Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Ride a Radiator

I often assume too much. My life revolves around mustangs and natural horsemanship and I often forget that my riders do not come to the pasture with the same background that I do. Recently I was surprised to hear one of my older teen riders express regret that our horses did not have the round, bulbous hips of a halter quarter horse. I still have not gotten used to horse people looking at a perfectly conditioned mustang and wondering why the horse does not show muscle definition or a flat back. I expect people to consider a well trained mustang to look too light in his hind quarters. Of course, their hindquarters are light,... compared to a Percheron. A mustang is no more supposed to look like a quarter horse than a beagle is supposed to look like a basset hound.
Mustangs were once bred for a purpose and those who lived a few hundred years in the wild evolved for a purpose. And that purpose was to produce efficient movement across great distances in often hostile terrain.
They are the tri-athletes of the horse world, designed to endure, and endure, and endure. They are built to be strong with very heavy bone, and iron hooves. Most importantly, they are built to cool off. Their slab sides, super narrow chest, high backbones, and rafter hips all allow for rapid heat dissipation. Slow metabolism not only makes for an easy keeper, but for a a horse of unusual endurance.
Most importantly, their conformation allows mustangs to have a deep hind stride with an over stride that keeps a leg in a perfect position to support a rider of much more weight than would be expected for their size.
Modern horses have been bred for different purposes than that for which mustangs evolved. Mustangs were not developed to jump, sprint, or pull wagons and it makes no more sense to judge them by the conformational standards of horses that were so developed than it does to judge them according to the conformational standards of Black Angus beef cattle.
My 730 pound Corolla mustang stallion, with a chest not much wider than my thigh, a high backbone that joins into two rapidly sloping, poorly muscled hind quarters and a low set tail is built to do only one thing--carry my 230 pound body through mud, forest and gravel all day long, and then wake up in the morning and do it again. In short, mustangs look the way they do because it makes it possible for them to do the things that they do.
Function before form, and for me, mustangs before everything else

1 comment:

Vickie Ives said...

Great commentary, Steve! I have to say that I wouldn't describe their hips as "poorly muscled" although I know you are using the term rather tongue-in-cheek. How about "hips with long, smooth muscling that carries well down the leg"? Check out The Spanish Hip.