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Help with Conformation - Looking to Buy

Hi all,

I’m looking to purchase my first horse this summer and will be doing some low level dressage, with the hopes of being able to reach 2nd or 3rd level at some point. I will be starting training level as I am just coming into dressage from the hunter world. I have a few horses I am considering, but find dressage conformation extremely confusing. I am looking at two 6 year olds right now, one further along under saddle than the other, but both a very similar price with decent bloodlines. They are both breeder-owned. Since these horses are not mine, am I allowed to ask for comments or do they need to be PMed? I’m new to the forums and want to make sure I’m doing the right thing here! I am on a budget and so I do not mind a horse with some obvious conformation flaws, but I am looking for the best possible deal. I do also realize that conformation isn’t everything, but I have not met either in person yet. I do have video links too, however one has only under saddle videos while the other only has free/lunging videos so it is hard for me to compare them. Sorry for my lack of knowledge and any help would be greatly appreciated!

Sorry for the small image. This gelding is 16.1 hands and has Donnegan, Donnerhall lines, dam is a TB. 6 years old and further along under saddle.

This gelding is 15.3 hands and is a DWB with Iroko, Pion and Amour Du Bois lines. 6 years old, only lightly started under saddle.

I will be working with a trainer with any horse I decide to purchase, but would like any information you can give me (PMed or not, I don’t know how it works)!

Neither have conformation I would purchase for sport. Also six and barely started is something I’d avoid without stellar conformation/temperament/proven bloodlines.

I like the first gelding by Donnegan much more that the second one. The shoulder looks like it might be a bit upright and the neck could use more muscling, but overall a pretty harmoniously built horse. Donnegan himself is a dressage stallion who has competed up to the FEI levels here in Ontario.

The second gelding does not have very strong hind end conformation and his neck looks like it would be hard to get “on the bit”. Iroko was a very good jumper stallion. I’ve known a few of his offspring and they were all jumper types, not dressage horses.

I agree with Forte. The first one needs a lot of building up over the topline to fill in that neck, and I’d like a straighter hind leg, but the overall balance is nice.

The second one’s complete lack of muscling is disturbing. Even unridden, there should be some there. The low tied in neck could make correctly being on the bit a proble,.

The 2nd one has some seriously soft looking pasterns - and his feet look like they are long too. I would worry that he might not stay sound. He also has the start of a “hunter bump” behind. I think his neck and wither will be problematic for dressage and saddle fitting - although it is hard to tell when he’s not “set up” for a conformation shot. I would pass on him.

I think the first is OK - not great but OK. He is heavier in front then behind, not the most “harmonious and balanced” build, but I think if he uses himself OK, he should be fine as a mid-level horse.

How are they to ride? How do they use themselves? Conformation is just part of the overall package.

I used search criteria for dressage only, training level, 15k or less, 3-5 years old warmblood and came up with these two prospects.

Both your listed horses have conformation that will require a lot of work. You might consider horses that already can move in a dressage frame. Training level is just a start, but appropriate for these young horses listed. These seem very nice.



Then there are the Facebook groups selling dressage horses.

I’ve been shopping for a young horse prospect for nearly 2 years.

I would completely forget either one of these 6 year olds. Neither of them are even worth going to look at. Reason is that a horse that is already 6 and not under saddle has some kind of issue- which you are going to find once you fork over big bucks and discover a radiographic mess- likely you are going to find out that the horse has been vetted and passed over numerous times.

I am utterly astounded by how many youngsters have soundness issues- and have never done a days work in their lives. Both of these horses look kind of moth eaten- a BAD sign.

Neither have particularly good conformation- both are out behind one has a straight shoulder, the other has very long fetlocks- both of these are bad for any type of riding, especially collection and dressage. Who wants to sit on a jackhammer? Pasterns like that probably already have arthritic changes.

Viscayne has the type of movement and ridability one is looking for in a lower level prospect- nice mover, about a 6-7, but not huge, well put together, good character. Canter is quite nice- looks comfortable and he reaches under nicely. Frankly, this horse with competent training could go to PSG easily. He may not get 75% at it, but he could put in a credible test. Walk is a little lateral, but riding out and continued development will help that. He’s also a well bred horse, and that counts.

When you are looking for a dressage prospect, it’s the same as a jumping prospect, except that a longer backed horse is fine as long as the canter reaches under and he’s not 4 beat. Most good dressage horses are also good jumping horses- with more lofty gaits, more suspension.

Frankly, I like to see prospects free jumping as well as flat work. If the horse sits and has a reasonable bascule, that shows he will also sit and collect.

Want to see 4 straight legs, I particular dislike and avoid horses which paddle in front, good pastern angle, nice big feet with good walls, not too flat. Croup needs to be large and at at least a 50 degree angle. I want withers so I can keep a saddle in place. I want a high set neck that tapers into the head and makes the horse easy to put on the bit, neither too long or too short, although short is preferable over too long. I want a strong back that’s neither too short or too long so he looks balanced. And I’d like a nice head, even though its the least important factor, because who doesn’t like to look at a nice head? And you should be able to drop a plumb like through the hind legs and nothing sticks out or comes too far forward of that line- and that, is MANDATORY. Bad hocks are not worth getting involved in when you have a choice- and you always have a choice- because you can WALK AWAY.

One thing you need to remember when buying horses- the purchase price is only paid once, but the mistake of buying the wrong horse costs you forever. It’s so bad to own the wrong horse that it is almost immaterial what you pay for the horse in the first place. Wrong horses don’t stay sound, don’t work well, cost tons in training, aggravation, disappointment, and erode your self esteem to nothing.

When I was shopping for my first dressage horse, I had a small budget (5k) and hopes of getting a horse that may take me to 2nd/3rd. I ended up buying a HanxTB 5 year old that had 30 days under saddle. He was a bit goose-rumped, not the best canter, and certainly under-muscled everywhere. But he was in my price range and he had a good brain. Seven years later, and he is now showing 4-3 and we are getting ready to make the move to PSG. He has been the perfect amateur horse for me.

My point is that, depending on your budget, there are lots of little issues that you can live with an still have fun and move up in your training. You just may not always be in the top ribbons. Conformation is important, but how a horse moves under saddle and works for you is much more important in my experience. For my next horse, I will buy the best canter that I can afford!

I like the first one better but although his hip isnt bad I wonder if he can get is hocks under him as the set of them looks long. May be the angle of the picture. Pictures can lie.

I gotta say, tough crowd! Either of these horses could probably go off and do 2nd or 3rd if they have the right mind for it, move nicely, are healthy, and there are no glaring errors of conformation that make them move like ducks or prone to future unsoundness. How can folks rule them out based on one (bad) photo of each?

Do these two have the right mind? Can’t tell from a picture! A beautifully conformed horse can be one that’s a jerk or with a mind that cannot handle pressure and they don’t make it past training - seen it many times.

How do these two move? Obviously we can’t see THAT from a picture. Athletic expression can only be partially predicted from conformation photos: it’s the charisma, presence, suspension, purity and regularity of the gaits that all come together to make a wow mover. And sometimes some strength and training too.

Are these two healthy? Pictures don’t say! Vet check and history of work will help. A 6 yr old unstarted in weak looking condition was likely out in the back 40 of a busy breeder - or may have injured himself playing. Find out.

Any glaring conformation errors? I actually don’t see anything hideous - mostly because both pictures are bad: taken from slightly behind the horse, standing up a hill - esp the TBx. And also because things like offset knees aren’t visible at this angle.

Make a list of the faults you find deal breakers. Mine are back at the knee, very toed in or lightly out as a baby (as the chest widens, the toes rotate generally) or unevenly toed in/out, downhill build, low set neck, very short neck, vert upright shoulder + pastern, very weak hocks.

If you have a fat budget of course you can be picky.

Agree with those who say keep looking.

The right horse built for the job is worth the wait.

Thank you to everyone who commented, it’s helped me think about things I may not have thought of before. I am not sure if I will still be looking at these horses or if I will wait until my budget can buy me a horse who could work better for me. I really appreciate all of the help!

OP, why not lease a horse to start?

That would give you a chance to save up a bit, try different kinds of horses and learn what would be the best fit for you.

I can’t believe that no one has told you all about the mule that made it to PSG yet! And that conformation isn’t everything, and every horse should be able to get to at least Third! :lol:

The link to the second horse isn’t working for me, so I can’t see him. The first horse’s hind end looks a little disproportionate (as in small). But the angle is funny, so I could be completely wrong. We’ve got a saddlebred cross with a hind end that looks like that, and it’s hard to get this horse to step under.

I have some friends who bought horses that had minimal under saddle work by age 6. They currently have a myriad of soundness issues or bad brains. Just something to think about. I would look at age and lack of a resume as a red flag too.

I think you will find that your ability to advance up the Dressage ladder will be better if you start on a horse that already knows 2-3 level.

I would get with the trainer and look for something to lease.

the transition from hunters to dressage is going to be an eye opener for you. Trying to do it on a young horse that is barely one step in front of you adds to the challenge

" And that conformation isn’t everything, and every horse should be able to get to at least Third! " are you serious?

" And that conformation isn’t everything, and every horse should be able to get to at least Third! " are you serious?

I suspect not, given the laughing emo. I think our fellow poster is being a bit pokey stick at the sometimes opinions of others

read it again seems pretty tongue in cheek to me

" And that conformation isn’t everything, and every horse should be able to get to at least Third! " are you serious?[/QUOTE]

pretty sure that poster was kidding, but conformation ISN’T everything.

" And that conformation isn’t everything, and every horse should be able to get to at least Third! " are you serious?[/QUOTE]

Long-time lurker here. I have seen it happen before. Threads about conformation, or horses maxing out at low levels take a sharp left turn into “ALL SOUND HORSES CAN DO THIRD.” It’s crazy! So yes, I was being snarky.

Long-time lurker here. I have seen it happen before. Threads about conformation, or horses maxing out at low levels take a sharp left turn into “ALL SOUND HORSES CAN DO THIRD.” It’s crazy! So yes, I was being snarky.[/QUOTE]

Too bad you’re not very well educated. Pretty much all horses are capable of 3rd level. If you can’t do a flying change or half pass, there’s a problem, probably the limitation of the rider. Now, you may not do well, but you should be able to do something. All horses can do their own version of extended work, and all horses can do walk pirouettes.

It’s really sad people in here are so limited about what horses “can” do. It’s really sad some people jump in and encourage this limited thinking. And, not, I’m, not joking. Being snarky and saying it’s crazy it’s just so . . . sad.

Why do you think it’s a joke the mule is at PSG? He’s not the world’s greatest, but so what? That’s the POINT of dressage, training. Train every horse to be the best they can to do movements all can do to a point.