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The British Dressage young horse forums have been a great success demonstrating both the tests and many tips for those buying and producing.

My rider, Beth Bainbridge, took three horses to  the Hurstbourne demo. The first two are still in the innocence of youth and behaved like angels, showing elasticity, good temperament and talent, and scoring eights to much praise.

Typically, the third — older — one (theres always one), who I’d pretty much guarantee will end up a fancy grand prix horse but is not a big mover at the moment, was furious that he was left until last on the lorry and got his own back by trotting like the wooden horse of Troy, “trantered” through the canter work and spent the rest of the session spooking at the flowers at E (all the other flowers were fine, it seemed). The presenters of the forum, Pauls Fielder and Hayler and Isobel Wessels, all grand prix riders themselves, were far too smart to write him off though. “At least he enjoyed himself,” said Beth philosophically.

The judges reiterated that there is no need for a “big trot”. In the grand prix, there is a maximum of 30 marks available for trot extensions. The piaffe/ passage tour is worth 150. As someone who spends several days a month looking at horses for potential purchase I’d  always go for a horse with a “square action”, who can lift the forearm, over a big stride.

Discerning vettings

One of the reasons horse-hunting is hard work is because everybody wants the same horse. Forward-going but safe. Reactive but not spooky. Friendly, an athlete, balanced, sound of mind and body, and it has to be perfect on the vetting. Or does it?

When I buy horses for myself I don’t expect them to be perfect on vettings. I think after a certain age it’s unrealistic. If there wasn’t something to discuss on an older one, I would probably assume the horse hadn’t done any work. Different vets have differing opinions on the same topics, so I use one very good sport horse vet that

I trust and we discuss the findings. I’m not afraid to buy older horses that have been “managed” well, so long as there is transparency about how the issue is dealt with.

The younger the horse is the cleaner I expect the vetting to be, but it can be a false sense of security. At six or seven, after working, that same horse will not necessarily still have the perfect vetting that it had as a three- or four-year-old.

I won’t buy horses with long pasterns and cannon bones or horses that ride very one-sided as I think it is often the first sign of trouble. I don’t like “leg flickers” as they are too hard on themselves. I look for flow through the body.

A rider on a rectangular-shaped horse will have to do two jobs: put the horse together and help the hindleg stay under; likewise on a lazy horse, the rider must keep the engine running and ride the exercises. This requires more coordination and skill, and long horses often suit more experienced riders. In a perfect world, a square shaped, forward-going horse is the easiest to ride. In all cases compromises will be made, but I trust my gut and most importantly, I’ll walk away.

Ref Horse & Hound; 9 February 2017