Form following function...conformation producing performance - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 02-22-2009, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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Form following function...conformation producing performance

We have skirted around this subject on several threads now without really addressing the basic reason why some breeds cross well and others don't. Why certain horse do well in certain disciplines and not somewhere else.

So I am going to leave the thread open for discussion without any specific referrences and that way each can bring in their own ideas for debate.
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post #2 of 7 Old 03-02-2009, 05:46 PM
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Expanding from a post in the “bad breed crosses” thread.

JDI and County were having a discussion and I jumped in, as I am wont to do.

I am using QH/ASH as the main example here as that was the focus of the original thread. Is good cow sense enough to overlook conformational faults, and does it justify breeding that horse to reproduce its cow sense/work ethic without taking into consideration it’s conformation faults.

Business wise, you will get more money for a correctly conformed horse with ability/talent than you will for a poorly conformed horse with the same ability/talent.

There are always exceptions, and rarely do they duplicate.

Example of form = function. Just ask a thoroughbred/haflinger/draft or numerous other breeds NOT bred for agility and stock-type activities to rock back on their haunches and turn like they are blocking a cow like a QH or ASH. Sure there will be a few who could, and a few who could with proper training, but in the MAJORITY of cases the horse with the correct conformation will perform the job better, and with less training and more natural ability.

There are of course cases where the mind will win out over the body in achieving certain tasks. A TB who WANTS to work a cow can be trained and conditioned to perform the movements, but will still be beaten by a QH who is naturally built for the job. I don’t think there would be many people who would disagree with this.

On the other hand a horse who has the correct mind for the job but not correct conformation… Yes that horse may be able to overcome it and perform wonderfully… But then to breed it. You have a much better chance of the horse passing on its bad conformation than its good mind. And then you’re left with a horse with bad conformation and no desire to work. Not much good. Whereas, if you breed a horse with perfect conformation and not the best mind, in most cases it can still be utilised for something.

Good conformation is upheld for the fact that it creates healthy horses. In the older days when horses were work animals only, looks were not important and function was the main focus. Conformation faults were looked down on because they inhibited the animal’s ability to perform the job it was bred for. A horse with bad conformation, even if it has the mind and will to work, will still have more difficulty performing it’s job, and in most cases will break down earlier or more frequently than a horse with good conformation.

Sorry this was a bit scattered but I wrote individual paragraphs and didn’t really organise, as I’m at work!

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post #3 of 7 Old 03-02-2009, 06:38 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by wild_spot View Post
Sorry this was a bit scattered but I wrote individual paragraphs and didnít really organise, as Iím at work!
That is OK because I was thinking it may have been a topic that would not be understood.

But some examples of a fault in one breed that is desirable in another is the hocks seen in many drafts. The draft's function originally was to pull loads and cow hocks were a desirable trait. Now that we are trying to ride drafts it has become an undesirable trait but to overcome centuries of selective breeding is not easy.

Take the downhill conformation of the quarterhorse especially in the cutting arena. When that horse has to "eyeball" that cow and move the front end to block it from returning to the herd the build being downhill is desirable. So now everyone starts to say a horse (mostly quarterhorses) are built wrong because they want to do dressage or some other discipline) when in fact it's conformation is correct for the breed.

Another breed that has everyone in a oh and ah is the Friesian. Even the sport Friesians are not really built for dressage. The hind end tends to lack power and they do not collect as well as breeds bred for dressage. They were originally bred as carriage horses. Who knows in time they may change and they have already to some extent, but most trainers will tell you they are not the most suitable.

When we get into actual conformation faults that are a detriment to any kind of riding. We must realize that a horse that is calfed kneed for example will be limited simply because the form is simply not there. Other problems like roached backs,ewe necks and sickle hocks are things that will hinder any sort of function due to the form (conformation) of the body part.
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post #4 of 7 Old 03-02-2009, 10:09 PM
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Definately. There are a few 'sub-categories' i suppose you could say, of conformational faults. There are those that are breed/discipline specific (downhill build, cowhocks, pigeon toes etc.) and then there are the performance inhibiting ones (overly sloped fetlocks, tiny feet, sickle hocks, etc.) and to a greater extent the crippling ones (extreme roach backs, leg deformities, the lesser faults that are extremely expressed, etc.).

I definatelty agree re. fresians... Everybody seems to class them as dressage type horses, but they have been bred for flashy movement, not correct movement!

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post #5 of 7 Old 03-02-2009, 11:58 PM
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Breeding two horses not well suited to the career you are considering the foal for and expecting a horse suited for that career is like breeding a bay and a chestnut and hoping for an appaloosa or pinto coloured horse.

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post #6 of 7 Old 03-03-2009, 07:05 AM
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sorry for the length

*** i just joined this forum so i am sorry if this is a little off topic. feel free to direct me to a thread that is more on topic if you know of one but this is just how i feel. thanks for you time***

i agree that many issues can come from breeds being put to use in ways that they are not intended to be used (such as quarter horses in the dressage arena) i believe that most of our conformation issues seem to come from the uncontrolled breeding that occurs in the US. while no horse is prefect bad conformation usually results from breeding horses with undesirable traits again and again. i understand that certain variation is acceptable but repeatedly breeding horses that have more undesirable traits then desirable traits just isn't smart. not everyone breeds responsibly, and because most of our registries only require that that one or both parents be registered with their association to register the foal without consideration to what kind of example that horse is of the breed.

i believe that many registries would benefit from adopting a more european method of breeding program were both the mare and the stallion must be approved by the registry before a foal will be accepted. this would reduce the influx of poorly bred horses into registries that are trying to preserve their breeds.

i firmly believe that while you may have a mare or an intact stud, this does not automatically make it a requirement that you breed your horse. take my thouroughbred mare for example. the is an 11 year old OTTB that i love to death. we have been together for 9 years and she has been the most wonderful mare for me, excelling in 3 day eventing, but especially dressage. unfortunatly 2 years ago she had a pasture accident that had curtailed her jumping activites and that broke my heart. jumping is my passion and now my only horse is unjumpable. I seriously considered breeding her due to my emotional attchment to her and although i broke my heart a little again i decided that breeding my mare was a bad idea. her conformation is really not wonderful, too long in the back, high withered, toed in and over at the knee, i just couldn't convince myself i should risk a resulting foal with similar qualities when i was aware that her jumping ability was inspite of and not due to her conformation.

i am also aware of and sympathetic to riders who would like to step up in quality of horse but can not afford a $10,000 or $20,000 dollar horse. i understand that breeding for your next champion can be VIEWED as a cheaper option in the short term but potental breeds need to honestly evaluate their horses to see whether their choice is logical or emotional.
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post #7 of 7 Old 03-05-2009, 11:08 PM
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Ideally, when you breed, you should be looking at the faults and strengths of both the mare and stallion to try to get a balanced foal (hah, come to think of it, perhaps we should approach marriage this way ) But seriously, if you know you want, say, a dressage horse, you're not going to want to breed two downhill, choppy-moving horses, in hopes of getting an uphill, free flowing foal.

Same goes with breeds. By definition, certain sports have requirements, and breeds have evolved to fit those requirements. Just like you see warmbloods in dressage, you rarely see warmbloods in western events because they just aren't built for it-they tend not to have as flat movement (which makes hours in the saddle a lot easier), they tend to not be as downhill (which makes it easier for QHs to keep pace with cows) and some would argue that they just also don't have the minds (although whether or not thats training is a different question)

Now, when you get into breeding crosses, a GOOD breeder will have a point, not "ohh, I love the spots on that appaloosa! let's breed it to that draft over there! Oh! he'll be the next jumping star cause he's pretty!" Instead, what a person needs to do is evaluate what exactly they are hoping the resulting cross will be. If you have an outstanding thoroughbred mare that is just lovely in movement, and mind, but you want her body to be a bit more thicker, and her loin connection stronger, and you wanted an eventer, you'd be smart to maybe pick a nice draft stallion, or a thicker typed warmblood.

Breeding is a crapshoot, no matter how you look at it. Some truly outstanding crosses have been made by knowledgeable breeders who took a gamble and it payed off. But often times, it hasn't worked out at all, and one only has to look at the overpopulated slaughters and rescues to realize that that majority of horses should not be bred
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