Earlier last year, ScienceDaily reported on a study that's looking to find the genetic makeup of horses who are more spooky than others (article here).

They say it could be 10 years before they have a true picture and believe their findings may assist vets and trainers and determination of the sport career of a horse.

There are so many points around this topic that could be discussed and this comes up regularly when we look at young Dressage Horse competitions.  The breeders have done such a great job of breeding temperament that some horses will literally put up with training that is really too much for them, without reaction.  This is blamed on why such a high proportion of young horses break down or never go on to long term competition careers - because what you have to do to get a young horse to win at a 'young horse' competition has nothing to do with sustainable, long term training for 90% of horses.   In fact, I was once told by a very famous international trainer and judge of YH competitions, that if you've got a good young horse that you like, don't even think about taking it a YH qualifier.  

We are always faced with ethical and commercial considerations.   Whether that's managing the expectations of excited owners who have invested heavily in a young horse and it's training and are keen to see some return (even in the form of competition attendance as a social interest) versus the long term career of the horse.  Any good trainer knows that you can push a horse a little (it's how we develop them) but each horse has a breaking point.   To manufacture expressive and collected movements in a 3 or 4yo, you will have had to push quite a bit.  Many don't cope - the sales market is full of them always.

So who is accountable?  Judges that reward completely manufactured movements should be held accountable in some way maybe? The media?  The buyer?   Of course a buyer wants to see in a  young horse what potential movement may look like once the horse is developed and ,some adrenalin for a few moments can help show that.  But does it cross the line when it's prolonged in training and then into competition? How long is prolonged?   And then what happens when they've been bred for such a great temperament, and such extravagant (often false) movement that they do just try and try again to please the trainer - but the body gives in 18months into the career as the movement is no longer anatomically correct (eg. high leg stepping without whole body movement).

This article cannot possible provide all the answers, but we should definitely all be discussing horse welfare and taking advantage of a horse with a good temperament - particularly in young horses.  Riders, Trainers, Judges and breeders and what is correct young horses movement vs. sustainable long term expectations and how they can be made commercially viable. 

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