Tell me AAALLLLLLLLL about horses...


9 Years
Jun 19, 2010
San Diego, CA
I'm bored and have the flu so I've been looking at horse ads all day dreaming. I used to have a rescued Morgan and miss him dearly. I dream about the day when I can get another one, and was even talking about it to boyfriend today, picking out horses for him, showing him pics, asking him what colors he like etc... and he FINALLY said "As soon as we move I guess you can get a horse".... and well we are trying to figure out how to move now, so it might be in some near future that I can get one.

And since I'm bored and have read all my horse books, I want you all (well anyone that's bored too) to tell me everything you know about horses, from food, to training, to grooming, to books, what to look for when buying, everything!!! Oh and we are moving WAY out to the boondocks so I probably won't have a trainer available to me, unless I can meet local horse enthusiasts to ride with...

I am especially interested in pics of good vs bad, like pics of weak pasterns vs strong pasterns, weak back vs strong back etc...

... especially you michickenwrangler, I know you know a lot and I always look forward to your posts...
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well, the advice i can give you really depends on what you want to with your horse, for example:english or western? just trail riding, competing a little, or a just a mix of all?
Anyhow, conformation wise, these are the most important things:
Short back means strong back and able to bear weight more easily.
shoulder should be a 45 degree angle and a long shoulder is good, it means more free forward movement.
pasterns should be short, like the back, they will be able to bear more weight.
legs should be straight and smooth. also watch the way the horse walks, does he "paddle" at all.
neck should be proportionate to the body, not to short, not too long.
proper hoof conformation really depends on the breed of horse, but it is extremely important, as poor foot conformation often leads to navicular disease, which is when the navicular bone and the deep digital flexor tendon, which curves around the navicular bone and the bursa pad, which is under the navicular bone, rub together because the horse has poor hoof conformation, it becomes extremely painful for the horse to walk.
anything else?
Aww, thank you ...

Keep in mind, that NO HORSE is going to have PERFECT conformation but many horses do things anyway. My own horse has hindquarters that are on the small side, a short ewe, neck, slightly over at the knees and an upright shoulder. This *should* preclude her from long distance riding but she's had a 10 yr very successful endurance career nonetheless. She's had two pulled suspensories and so now I'm starting to think about semi-retirement for her.

Basically any conformation fault makes horse more prone to _____________________ but that doesn't mean horse will develop _______________ right away or even down the road. Smoking can cause cancer, but not everyone with cancer smokes nor does every smoker develop cancer.

Saddleseat and show people tend to favor longer pasterns because they make the gaits loftier with more suspension. Shorter pasterns tend to give more jarring gaits.

Some diciplines like saddleseat and some jumpers like an upright shoulder where others do not.

Secretariat was mildly knock-kneed, Seabiscuit was over at the knees, famous Andalusian stallion from the Spanish Olympic dressage team is very heavily built and looks kind of ugly when he extends.

Best thing to do is to take a trainer or knowledgeable friend with you when you go look at a horse. There's a legend that the Bedouins would put a horse in a tent and thr prespective buyer with sit outside. Then two people would gradually raise the drape so the buyer could inspect the hooves, legs, shoulders and haunches in that order before getting to a pretty face or hooky neck. Keep that legend in mind, look at the feet first.

Horse #1

Norman, 2 yr old TWH. Kinda gangly, still growingm hindquarters need developing. Shoulder is a tad upright.


Horse #2

Squiggie. 17 yr old NWHA Plantation Champion, very good conformation overall



Horse #3, Izzie 18 yr old ARab/Saddlebred. Upright shoulder, small hindquarters, long back, over at the knees yet one of the top distance horses in the state in the 25 mile division.


Horse #4, Toni, 15 yr old Paint. Training & First Levele DRessage horse. Too much angle in her hocks, hard to get legs under her for movements like extension. However, she is very eager to please and has improved greatly in her sport.


Horse #5, Sera, 8 yr old Arabian mare. Hindquarters are rounded from working but small. Short back, shoulder is a tad upright. Has done both dressage and endurance but probably would be best for trail and small shows. Slight cow hocks but this is very common in Arabs.
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My very biggest suggestion of "everything you know about horses" for your situation is this:



It seems like nowadays every third person thinks that because they've read a buncha books and websites, they are a conformation expert and can tell you magically just from how the horse looks how sound it will stay and how comfy/athletic it will be to ride and what disciplines it will do well vs poorly in. (Deb Bennett has a lot to answer for in this department IMHO, although certianly she is right about some things *as averages*, but it just seems to have become a very popular sport-and-delusion overall in this internet age)

If you have worked with -- I don't mean seen, I mean *worked with* and known for a considerable length of time so you can follow their trajectory over the years -- a whole big bunch of horses, there *are* some on-average predictions that can be made about how form relates to function. However the kicker is that

a) relatively few people have the requisite experience, and most of those who do have learned *not* to put too much reliance on interpreting conformation at least not when there is ANY other information available;

b) many of the things books tell you are just plain NOT TRUE in real life -- for instance, structural over-at-the-knees is typically mentioned as a woeful conformation fault but in the real world it just does not affect a horse (although *acquired* over-at-the-knees, from tendon contracture or knee arthritis, certainly is a bad thing) -- so reading is not a substitute for experience.

c) even of the generalities that *can* fairly be made -- such as, horses with extremely long pasterns and/or the heels set way out in front of the axis of the cannon really do have a considerably higher washout rate from serious work on account of lameness -- cannot be relied on to be *necessarily* true for every horse. And frankly most things are a lot more hit and miss than the example I've given here (which still does have exceptions), such that they might reasonably be a tiebreaker between two otherwise-equal horses or if a horse has TOO many possible red flags you might decide to pass, but not actually rely on the presence of just a few somewhat-questionable bits to decide whether or not to buy a particular horse.

Instead of looking at pictures, stick to looking at horses that are currently doing what you want to do with them (and doing it in a way you like), and find a good prepurchase vet (they are absolutely NOT all equal, and many are kinda useless). And it is awfully smart, if you are new to horses or (as in your case) have taken a 'vacation' from them for a long time, to have someone who knows what they're doing to come along with you and inject some reality-based advice.

Good luck, have fun,

WHat it comes down to, what Pat and I were saying is that frequently a horse's attitude and desire are more important than some conformation flaws. My mare doesn't have perfect conformation for distance riding, but she LOVES it and that trumps her flaws. Again, with my friend's paint with the too-angled hocks. That mare really enjoys patterns and spending time with her owner so they makea good match for what they do.

Seabiscuit had numerous conformation faults but his drive to win set him apart.

When a horse truly bonds with a person (not quite like the Black Stallion or the Joanna Campbell books where only one person can ride the horse) then that horse will give its heart and soul to the rider and that's when championships are made.
The 5 best pieces of advice for any eager future horse, pony, mini, donkey or mule owner:

1. Take riding lessons, work in a stable, lease a horse, BEFORE YOU BUY YOUR OWN HORSE.

2. Learn about horse care, feeding and management. A horse simply isn't cared for like other pets.

3. Have a reasonable budget - horses are expensive - much more expensive than you think. They need vaccines, worming, appropriate feed and bedding, and frequent, professional attention for their feet.

4. Don't start with a young, untrained horse, a weanling, foal, yearling - don't do it. No matter how much cheaper it seems. Don't start with a spirited, excitable horse. Don't start with high stepping show horse that is trained to react to the slightest twitch from the rider. Start with an older, trained, calm, quiet, easy to handle horse that is not overly touchy, sensitive or active. Don't let any sweet-talking horse seller talk you into anything else...and ignore that little devil sitting on your shoulder that's saying, 'suuuuure you can handle that horse' !!!!!

5. Do NOT choose your first horse by yourself. Allow a much more experienced person to guide you - and if need be, pay a flat fee to have the person select a suitable horse. Have that horse thoroughly inspected and examined by a veterinarian. Listen if the more experienced person or veterinarian advises you that the horse is not suitable or safe or healthy. Being a first horse is a very special job - not every horse is suitable.

Conformation/build - Books and books have been written on this. But the fact is, it simply takes a lot of time and practice and guidance to develop an 'eye' that can see proportions, angles and balance. More subtle things like the angle of the ankles or hocks are simply not cut and dried. Such things may ruin a horse for racing in the Kentucky Derby, but be completely unimportant for the casual rider who rides at at easy pace. That's why it's best to choose your first horse with the guidance of a much more experienced person. To be honest, the disposition and training of the horse is going to be your first priority with your first horse. Too - much of 'conformation' isn't practical stuff at all - like the shape of the ears or the forehead, color, markings, and the like. This is the kind of thing that earns blue ribbons in competitions, but simply doesn't add a lot to your safety or enjoyment of your horse. Knowing how those faults affect YOUR horse and YOUR situation- that simply isn't easy. Get an experienced person to guide you in your choice of first horse. Your first horse may not be the handomest or most perfect horse - the important thing is that he is appropriate for you as a novice.

Food - The main thing with feeding horses is sticking to a very, very steady routine(time, amounts), sticking to small meals, frequent meals, making no drastic, sudden changes in feed, and feeding 'horse appropriate feed' and 'horse appropriate balance'. Horses should not be fed when sweaty and hot from work. Horses have a very long digestive tract(up to 150 ft long), and food moves along through it pretty much continuously, and is digested slowly. Gorging(over eating) or sudden changes of food type can make them very sick, even kill them. Horses should not have 'variety' of diet. While an occasional carrot is appreciated, bigger changes their feed can cause a lot of health problems. Unlike humans horses are made to eat frequent small meals of a consistent type of food.

Diet - Many horses are either very thin or very fat. Both have a bad effect on their health. Good owners keep their horse at a slim healthy weight. Horses vary in how easily they become overweight. Small pony breeds and some of the versatility breeds (Morgans, etc) can put on weight very easily.

Hay. The main food of most horses is hay, which is usually packaged into 'bales' (various sizes available). Hay is dried grass (and sometimes richer legumes like clover, alfalfa, etc) plants. People learn to identify the plants so they know what is in the hay and can judge its quality. The nutrients in a given hay can vary depending on when the plants are cut and how much of each species of plant is present in the hay (as well as other reasons). Horses need to eat 1.5-2% of their body weight in hay a day. That means a 1000 lb horse needs 20+ lbs of hay a day - half or more of a small bale. Hay bales fall into 'flakes' when opened, and most people feed 'by the flake', but flakes vary in size and weight. People learn to 'feel' the weight of flakes - few people weigh what they feed each day. While cows and other animals can eat hay that would kill a horse, horses are sensitive to the quality of the hay. Very coarse, fine, mouldy or simply different hay - can make them very sick.

Grazing. Many horses spend part or all of their time in a grass pasture. In some parts of the US, pasture grass is only available part of the year. Extremes of weather and 'overstocking' (putting too many animals on too small a pasture) can affect pasture. Usually, there is a mixture of different plants in a pasture - grasses, legumes. We once figured out that for our hay and our pasture, one hour on our pasture equaled about two flakes of our hay. While being on pasture 24/7 is the romantic ideal, most horses do quite well with less pasture grazing than that - as long as meals are small and frequent and they get exercised.

'Bagged' feeds or concentrates. Pellets, grains, mixed 'sweet' feeds, etc. These are feeds that contain more protein, carbs and fats than pasture and hay. Many horses do not require concentrates. Idle horses and those in light work often are healthiest on pasture and hay. However, a horse may require concentrates for growth, pregnancy, or more active exercise/training.

Supplements. Unfortunately in the US companies are free to sell almost anything as a feed supplement for horses, and many wild claims are made for these products. Most horses do well on pasture, hay and a vitamin-mineral salt block. We horse people are a funny lot though and many of us swear by these products to put a gloss on the coat, make better hooves, or make our horses stronger, faster or calmer. It's good advice to keep supplement feeding simple and not go to too many different products.

Land for Horses. Low, poorly drained land makes for a lot of trouble with horses. Because of their weight and motion, and because they tend to nibble or wear away the grass, even smaller animals tend to be very hard on land, even fairly well drained land. It's important before you bring horses home, to imagine how your property will handle it. Many properties just aren't suitable. If you plan to build a barn, first get some help about where to put it - so you don't wind up putting it where it's going to catch a lot of runoff. Hooved animals don't do well standing in poorly drained areas - injuries and poor health result. Areas where they 'loaf' and stand, such as gates and doorways, tend to get muddy and dangerous very quickly. Many of us have to budget for excavation and drains, gravel and other improvements to our property, to keep horses.

Exercise. Unlike humans, a horse's health, to a much greater degree, depends on exercise - daily exercise. A lack of exercise can cause digestive problems, overweight and issues with the legs and feet. Daily supervised exercise - riding, longeing, driving is very important for a horse's health - even during bad weather, winter, summer, etc. Anyone who gets a horse should have an area with a safe, suitable surface, to exercise the horse frequently, and plan to set aside time at least a few times a week, to exercise the horse.

Handling horses. Horse handling really is an art. Some horses are easy to handle and others are not. There are a great many different 'systems' or 'methods' and these days from different celebrity trainers, a lot of them are on the internet - selling DVD's and books. Many of these work off of very complicated theories - and it's doubtful that most horses really work off complicated theories. As always, horse people are a very opinionated lot and each person has their favorite 'guru'. But often, the best method is the simple, basic one a person learns while taking riding lessons and working around an experienced horse person who guides them.

Safety. Novices tend to think of horses much as they do about their dogs or cats - or their human friends...or horses they've read about in stories or seen in Hollywood movies! But horses usually weigh around 1000 lbs, and they simply don't think or react like humans...or dogs...or cats...or horses in movies! Being safe means understanding how horses learn, think, move and react. Being safe also means having wide, clear doorways, fences, gates, walls and buildings that really are strong enough to be safe around horses! Many people underestimate how heavy a horse is or how much damage it can do when it really gets moving. A sheet of plywood just isn't going to cut the mustard as a stall or door. Barns, fences, stalls - everything needs to be built understanding how strong horses are - and how big. A safe barn is a clean barn - buckets, implements, tools, stowed away and secured. Aisles clear of junk, and feed secured where a horse can't get at it!

Instruction/training. Most novices feel very secure that they don't need riding lessons or a trainer. After all, watch 'My Friend Flicka' or 'The Black Stallion'! THOSE people didn't need lessons! Unfortunately, the novice often gets himself an untrained or poorly trained horse and winds up shocked that his dear horse doesn't turn, stop or go. He gets bitten, kicked, and shoved. The horse who behaved like an angel when he went to try it out, is now a horrible brat, after only a few weeks. Many people don't understand why this is happening. The answer is really not what most want to hear - take the ridng lessons, get the experience, THEN get the horse - and get a well trained one, seasoned, and older. Continue to take riding lessons and to learn. Otherwise this relationship can go sour pretty fast!

The blacksmith/farrier. While many horses go through long periods of time without attention to their feet, this just isn't ideal. Horses need to have their hooves trimmed and cared for by a professional, trained horse farrier. While some go longer, 6-8 weeks is recommended. Not all horses require shoes, but a great many do need them.

Min horses and Small Ponies. These days we see a big boom in miniature horse and small pony ownership. Many people think a mini needs less careful feeding, training or attention to its feet. However, a mini needs hoof trims, vaccines, training - everything a full size horse needs. Furthermore due to their size special arrangements often have to be made to exercise them. Longeing or driving is possible, but the owner must buy a properly fitted cart and harness and learn to drive. But as with full size horses, walking around eating grass usually is not sufficient to keep them healthy and fit.

Training minis and ponies. Many people get these smaller equines without knowing how to handle or train them. Many seem to not understand that even a mini can do an awful lot of biting, kicking and pushing that can hurt a human. Even if you don't get hurt it can be frustrating and just isn't enjoyable to have an equine 'brat' for a pet. These little animals need training just like their bigger cousins. Learn how to handle and train horses before you get your mini.

Horses - minis, ponies and full size horses all are fascinating, beautiful animals. But they require a great deal more time, knowledge, work and attention than other animals. Be prepared and knowlegeable before you get your horse, pony or mini!
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And lets not forget Fury!!

ANother thing to remember is that if you get a horse, 1 horse you will need a companion animal or two so that when you take your horse for a ride, the animals won't get bent out of shape while the horse
is gone. Sheep or goats make good companions.
Don't get 1 of those, get a pair, even llamas are good.

When you go saddle shopping, remember some serious advice.. 1- get a wither tracing of the horse's back, 2- work with a person or a store that will let you leave your credit card number OR check
so you can see if the saddle fits, if it doesn't you can return it and try another (use a clean thin towel OR a sheet to see if it fits so you don't get hair on the fleece/underside of the saddle).
Don't be "wow'd" with looks on a saddle!!!
4- the saddle needs to fit the horse 1st!!, then fit you.

When horse shopping, take an experienced person with you OR pay a trainer to come with you.
Caveats when horse shopping.. IF the horse is standing there waiting for you all saddled up.... ask the owner to remove the saddle and turn the horse out so you can see how it is to be
caught and saddled/handled/groomed. If they refuse walk away.
IF they refuse... walk away. A good seller shows how the horse is to be caught, groomed and saddled. You can learn alot about the horse watching this.
Now its not always a bad thing... my BO has a mare who a great mare, but once she has been caught and ridden... the next time she sees that halter, she is off like a rocket, and refuses
to get caught. So we put her in a smaller paddock instead of the big pasture, the mare is a great mare she had learned she could get away with things by taking off when we wanted to catch her.

Ask the owner to walk the horse out to see how it travels, walk/trot being led, see it lunged at w/t/c. Is the horse cinchy or bad to tack up??

Then have the owner OR one of their people/relatives ride the horse first, if they refuse, walk away. They are hiding something.
The horse is familiar with these people, you will see more things right and wrong, then when you or the trainer try the horse.
Have your experienced horse person go over the horse with you, perhaps have them try the horse, and then you.
IF you see things you don't like, IF the person you brought with you doesn't think the horse will work for you, listen to them.
This is a buyers market, you can find a good horse at a good price.
Don't just go look at the "pretty" horses...
I have seen time and again people say they are looking for a 16HH black and white (fancy horse) OR Pearl white/buckskin/palomino/dun/roan horse.
The boring chestnut, with 1 white leg, high withers, straight shoulder, ugly(ish) head.. could be the most perfect, trustworthy horse you will ever have!

SO stay away from the bling, look beyond the drool factor pretty horses and look at ALL the horses in the area you are moving to, to purchase.
Stay away from sellers who refuse to show you how the horse is in the field/tacking up/riding their own horse(or having a relative/trainer do it).
Get a proper fitting saddle for the horse, then see how it fits YOU.
Don't get a baby or green/young horse unless you truly know how to work with a young horse and can wait the few years it will take for it
to grow, then be trained.
Be open minded and look past the stereo types of breeds of horses, Saddlebreds being super high strung, Arabs being hyper, Appy's being stubborn and will go blind from moon blindness.
TB's from the track only knowing one gear (fast).

And lastly IF you are going to show, remember the fashion trends for western (HATE IT!!!), english is more traditional and boring
Give your new horse time to settle in, take things slowly, work with some one if you can. AND WEAR A HELMET!!!

Keep us posted of what you are looking for!!

Here are some pics of my 9 yr old Saddlebred cross, she is neurotic, high strung, goofy, gets bored easily, but I can do anything I want with her, I trained her myself, and she is a
horse that only a few people could like.

Indi and I in a costume parade


Indi and I doing dressage




Barrel racing and pole bending


Christmas parade


Costume trail ride that was 3 hours long


Indi and I last summer in a parade (she hadn't been ridden in a few months)


OUr last trail ride of the year last fall, I had broken my shoulder and she had
not been ridden in months again. only 3 times last year.

And a pic from winter
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If you have ANY misgivings about a horse, don't buy it.

I'm an experienced enough rider (as are others on here) that will buy a horse knowing it has some unusual kinks and quirks, but a novice shouldn't deal with those. For my horse includes a super fast trot and a racing mentality. Great for an experienced endurance rider, a disaster for someone who wants a slow trail horse.

A lesson I took once years ago happened simultaneously as a teenage boy was getting a jumping lesson on a Morgan/TB cross that would over-jump all the fences. He had been jumping for awhile and he and the trainer were aiming the horse for Jumper classes since he had the power to do it. He would not make a nice hunter over fences horse since he had no style.

Also, DO NOT be afraid of an "old school master" in their mid to late teens. They still have a lot of good, years ahead of them and they know their jobs.

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