by Terry Christoph
Whether you are looking for a new horse or considering breeding or buying young stock, there are certain qualities of a good horse that you should be aware of and look for. Here is a list to consider in order of priority:
This is absolutely the most important quality in a good horse. Whether you are a trail rider, dressage rider, hunter/jumper, reiner, barrel racer or just a person on a horse, temperament is key. You can have all the talent in the world, all the looks, all the moves, but without a good temperament, you have nothing. When the going gets tough, the horse with the better temperament is more likely to see the job through.
Two months ago I would have put this into the same category as temperament, but recent experiences have taught me otherwise. I just had a horse in training with an amazing temperament. Nice to work around, loves to go new places and do different things, no problems there. But putting her to work was a whole other story - she just didn't want to work. I didn't understand it at first, and it took me awhile to figure it out. Although temperament-wise she was a solid character - no bucking, rearing, or bolting, she would have none of working. I have another horse that is hot to trot! Likes to show off and throw a little buck into the mix, just for fun. However, he loves to work! He is excited to come out everyday and try his hardest. That is what makes him a champion, willingness to do the job and work needed of him.
This ones a bit tricky and there are exceptions to the rules. Some horses are just made to do the job. They have powerful hind quarters, strong loins, sloping shoulders, straight legs and good neck sets can make a rider’s job a lot easier. Things like solid bone and good feet also help a horse stay sound. Different breeds are designed to accentuate different conformation qualities based on the discipline that breed is made to perform. For example, quarter horses are low set to the ground, are compact in the body and have very powerful hind quarters. They are built for sprinting short distances and fast turns, ideal for working cattle, barrel racing and reining.
Tried, tested and true. For centuries bloodlines carry the genes that indicate successful show horses that go on to reproduce champion after champion. They act as a guide line for qualities you may want in a good horse and there are still risks when buying a young horse based on bloodlines alone, but your odds are considerably better when choosing a performance horse from a proven pedigree than from all the rest.
What are the horse’s physical capabilities? Does the horse have endurance, stamina, power, longevity, soundness? There are lots of horses who possess all of the qualities above, but lack the physical soundness to perform to the highest levels of sport. Health can still deteriorate, but with proper nutrition and development your horse is more likely to stay sound and healthy. Other hereditary factors such as osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) and navicular can stop your horse in his tracks. X-rays can determine these complications and are always recommended when doing a pre-purchase exam.
There are also others factors that make one horse better than the other, but this list is a good guideline to follow when you are looking for or breeding your next performance horse. You will often also see horses that look like camels and donkeys out performing the best of the best. This is because they have the temperament and willingness to do so. Every horse is different, but in the end, a good horse is a good horse and this list of qualities of a good horse will help you find exactly what you desire!