Buying a top show jumper

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    Show jumper Tim Stockdale looks for a horse that, on first impression, is pleasing to the eye, appears capable of doing the job and has good athletic conformation.

    Tim likes to see a horse in it’s own box first. “I want to see him in his own house to assess his attitude towards me – does he put his ears back? Is he pleased to see me? You can learn a lot about a horse’s character this way.”

    Tim then asks for the horse to be brought into the yard. “I like to see them in the light to look him over. I am not looking at potential veterinary problems, but trying to put together a picture. Are there any scars? How well is he shod? Why is his head not been clipped? This can tell me how he’s been used. I go a lot on first impressions. If I like him at this stage, I will very often like him throughout, but if I don’t, I very rarely change my mind.”

    “Ultimately, the horse has to be able to do the job. Other good qualities can overcome conformation defects. Show jumping is about jumping fences and people can make it too complicated and be too critical of a horse.”

    When it comes to conformation, Tim says he steers clear of horses with a ewe neck: “He probably won’t be able to do the job,” he says, “and I don’t like to see long pasterns.”

    Points which Tim is less concerned about include asymmetric feet: “One foot bigger than the other, and most people make too much of this, nor would I worry about a horse being slightly over at the knee, or that it has a curb.”

    If Tim still likes the horse, he asks to see it ridden. “I never see a horse loose. I want to see a horse with a saddle on it even if that means paying more to have it broken. I have to earn my living on top of horses not running alongside them.

    “I insist someone else rides him first, I want to see a horse that holds himself in balance, has good co-ordination and is happy in his bridle.”

    At this stage Tim will either ride the horse or call it a day: “It is important to be honest. If you’ve decided at this stage that he’s too small, he won’t be any bigger after you’ve ridden him for an hour.”

    Tim will not let the breeding of a horse influence his decision. “Although I ask about the breeding, I look at the result in front of me – it is very easy to sell on potential, but if you went purely on breeding there are so many well-bred horses you would buy every one of them.”

    Finally, Tim likes to see a horse a second time even if he stays overnight to see it first thing the next morning.

    “I have to like a horse as much the second time, if not more,” he says. “But I always bide by my own rule that if I find two reasons not to like a horse I won’t buy it.”

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