By Don Blazer
So you’ve got a large, solid-hoofed quadruped domesticated since prehistoric times and employed as a beast of burden, or for carrying a rider.
You’ve got an Equus caballus.
You’ve got one of those things for which there are no fewer than 132 registries in the United States.
You’ve got companionship, hardship, joy, frustration, relaxation, hard work, an investment and bills and a lot of arguments as to what you’ve got.
You’ve got a horse…I’m pretty sure of that.
I’m also pretty sure I’m being politically incorrect to say it’s pretty hard to tell what kind of horse you’ve got.
First, virtually all of the 132 breed associations claim their horse is the “most versatile horse in the world.” Does that mean the horses of all breed associations are horses with no single outstanding quality?
Second, you can’t often go by conformation standards as defined by the associations because, for the most part, they are all worded the same. (Does that mean a good horse is a good horse and essentially there aren’t many conformational differences between one good horse and another good horse?)
Third, there’s not much “purity of blood” when you consider there are no fewer than 35 associations for part-blood or breed by performance or breed by color.
There is the American Indian Horse Registry. That’s logical. But I don’t know what an American Indian Horse is, since the American Indians didn’t have horses until the Spanish brought theirs in the 1500s and the Indians stole a lot of them in the 1600s. Maybe you can only have an American Indian horse if you are an American Indian.
There are also American Mustangs. It’s easier to spot an original Ford Mustang than it is to spot an American Mustang.
There are lots of color registries. Some of them make sense, such as Palomino, American Crème or American White or Paint or Pinto or Appaloosa. But what the heck is an International Colored Appaloosa? Is that a colorful Appaloosa whose color is more colorful than the not so colorful less-colored Appaloosa? And what is a Rare Color Morgan? I thought Justin Morgan was a Thoroughbred who happened to become the foundation sire for the breed which carries his name, but doesn’t have anything to do with color.
There are some news breeds, such as the Blazer horse. He’s supposed to be quick, agile, strong, handsome and smart. (I’ve always maintained the Blazers have such attributes.)
Another great new registry is the American Part-Blooded Horse. If one part is blood, what is the other part? Or what is a Tennuvian or a Walkaloosa?
Whatever your breed, and whatever the breed standards, it really doesn’t matter much these days. A good horseman looks at a horse’s conformation and doesn’t try to decide the kind of horse it is, but instead, determines from the conformation what the horse is best suited to do.
The ideal conformation for efficiency of movement is still the basic standard which most assures a horse will remain sound in years to come.
But in today’s world that isn’t so important. After all, we keep horses going with supplements of a hundred different kinds, injections in joints, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy and plenty of other voodoo therapies.
What’s important is that the horse is conformed to do a specific job and the owner/trainer understands what is easy and natural for that conformation and what is not. Then they use the horse at what he is best suited to do.
When you can look at your horse without prejudice, and see his good qualities and his bad, and when you no longer care what the registries say you’ve got, then you’ve got a whole lot of something very special. Enjoy it!