Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Know What You Don't Know

As I settled into my seat last night at the Cleary Lake Veterinary Hospital, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had signed up for a seminar entitled "Conformation - How It Relates to Movement and Performance" in the hope that I would pick up some clues on how to better evaluate a horse by giving it the once over twice. My fears were that this would be geared to folks with a much more advanced knowledge of horse anatomy and physiology and I would be no better off than when I walked through the doors. Thankfully, my fears were not realized - not even close.

The pace of the class, conducted by Dr. Kathryn Ott, DVM, was spot on. She guided us through a well constructed PowerPoint presentation which, starting from the head and ending at the feet, pointed out every element of equine conformation. More importantly, in my opinion, she helped delineate which conformation flaws were important to varying breeds. As an example, a slightly sickle hocked horse, while undesirable in some horses is actually preferred in Standardbred pacers. Lesson - a flaw for one line of work doesn't necessarily translate into a flaw in another. When evaluating horses, you need to pick your spots all the while keeping in mind the specific purpose for which you want to use the horse.

My motivation in taking this seminar was to fill in gaps in my own knowledge. In another post in another context, I used the phrase "know what you don't know and then learn about it". This is what I'm trying to do here. I can breakdown a racing form and have a good sense of trends when evaluating a horse's past performance. Thanks to Bernell Rhone, Larry Donlin and David Miller I have a better sense of build and hooves and how that relates to a distance or surface a horse may be suited for. I can generate financial statements, put together partners and have a relatively good sense of where a horse fits in a condition book. What I haven't been able to do is relate things like pastern length, hip angles and neck attachment to potential performance. I wasn't sure what flaws in conformation in a yearling would be eliminated with growth and which would be exacerbated. I wanted to be better able to "walk the walk" with my trainers and, when the time comes to go to sales, with my bloodstock agent.

The winter in Minnesota is long and we still have 149 days until Canterbury opens. While I continue to try and cobble together a few more partnerships for the new year, I thought this would be a great opportunity to take my own advice and learn more about what I don't know. That's never a bad way to spend a few hours - especially when it's with a horse!


Winston...not really said...

Where did you find this course? Is it a TOBA thing or a University offering? I would love to find something like that here.

rather rapid said...


Ted G said...

Winston - It was just a seminar (a very good one) offered by an equine vet group in our area, though I do know that TOBA offers a more extensive one over two days from time to time.

RR - Thanks. Love the books, but nothing beat being there with a vet and a live horse (Jane, a sweet, misconformed QH) to point out everything and answer questions.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!