Riding horse breeding, from the mid-20th century until quite recently, has made huge advances. Larger, more angled shoulders and saddle positions, horses with a higher lower neck connection and a more refined and open jowl angle, all have contributed to bigger moving horses.
However, in the last decade, the trend towards long-legged, shortbacked mounts has overstepped the fine line of rideability.
First we bred small cheekbones, oblivious that the absence of a tooth-accommodating jaw also reduces the elasticity of the contact and enables tooth and digestive issues.
But pretty little heads also lead to closed jowl angles. These horses then find it hard to carry their poll as the highest point of their neck. Instead, they dip behind the vertical (Rollkur style).
No longer can the connection between tongue—hyoid apparatus—poll—C7—sacrum work through a raised back and lowered quarters. These hollow-backed horses with short backs and long abdominal trunks then turn into leg-movers. And, with high hocks and skinny cannon bones, we are just one step from sitting on a moose.
I too love a big shoulder on my horses. But I cannot put a saddle on the shoulder without restricting it from moving. The saddle must find plenty of rib space between the elliptically moving scapula and the last two thoracic vertebrae before (not on) the lumbars and yet in close proximity to the girth groove.
Withers that continue well into the horse’s midback leave no room for a saddle; not to mention that a saddle placed that far back cannot be safely girthed.
Last but not least, the shorter a horse, the harder it becomes to ride it supple and the greater a challenge it is to keep it sound longterm.
So, as a rider and trainer, here is my plea to our breeders: Please think carefully when you choose your 2024 matches for your broodmares.
Get a solid foundation on your future offspring and learn what a rider needs, not solely what a spectator’s eye delights in.
copyright Rivkah Roth DO DNM
Dr. Rivkah Roth is the founder of Equiopathy and a natural health practitioner, lecturer and author with over five decades in the saddle as a correction rider (Swiss National License LMS since 1968) and many hours as a National Grand Prix and FEI C dressage judge. Student successes include professional coaches on five continents (incl. CDN/EC I to III, ISR I to III, Dutch 3rd Level Instructor, USA, AUS), 1986 Dressage World Championships alternate (CDN), 1986 National GP Kuer Champion (CDN), 1992 Barcelona Olympics Longlist 3-Day (CDN), 2002 Young Horse Dressage World Championships – Verden/GER (ISR), World Cup and WEG dressage horse (CDN), many Nat. and Provincial Champions all levels (CDN / ISR / SUI).