"Mentor," Grand Champion Morgan stallion born 1945:
"Mesaoud," Egyptian-born foundation Arabian stallion, foaled 1887:
"Magnum Psyche," modern International Champion Arabian, with Mesaoud ancestry:
"Wimpy," foundation stock-horse stallion, first Quarter Horse registered in AQHA in 1940:
"Mr. Ice Te," 2012 AQHA World Champion Congress & Halter horse:
"Roan Allen," foundation Tennesse Walking Horse stallion, foaled 1906. 100% of TWH carry his blood.
"Walk Time Charlie," 2012 Tennesse Walking Horse World Grand Champion
The stallions of the past are quite different from their modern counterparts, aren't they? That's not necessarily a bad thing. As we continue to breed any group of animals, over time their characteristics should change, their breeds adapting to be better at whatever they are supposed to do. But is that what has happened here? What ideals are being portrayed by the modern stallions?
I would argue that those ideals are shaped almost entirely by fashion. A fancy appearance and certain aesthetic traits are the goals of most breeding programs. While every one of the foundation sires pictured above look ready to work, their modern counterparts look suitable only for strutting down a catwalk.
The Morgan horse used to be a fine, strong-shouldered, heavy-necked horse great for pulling or riding. Today it looks like a modern Arabian. The Arabian used to be a model of speed and endurance. Now many Arabians look as fragile as china teacups, with swan-like necks and pug-like faces. The Quarter Horse used to be a working horse, sturdy and muscled, but quick. Now many are massive, bloated monsters balancing on tiny feet. The Tennesse Walker used to be a horse that could trot all day. Now they are long-backed, light-boned dancers tiptoeing on ridiculous shoes.
The same can be said for many other breeds. While horses of every breed do exist that are wonderful examples of graceful form and practical function, they are less popular. It's the disproportionate ones, the "fashionable" horses that win more shows, produce more offspring and attract the most publicity. This is not good.
When a breed's only purpose is decoration, it leads to suffering; to more genetic disease, deformities and other health problems. It's also hypocritical. How can we claim to celebrate a breed when we've made it into a shadow of its former self? We need to stop doing this:
Do you have a picture of a horse that is good example of its breed? I'd love it if you posted it to the comments below. One of my favorite horses is Bethesda Horus, a Morgan stallion that preserves the sturdiness and strength of his ancestors while showing off a refined physique that is the product of several decades of good breeding. He's not only beautiful and homozygous true black, he's done competitive driving, endurance riding, packing, mounted shooting and civil war reenactments. Now that's form and function!