Opinion

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They say that every picture tells a story — but when you’re assessing horses, photographs can be misleading.

People often send me pictures and ask if I think an animal will make a particular type of show horse. My answer is always that I need to see something in the flesh.

Professional photographers with a good knowledge of horses know how to stand an animal for the camera and photograph it from the correct angle. Pictures taken from the wrong angle can give the wrong impression.

They can make a horse look short in the neck or too long in the leg; you can make a noble head look big and ugly; and you can make a deep-bodied, well-muscled show horse look fat.

That’s why keyboard warriors should be careful about attacking others. Posting pictures of winning riders and criticising their horses, as happened at Horse of the Year Show, isn’t just bad manners — it reflects a lack of knowledge.

It’s also a criticism of the judges who stood an arm’s length from that horse and assessed it with the benefit of their knowledge and experience. While you can attribute some of it to jealousy and ignorance, that doesn’t excuse it.

Most societies have social media policies that allow them to discipline members who break the relevant rules. For example, last year the British Show Horse Association fined a member £300.

Social media offers a great place for sharing congratulations and great moments. Please, let’s keep it that way.

Building for the future

Now the official showing season is over, I’m enjoying working with my annual bunch of breakers. For us, and for many professional yards, it’s good to have a rest from 3am starts and to work “normal” hours for a while.

I’m sure that come March, I’ll be anxious to get going and take our new prospects out and about. Some people don’t like taking on horses they have to start from scratch, but I find that it helps me build a bond with them.

It also means that I know what sort of foundation has been established and that the basics haven’t been rushed. When a horse trusts you, he looks to you when he needs help, and that continues when you start to compete him.

It’s funny when someone looks over a stable door and clearly thinks you’re over-optimistic when you say the horse should make a top-class riding horse, cob, or whatever. If a horse has star quality and correct movement, it’s all about assessing the frame and knowing where you can build muscles through work and feeding. When you get him in the ring and judges share your view, then it makes everything worthwhile.

As I write this, I’m looking forward to a trip to trusted contacts in Ireland, to earmark horses from foals to three-year-olds whom I hope will be future stars. They don’t come over until they’re three, but I like to find them early.

In the meantime, have a productive winter — I look forward to catching up with you in 2018.

Ref Horse & Hound; 2 November 2017