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When looking for a horse with potential, three-day eventer Karen Dixon has a clear picture of the type she hopes to buy.

“I’m looking for a quality short-coupled horse which moves well and has a bit of character,” she says. “I like to find a fun person I can get on with and don’t mind if they buck me off to start with! The ideal horse is four or five years old, about 16hh and I’m a bay gelding sort of person.”

Karen prefers to look at the horse in his box first. “If I don’t like what I see in its conformation, I won’t bring it out of the stable.” Among the conformation points that would put Karen off are long sloping pasterns, cow, sickle or weak hocks, long backs and flat feet.

“I don’t mind curbs or the odd splint,” she says, “but I don’t like horses to be over or back at the knee. I don’t mind ewe necks too much – it is possible with correct training to turn a ewe neck around. On the plus side, good flat knees and good shaped feet are very important.”

If Karen likes the horse’s conformation, she then asks to see the horse trotted up.

“If I still like him, I then want to see him jump. If he’s not broken, I like to see him lunged over poles, to see if he does the right things, even if it’s over a stick on the ground. The horse must show a good jumping technique – up in front and free behind.

“The way he jumps is much more important than just having a flashy mover. I also prefer to see them ridden by someone else than myself. Watching them loose schooled as they do in Ireland is a great way of seeing them jump.”

Karen prefers the horse to be at least three-quarter bred. “I’m not really influenced by breeding, but if I’ve got a good horse by a particular sire I tend to be more interested in other offspring by that same sire.”

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