poor B looks like he may end up with a bad shoulder angle AND not much in the way of withers.

  2. I actually disagree to some extent. I would choose C, D, B, then A.
    A's neck ties in badly to the chest and is almost ewe necked, and to my eye does look rawboned.
    I think B is cute, and has a lovely head where as A does not, I could see with good ground work to develop good muscling that B could be a cute hunter.
    I think A would be a good ranch horse, but eye appeal is something it lacks.

  3. I got too caught up in their cuteness(s) and could not be objective. :) Great post!

  4. Not crazy about D's pasterns either but it'd probably be my first choice, I hate to say it but when I look for rehab/resale projects I look for which horse I think I can rehab and rehome the easiest so I can outbid the KB for another horse faster. It's stupid but it's 10x easier to sell a conformationally 'smeh' palomino than a beautifully built chestnut. I've picked up some gorgeous chestnuts (truth be told I'm not a huge fan of either color- I love a nice bay or black) that were well trained, but none of them ever went as quickly as a flashy color. Ugh. So for my overall auction pick (taking everything into account) D, C, B, A. I see A growing into an awkward horse much like my own much loved washy sorrel fugly with a lot of fitting annoyances. Now if I'm looking for a horse for myself I'd probably choose C over D.

  5. the only one i liked was C and that was primarily due to his topline .... at least for me and my way of looking at horses ... oh don't get me wrong ... i also see the shoulder and butt neck and legs and head ... but ... it is all about the top line for me .... especially in this grouping where there is such an obvious problem with the other three all being downhill ...
    after that and due to all the other issues .... i would choose D next god help me and then A and B last ... because though i agree with your assessment on D's horrible butt at least he has a short back which is something i like better than a long one and it is easier to work around a poor butt with a strong back than to work around a poor back and shoulder with a strong butt ...
    and then even though A looks like the height of all things gangly and baby and appears to be the definition of grade in all things i agree with you in the fact that there is NOTHING redeeming about the front end of B other than the cute head and face but i would rather have a horse that can work than one that is pretty ...