Studying conformation in the hunter world. Every year the conformation classes get smaller and smaller, as the performance classes grow and grow. If we intend to catch up on breeding in America, somebody better start planning ahead to save these conformation divisions. The direct connection between conformation and breeding should be obvious, the better the horse, the more we should breed for that type right?
The regular pony divisions have kept conformation in the percentage of the judges score which could explain why pony breeding is stronger in America than anywhere else in the world. We have very specific guidelines on height, lines, performance, and seem to have a pretty good handle on producing nice hunter ponies for the Recognized show world. Just try to suggest removing conformation out of the division ponies and ten thousand pony people will stand up and start raising hell. lol.
Horses, on the other hand, have fallen way behind. In the 1900’s, classes for almost every breed and discipline were offered – cob, corinthian, lady’s hunter, gaited saddle horses, heavy hunter, green hunter, you name it, you saw it. For EVERY class, the bare minimum percentage of the conformation score was 25%. Thus, the education of how to breed to be the winner was addressed at every show. Now, in this millennium, there are TWO divisions that are judged on conformation?? How is this possible?
We have done a complete disservice to the horsemen of the future because of our impatience. We want to get the show over early, we are bored watching conformation classes, it takes up too much time in the schedule. Yada, Yada, Yada. Well congratulations, now we have a whole bunch of people who don’t know why it is important to judge conformation. Since the ignorance runs so deep and for so long, we have a giant huge screaming gap of knowledge on how to breed horses.
Every horse at the show should be judged on conformation, every horse should have a known pedigree, every exhibitor and spectator should be told the sire and dam of each horse, every publication should print that pedigree, and we should start that education right now before it is too late. Don’t tell me it can’t be done, this is America, it can be done.
Peter Vischer was a well known writer for magazines across the country in the 1920’s and 30’s on all disciplines, and was quoted as saying “the business of racing should never be permitted to suffocate the sport”. The same applies today for horse shows. This mad business of horse shows has completely desecrated the sport, along with the understanding of horses, so we are all in it for the quick buck, not for the love, not for the future, not for the horsemen, not for the horses – we have even turned some show grounds in the South into playgrounds for the wealthy, which is fine, but we better have an idea about how to climb out of the ignorance, or we all will be forced to shop at Barney’s of New York for the next amateur hunter. You don’t think that is possible? They already sell our clothing, what makes you think they can’t sell our horseflesh?
If the media is not placing enough attention on certain aspects of our sport, like conformation hunters, no one will know what to look for and applaud. Will we rely on word of mouth? Are people writing books about these winning horses? Will anyone read those books? Who reads a book these days? I thought it was all about FB, Tumblr, and Instagram.
Forgetting or being too lazy to connect the dots (or closing that gap) seems to be common practice in the horse show industry, maybe because absolutely no one has any intention of ensuring some sort of legacy for future generations, or because we don’t have enough of generational riders, family businesses, thus we are stuck with more and more people that come and go in this sport on a whim and an inheritance. I don’t know, but there might be a way to start being less lazy, and more proactive with things like breeding and conformation. Why can’t we call back the top 8 pre-green horses to judge the conformation? Aren’t those horses our future amateur and children/junior hunters? Baby greens get a bonus for top conformation? Is there any viable solution here?
If riders/trainers end up focusing more on conformation, then maybe they can make better choices when purchasing horses. Or maybe they can make a better educated decision when that fancy mare retires from the show ring, and can have babies, match it up with an appropriate stallion, rather than donating it, selling it as a trail horse, or just leaving it to be someone else’s problem. Riders in Europe certainly have more knowledge from the beginning of a horses life to the end, why can’t American riders?
Do we need to start small? One horse show? An ALL Conformation Show……Or maybe an unrecognized show circuit that sees the value and importance of conformation, and is willing to help the future riders look for flaws, or identify athleticism, and doesn’t mind to take the time to do something different – educate those exhibitors on a budget, yet in it for the love.
I do vaguely remember in my lifetime junior hunters being judged on conformation once, somewhere in the country, but trainers raised such an uproar because the perfect course was usurped by a better, structurally sound horse, and some kid cried all the way home, that it was taken out. (also stinks of politics) I thought we were supposed to be making kids tougher for the sport, not crybabies, but I guess not. To solve that problem you could just make one of the classes a bonus class for conformation. But whatever, I am not suggesting change overnight, I just think a little education would go a long way. Make it fun, though, education is nothing without the fun factor….
Epic battle! this is funny from 1960 —> CLICK ON LINK http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/1960-conformation-hunter-report
If nothing else, anyone reading this today should be able to spell CONFORMATION correctly in the future.