5 things to look for in a young horse

There is a band of talented amateurs — many with full-time jobs — who specialise in producing young horses for others to take on. H&H finds out what they look for in their horses — from finding something with good conformation to one that’s bold and unflappable.

1. Good raw material: “Some of the best horses look [like] nothing as four- and five-year-olds — you have to use a bit of imagination,” says producer Becky Marsden, a lawyer and amateur eventer. “I wouldn’t buy anything that has been over-produced. If a three-year-old was jumping 1.20m it would put me off.”

2. A leader of the pack: “I want a horse that’s bold, unflappable and confident,” says Caroline Bridge, a farmer’s wife from Bury St Edmunds who has made a name for herself producing youngsters that have gone to the top in various different disciplines. “Often, the horse I’ll go for at an auction will be the one that leads the parade through the tunnel and into the arena.”

3. The whole package: “I want movement, conformation and temperament,” says dressage rider Kerry Mackin, who found and produced C Fatal Attraction, Sophie Wells’ successful para dressage horse star. Kerry also has an acid test. “When I look them in the eye, I want them to look straight back at me. They have to be sure of themselves.”

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4. Conformation: “Sound limbs are a must, but no horse is perfect,” points out Caroline. “Sometimes you have to compromise — grand prix dressage horse Don George has four very small feet, but it hasn’t affected him.”

5. Temperament: “When you’re only concentrating on one or two horses, you need to start with the right material,” says producer Elana Chilton, a senior branch manager for the employment agency Adecco. “It can be the best-looking horse in the world, but if it’s not trainable you’ll be wasting your time and money. Plus, if I buy a horse to sell on, temperament is something I would never compromise on.”

H&H 29 January 2015

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