Dressage Prospect Conformation Critique

Easy choice once I see the videos- #2 is my winner.
2 has better breadth w/ a leg in each corner and the movement supports this- best for dressage.

#1- has way too little bone for size of body. I see lower leg injuries/lamenesses in the future.
#3 and 4- Just NO


I can’t watch the first video - it says the format is not supported.

That being said after watching the videos, I like #4 a lot more in the video than still photos. #4 has the most natural elasticity. #1 is nice but not as elastic in the canter. I would like to see #2 canter.

Conformation isn’t everything in dressage. So many of the horses at the UL look like they are put together by committee. So that is something to consider. I’m not saying it doesn’t play a role at all – it does, especially in their soundness – but for me I usually look for the horse’s personality and movement first, and then their conformation. I don’t always pick the horse with the best conformation - I want a horse who wants to be my partner.

With that in mind, I liked how #2 and #4 both wanted to keep coming back to their handlers. I didn’t love how #4 held her tail, between the videos I could watch (horses #1, #2, and #4) #2 would be my choice.


I like #2’s movement somewhat better than #1. Having just come from an earthbound horse, #1 is just too heavy up front for my taste. I like the spring and elasticity of #2.

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I also really like #2, but it kind of depends on your preference. I like the loin connection, shoulder reach and elasticity I’m seeing there. And I appreciate a little more compact horse, so closer to 16H than 17H is a plus in my mind. #1’s movement is a little flashier, but as a prospect to develop, I prefer #2.

A 2yo still has a few years of putting on bone :slight_smile:


The videos show movement exactly like their conformation suggests.

#1 is the best overall mover.
#4 doesn’t have the front end reach of the other 3, in part because of the front end conformation (the “worst” pillar of support, though it’s still adequate), combined with the “worst” loin coupling.

It’s a little hard to do a fair equal comparison, as the video of #3 is very “goosed”

#1 and #2 are close, but I still like them in that order. #3 isn’t really far behind but again - “goosed”.


Why is the one I think is the nicest, the cheapest? Is that a lot cheaper? Just breeding that isn’t as popular? Not registered?

#4 can be a nice horse, but is going to require more skill as a rider/trainer to keep the front end light. The fact that s/he is already heavy and fussy suggests more ground work needs to be done and/or a better rider, before poor habits develop

See my original comment - the hind end is lighter than I like to see it, relative to the body. The shoulder is visually heavier because the front legs are closer to the withers than the others

That’s a trait you have to decide if it’s something you want, and/or can ride.

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Fun game! They’re all nice horses, for sure.

I vote for #1 first, and #2 second, based on the visual info presented. But character’s a thing too. In real life, I’d choose the horse I most enjoyed as a personality - that is, the one that seems smartest, sanest, most responsive and most cooperative, even if it isn’t the prettiest one in pictures.


I like #2 and #3.

#2 Looks the best now but #3 will look the best in the future, especially if there is a lot of TB.

I would go for 3 :slight_smile:

It’s clearly not my opinion but for many dressage riders, having a TB parent up close muddies the water. There’s a perception they are:
A. Ammy unfriendly
B. Poor movers
C. Unsuitable for dressage

Even when the foal gets high points at inspection and even when it is an adult showing, there is a perception there that it should be cheaper because it has a TB parent.

Re: the concerns about bone in a 2 y/o… I wouldn’t even consider a 2 y/o an accurate representation of what bone it will have as an adult. The real concern isn’t the appearance of bone but the bone density – and bone density (which correlates to the horse’s ability to withstand to riding work) is impossible to measure by visual cues alone. It really can only be accurately assessed post-mortem AFAIK.


Beowulf, is knowing the records of the sire and dam and seeing photos of them useful in predicting mature bone mass/ density? I know density would have to be an extrapolation, but if either dam or sire had a lengthy sport or racing career and retired sound or with minimal issues, would that be a useful surrogate?

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My order is 3, 2, 1, and then 4.

They are all very nice horses.

But 3 is going to be really nice as a 4/5 year old.

I wouldn’t consider 4 for anything other than low level, I don’t think she would hold up to having to sit and really use her hind end.

Agree with Jealoushe–#3. Elastic mover through her back and “carries” herself. #1 looks a bit of a leg mover. #2 & #4 meh.

OP, you are fortunate we aren’t all sitting around together telling you our opinions in person–your head would be spinning from hearing all of the differing viewpoints.


It might be useful in predicting longevity. If both parents had a lengthy and successful career, chances are they were fundamentally sound – but behind every horse is a team, and behind every spectacular horse is usually a spectacular team. Farriers, vets, handlers, and lifestyle all play a huge role in the horse’s future soundness.

When trying to look at bone density versus looking visually at a “horse with a fistful of bone”, a good example is the Arabian. They’re fine boned, light, fast moving breeds… but when you quantify their bone density, they’re on par or even better than horses significantly more substantial than them, like WBs, cobs, and some light draft breeds. Their bone density is typically fundamentally better.

The other complicated part of bone density is that it changes depending on the workload and early life limb-loading. A young horse like a thoroughbred or race bred horse, if properly exercised, will have better bone density than its non-raced equivalent, always. There is a speed component at play with increase in bone density - so it’s not just about letting a young horse move around, either. Those two year old thoroughbreds prepping for their first start, for instance, will have significantly better bone density than their WB counterparts that lounge in a stall all day.

I would say seeing photos of the parents is useful in predicting their offspring’s phenotype once mature especially for closed studbook breeds. They tend to be very homogeneous in what is produced.

Having a lengthy sport or racing career and retiring sound would be a good cornerstone to hedge on the foal’s future soundness, but not the end-all: so many management components can play into a horse’s soundness, including their farrier. So it depends. The best thing for ensuring your horse’s future soundness is ensuring your farrier is doing a good job(g) and that the horse has as little stall time as possible. So many soft tissue injuries are caused in part by bad trimming/angles and the compensation the horse endures in light of being stalled all the time.


Wow. I want to thank all of you for your time to respond. And, thanks for all of the comments discussing why and what you are looking for.

In my world, everyone wants warmblood top and bottom, but TB further back in the lineage is good. That is why #1 was cheaper. I’ve had a few issues with previous horses having leg and foot lameness/issues. Similiar heritage on those two horses, so I appreciated the comments on #1 - upon viewing the legs and feet looked “smaller” than I am used to. Good knowledge on the density, etc.

#1 is about $5,000 cheaper than the rest :cowboy_hat_face:

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ahhh, I totally “ignored” that it’s WB x TB, that makes more sense.

100%, and I wouldn’t even consider that picture to show light bone in the first place.

Mass, sure, just like any other conformation trait. But look too beyond the direct sire/dam. I honestly don’t know the % heritability of bone mass, but IME it seems to be fairly direct - 2 heavy-boned parents are really, really unlikely to produce toothpicks, and vice versa. Things get trickier if you have an old style, coarser WB and a stereotypical TB, how will the offspring turn out. At 2, you can tell. This 2yo #2 is not a light-boned horse even at this age.


Feet grow for about 5 years. So at 2, there’s a good bit left. I’d look at the feet of the parents as well.


Agreed. I did not think that mare had too little bone at all – but again, 2 y/o. I should probably snap a photo of my 5 y/o filly some time and compare it to a 2 y/o picture. If you didn’t see her head, you wouldn’t think it was the same horse.

But this is totally normal. There are so many people who just don’t have experience with young horses, and don’t have the eye to know that the leggy 2 y/o is going to be a submarine on smokestack legs at 5.

I try not to be too negative but I do have a good laugh when people casually say a horse doesn’t have enough bone for XYZ job – when that job is usually toting around an average-weighing amateur rider at the low levels 5 days a week.

I’ve never personally owned a horse that had too little bone… but I’ve owned and ridden horses who were so substantial it was difficult to keep them sound. I would take the lighter framed horse any day provided I wasn’t too heavy for it. Maybe that is where some of the bone considerations come into play – either way, they are totally irrelevant and frivolous, because there is no correlation between limb thickness and bone density…


The whole bone thing fascinates me. From the way some talk about it, they expect draft-type legs on a TB, or big coarse WB legs on an Arabian.

You want to see light bone? Look at some halter-bred QHs who have 1400lb bodies on 800lb legs.


Bone density and bone shape are both affected by fast exercise on young racehorses. The ovid shape of cavity is definitely different than that of a non-raced youngster. I’m not convinced that density is worth the abnormal growth…i mean, i suppose whatever it takes to get those bones hard enough fast enough not to fracture under pressure of racing, but it is not a natural growth pattern.