Thursday, September 25, 2008

eHarmony and Richard Shrake: Perfect Together?

Leave it to the horse forums! I knew eventually someone would come up with something worthwhile on the issue of standards for describing horses to buyers (and buyers to horses), and "Gypsyfly" on the Equisearch board suggested something along the lines of the "several established points of compatibility" that the dating site advertises.

That, of course, reminded me of the Richard Shrake clinic I attended years ago and his trainability tests that I summarized in It's a Horse's Life! in the chapter called "Hippology for the Rest of Us". I trust that Mr. Shrake won't mind if I repeat some of his suggestions. They certainly bear as much repetition as they can get! All of the items are scored on a plus-and-minus basis with zero as the midpoint. If the horse responds negatively, that's a minus. If the horse responds positively, that's a plus. If he bites you on the shoulder and takes off at a gallop, that's a horse best left to another buyer. If he's already yours, you might want to consider taking up a different sport.

1. Push the horse's head away from you. If he lets you do that (and even leaves his head in the "away" position) that's a plus. If he pushes back or whacks you with his head or threatens to bite you, that's a minus.

2. Ask the horse to move his hindquarters away from you by moving only his head. If he responds nicely, that's a plus. If he holds his ground, that's a minus. If he threatens to kick, leave him alone.

3. Back him up. Same scoring.

4. Move his forehand away. If he crosses his feet, that's a big plus. If he fights you, that's a big minus.

5. Have someone walk and trot him out on the lead. Notice whether his hind hoofprints meet or pass his front prints. A horse that reaches under well will collect well. Points scored.

6. Meansure the horse. If the line from his between his ears to his withers is double the length of the line from his throatlatch to his chest, Bingo! He'll be able to flex at the poll and lower his head nicely. If the lines are even, he won't be able to do anything requiring much head lowering. A longer line on the bottom than the top is "ewe-necked" and not suitable for disciplines requiring flexion.

That's a good starting list. I'll add more tomorrow. But let me also add here that a horse with a lump between his eyes has always been considered potentially dangerous. There's actually a reason for this. His forward vision, already not as great as his reward vision, will be somewhat reduced by his inabilty to see past his own forehead. Like some owners, he will be unlikely to be able to see the forest for the trees.

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