Thursday, January 10, 2008

3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years

The gorgeous animal to the left is one of the ones I looked at when I was baby hunting. I lusted after him but the breeder priced him as a stallion prospect and it was out of the question. I stay in touch with the breeder, and have seen him grow up. At three weeks I said "Wow!!!" Now I think "Wow, he is the totally wrong horse for me." Not that he isn't a beauty, he's just a hotter type and too small for my 5'10" frame.

There is a saying that the best times to look at a young prospect are at 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years. I went to a lecture on sport horse breeding on Tuesday. Evaluating prospects (foal through age 3) was one of the topics. One of the speakers, Victoria Lamas Wanner, likes to buy horses in their yearling year, because they tend to be cheaper. She admits it's risky, but she has developed a good eye over the years. She said that even in their gawkiest stage, babies will show core traits in their "technique" or gait mechanics. She had purchased a dutch warmblood in the Netherlands as a yearling, and showed us a video. Ewe necked, potbellied, and hind legs trailing, she didn't look like anything to write home about, much less bring home. But then she showed footage of the filly as an adult mare starting grand prix work -- absolutely breathtaking.

This is Riley in the nadir of his yearling year. This was during a pretty rapid growth spurt, and he is pretty lean. Even in these gawky years, I'm still a camera-toting, doting owner. He is probably the most photographed horse in Eastern PA. I'm sharing these photos because a) I can't help it and b) it's a good learning tool to look at baby development. Here are photos at 3 months, 3 weeks, and 18 months...

This is Riley at 3 weeks old, and these are still shots from the video from when I went to see him. He was lovely, and seemed to really "stretch up" in his frame. But to be honest, part of the reason I bought him was because I loved his mom, a Rubenstein daughter. Looking back now, I see that he has a more sweeping, straight movement (in terms of knee action), not the popular rounded action like some of the other dressage babies I saw. His suspension at this age is above average. View full video at 3 weeks, part 1 and part 2.

Here he is at three months old at his inspection. He was named top colt, and the judges commented that he "lifts himself in a beautiful way" and has "super movement." The breeder later told me they gave him an unofficial 10. You can also view the video. It was totally unexpected to see how nicely he'd developed -- I hadn't seen him since I bought him at 3 weeks. I decided to do some breed shows, partly to get him out and about, and partly to see how he stacked up.

Here he is at 14 months, at his first breed show (view video). His scores were in the low 70s, which is squarely in the ho-hum range of breed show performance. Breeders dont start getting excited till the scores fall in the high 70s, and you're calling your friends when the scores are in the 80s. Anyhoo, Riley is going to be big, so then and now, he is not as developed as his same age cohorts. At this stage, he does not have the uphill build or movement to really turn heads.

It's pretty easy to see that Riley's gait mechanics are consistent from photo to photo. I'm wondering if he'll develop more of the "sit down" hind end action as he gets older. Right now his movement is a bit more hunter style, and we may try some hunter breed shows.

Hope you enjoyed the pix! Now here is a video from our trip to Devon, at 16 months...

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