What do you look for in a prospect?

Say you were looking to buy a three year old, or a green youngster. What would you look for as indicators of potential in the dressage arena?

Potential for what level/degree of competitiveness?

I’d be interested to hear responses for different levels of horses. I imagine what you expect to see in a 3 yr old grand prix horse is worlds apart from what you would expect to see in a 3 yr old 4th level prospect.

Definitely! I’m just interested to hear what each individual looks for… which I’m sure would vary based on how competitive each individual wants to be. But I am especially interested in the higher level prospects.

For me as wanting to be a GP rider.

A super walk and a elastic canter. I don’t care about the trot, that be improved on later. But in saying that I don’t go for a massive trot. It has to be able to be collected and closed behind. I avoid horse’s who step wide behind because generally (not always! there are always exceptions) they find collected work a lot harder.
A sharp hind end. I want something with a lot of bend through the hocks.
If it’s under saddle I want to be able to ask for a bit of collection, even if its green to judge it’s reaction. Does it want to try and sit? Or does it run away and not even try.
It goes without saying a brain. I don’t mind something a bit spicy and forward but it can’t be spooky or explosive. It has to want to work and try. It’s hard to judge this on an unbroken horse but just running it through some basic groundwork can give you an idea of what it’s brain can be like.
And because I’m an amateur (trying desperately to be a pro though!) and work full-time it has to be something I enjoy riding everyday. I don’t want something that is a drama to ride and I dread getting on it.

I look for a trainable, willing temperment first and foremost. I want to do the FEI, and do most of the riding myself as an amateur. I have educated myself on the bloodlines that are prepotent for that. Then, I look for 3 good gaits. I would rather have a great walk and canter, and a good trot, as you can really train the trot to be better and the canter is harder to fix. Plus, there is a lot of things happening at the FEI in the canter. A quick hind leg is a must. Good confirmation would be next. I will say that I bought a 2 year old that I started myself who turned out to be a little tougher in the temperment category. It can be difficult to tell when they haven’t been started yet. That being said, she is turning out to be a good FEI prospect nevertheless. I would also buy something that you will feel comfortable on. There are too many horror stories out there about the too big moving WB with the timid AA that goes horribly wrong. Big gaits are only cool if you can ride them. The judges hate to see AA’s over-horsed. I had a BNJ tell me just how much they would prefer to see pairings that matched in size and ability. I would also absolutely keep your trainer in the loop and give them the final say. They can often times be more objective and less emotional about what is a good match for you.

What level of dressage are you hoping to achieve, OP? Are you looking at horses that are purpose-bred, or are you casting a wider net?

Basically, you want something with reasonable conformation. Reading dressage forums, you’d think that conformation is the be-all end-all of ability and soundness… and it isn’t. It’ll help you cull the train wrecks, but how a horse moves is far more important. Especially how it moves under saddle. Any horse can look fancy while being harassed in a round pen or whatever, but this rarely translates to quality while ridden.

Look for three clean, good quality gaits, decent conformation, and a horse that naturally caries itself uphill with some lift in its stride. In my experience, most of these animals, assuming they have the right attitude and stay sound, can make it to I-1 and be reasonably competitive. That has been my personal experience and observation. It certainly doesn’t have to be a warmblood, but if you’re looking for an “off-breed” then be prepared to weed through a lot more animals.

I look for a trainable, willing temperment first and foremost. [/QUOTE]

This. Three functional gaits - they do not need to be flashy, just pure and workable. I look for a horse who can adjust on their own - they can go forward and come back. It is hard w/ young horses - my experience with the canter - a horse at liberty being chased is a tense horse who will not show a good canter. Generally, if they have a good, swingy walk, the canter will end up being at least functional - if they have a walk with even the slightest lateral tendancy (when being led), I run away - that generally means a poorer canter.

IF they are already under saddle long enough to see at least some balanced walk, trot, canter, then I look at all three gaits and again - the mind. Reality is - the mind (and the rider) are much greater impediments then the movement.

Also look for a horse with a willingness to go - lazy horses don’t often make it to the FEI levels.

Great feet, correct limbs, charisma, and a correct loin/sacrum. High set neck, loose elbows, correct throat latch and jaw. Correct mouth conformation(no low palate) no cribbing… propensity to do flying changes when at liberty.

[QUOTE=not again;7479271]
Great feet, correct limbs, charisma, and a correct loin/sacrum. High set neck, loose elbows, correct throat latch and jaw. Correct mouth conformation(no low palate) no cribbing… propensity to do flying changes when at liberty.[/QUOTE]

Loin/sacrum. That’s my #1 in conformation. You can’t tell by a single photo, you can tell by feel on a horse standing still, and you can tell by multiple photos taken within a short time if the horse appears to have a different hip angle in each photo. I could not tell you what my filly’s hip angle is, because it is not the same from one instant to the next, as it moves like a well-oiled hinge. I like to see a similar effect in the shoulders - where they look different angles in different photos, which can help show the horse’s likelihood to have freedom of movement in the shoulders. In motion I want to see uphill movement regardless of whether or not the horse is in a butt-high growth phase, and hocks which reach well under.

The rest is personal preference. I like horses with strong personalities, and I usually adapt well to them, figure out how they tick, and end up with a horse strongly using its personality to cooperate instead of fight. For others, a strong personality can mean a fight. I do not, however, like horses who seem to have a nasty temperament - I know a really, really cool mare who I simply don’t like because she gives the impression she will happily run you over if you’re in her way, or even if you’re not, just for the fun of it. Her behavior under saddle is similar, but she and her rider work things out together. I also don’t like overly fearful horses - riding a horse who is afraid of everything saps me of all my energy. On the other hand, I love hot horses who get overexcited and need a lot of work to learn about relaxation and swing. I also like my horses narrower but solid enough to do the work, because I’m only 5’1" and physically smaller is more comfortable to me. Needless to say, I tend to really like TBs and horses with a lot of TB blood.

1st i dont buy just for dressage i buy for a horse to do mixed events which includes dressage as that means to school a horse so any horse or pony i buy then flat work is the what it will learn as soon as its broken in to ride
if i want a horse to compete properly as mine do then 1st thing is a decent breeder or if the horses for sale then i want to know of his proven back

as in what his /her parents did and there before them as that reflects on the price of the horse- so parentage is important, so is the breed as to type of horse or pony to do xyz has to be clean in wind and limb
must have a good conformation not bothered if mare or gelding or colour
but must be typical of the breed or type i want and like

clean head kind eye and a bit charactor and spirit i like horses and ponies that have a bit of something about them a presents an alertness keen eager and willingness to learn -

For all age prospects:

Movement - uphill and hind legs come to (at least) middle of the belly.

Temperment - sweet on ground - can be opinionated but will listen to alpha.

BIG overtrack in walk, very uphill canter.

Soundness. Often mistakenly over looked in young prospects leading to great disappointment. Every horse is going to be lame someday, but I scratch my head when I see the recently purchased 3/4 year old that drags a hind toe or they are asymmetrical up front. Usually the rider is convinced it’s young horse weakness, but it’s usually not.

I tend to buy horses I feel sorry for. Does that count? :lol:

Seriously though - trainability. As an amateur, for me that is the most important thing! A good attitude, a willingness to please, and an ability to pick things up quickly makes the road so much smoother.

After that, a really smashing walk.

And lastly conformation, though I don’t think it’s the be all and end all, I wouldn’t buy a horse with a crooked leg or roach back.

Hum… I thought this would be easy to answer and then I thought for moment and realized there is actually a lot of things I have on my priority list.

Temperament first and foremost - I like something that likes to work, I like a very forward thinking horse, I also like something that can think for itself when it needs to - i.e. my hunter mare can do courses all by herself (and has). :yes: I don’t mind a bit stubbornness or anxiousness so long as neither is extreme. I like a BIG personality… I definitely have a preference for mares. Of course these are “my” preferences - a rider has to be honest with themselves about what temperaments work best for them. I am terrible with a lazy horse - that is my weakness not the horses - other riders would prefer that and get them to work beautifully for them.

Conformation - I am drawn to a horse with good bone and a nice strong/broad loin and back. For my own anatomical issues (i.e. long torso with short arms) I prefer a horse with a higher set neck. Of course I would want them free of faults such as sickle hocks, cow hocked, bench kneed, etc. But a minor crookedness in the legs would not be a deal breaker for me. Bad hooves, however, is a deal breaker for me.

Gaits - like everyone else said I am a sucker for a fantastic walk first, and good canter second. But in the trot I do like to see the horse use its hocks well and step well under itself - I also like to see a freedom in the shoulder. I try to avoid a horse that interferes with itself - but when looking at a 3 year old that is harder - because many at that age will out grow that.

Training - at that age I prefer that they had none or next to none. Of course good ground manners is a given… but if they have training under saddle at at that age I would be concerned for their future soundness. I start my horses lightly at 3 years of age, but the key word is “lightly”.

Temperament with 3 good gaits
A pedigree with proven sires going back 3 generations on BOTH sides.
A strong respected dam line.
At least one Hosteiner stallion within first 4 generations.

I think it depends on your ambition and particular needs.

If you have high level ambition, then you need the soundness/talent/drive and so on, but if you have more moderate ambition, then I think you mostly just need a horse you love, and will be happy to see day after day regardless of how the ride went.

When I bought Dani, I was looking for an Arabian (because it increases the number of shows in my area), something small (health issues mean my tendons/ligaments are loosing stretch for mounting, blanketing and so on), decent mover, and unstarted (I didn’t want skeletons in her closet and I need SAFE). I also wanted something bred for brains, so I went for a horse with bloodlines proven in endurance.

And Izzy I bought for her giant ears. I will love those giant ears even after I can no longer ride, and I love those giant ears even when she spooks at the same door the 100th time.

first I want it to be a mare, I know that is silly but I do have a bias. I have loved the mares I have owned, and I like the idea that one day I might breed them.

If they are young I like to know a lot about the bloodlines, not just the stallion, but the mare too and if there are siblings of the prospect, I want to know, what they have done and how there temperaments are. Also it can give you a little insight as to soundness. I mean you can never predict the future, but if the stallion, dam and siblings are generally sound its a good start!

I bought my mare as a yearling because I loved her dam, and in a lot of ways my mare is like her. In temperament and movement. I think the mare line is more important than a lot of people give them credit for.

other than that I second everything people have said about the walk and canter and temperament.

I’m noticing a ton of you say that a good walk is one of your first considerations. What makes a “good” walk??

I have to say that the number of young horses who “should” become FEI stars is plenty.

Buying young, IMO, is a crap shoot because one of the most important attributes of a GP horse is work ethic and that cannot be determined until nearly PSG.

Think of all the small tour horses who never go all the way, even under the best riders.

That said, if you’re going to buy young, look at the bloodlines 1st and then what you have in front of you.

A good walk has over track and is “swingy”. I almost think of it as cat-like.

Never be swayed by a flashy trot at liberty. Those trots are seldom seen under tack. Also, the trot is the one gait that can be improved with work.

Always buy the walk and canter.

Great thread. I’m learning a lot.


At least one Hosteiner stallion within first 4 generations.[/QUOTE]

So any Holsteiner? And what do you think he is adding to the mix?