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Is Your Horse Mechanically Right For the Job? by Craig Cameron



Craig Cameron

Craig Cameron

When choosing a horse, it is very  important that you know if  he is mechanically right  for the job.   To do this you  need to Watch a Horse  Move.

One of the best places to watch a horse  move is in a round pen, where you can observe  his gaits closely.   Standing in the middle of the  pen offers you the best vantage point.   You also  learn a lot about how he moves naturally without  a rider’s interference.

Walk: At the walk, see how far the horse  reaches up underneath himself with his hind legs.   That will tell how much propulsion or drive from  behind the horse has naturally.   With any type of  performance you want a horse that drives deeply  underneath itself for maximum power.

Trot: At the trot, observe the horse’s knee  action.   Do the knees move up and down like pistons  or barely break at the knee joint at all?   Most western performance riders refer to the  latter as a “flat-kneed horse,” one who keeps his  legs close to the ground.   They prefer this type of  efficient motion for the sports they do “” reining,  cutting, barrel racing, western pleasure, etc.   Most  flat-kneed horses appear to have a level top line  when they move, which also is a desirable characteristic  in the show pen.   It presents a pretty picture  to the judge, one that says a horse is smooth  and comfortable to ride.   However, in some horse show events, such  as Arabian or Morgan park-horse classes, horses  with high knee action are rewarded.   The higher,  the better.   Neither one is right or wrong; it’s just  whatever you want to do with your horse.

Canter or lope: When you ask a horse to  canter or lope, see if he picks up the correct lead  naturally.   In other words, when traveling to the  left, he should pick up the left lead and when t  raveling to the right, the right lead.   Ask him to  change directions and he should also change  leads.    Ask him to stop (by stepping in close to his  front end) and see if he stops on his  hindquarters.   Or does he stop hard on his front  end? What you’re looking for in an athlete or  performance horse is one that stops naturally on  his hindquarters. As I  said before, choose the breed or type of horse  that best suits your style of riding.   Be Aware:   The more you are aware of your horse’s  movement, the more you’ll be in rhythm with your  horse.   Awareness is the beginning of all learning.   It’s the ability to see, hear, sense and feel all the  little things that are around you all the time.   A  horse is constantly aware.   You need to be aware  of what your horse is doing, so you can go with  him or correct him.   The more you’re aware of the mechanics of  the horse, the better horseman you’ll be. Go to

[This article was published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 3, Issue 8.]


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  1. Caryl Anne

    April 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I agree 100% that it’s best to find a horse that bests fits you and your needs as a rider in order to create a perfect match. Horses have their own personalities just like riders, and because of this, these two personalities should mesh in order for a bond to be created. Thanks for sharing your information and post!

    • Horse Digests

      May 1, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      A great horse with the right rider makes life so amazingly great!

      • Horse Digests

        May 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm

        so true!

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