That is the question.
Every so often I google myself, which, despite sounding rather strange, can be informative for me. It is nice to read unsolicited comments.
I often find that I am quoted incorrectly or that I am used as the proof to someone’s opinion even though that ‘proof’ is inaccurate. I have found that this is particularly evident in various forums.
For instance: I have never declared that sprinters are built downhill, and most certainly have not studied racehorses with that ‘view’ in mind. In fact, I have often asked people to define ‘downhill’ in general (not racing specific) and asked for examples. Of the examples presented to me with a description of ‘butt higher than withers’, all of the mature ones have actually measured higher in the withers than at the croup…at least so far.
Maybe the next time someone points out a horse that is built downhill, you can measure it and see if it really is or whether it is an optical illusion.
One of the goals I hold dear is to be objective and to not mislead. Therefore, I try to avoid falling prey to optical illusions. In my PowerPoints, one of the first things I do is show how optical illusions can fool our eyes. Some of you may recall looking at photos right side up and then up side down. And remember, my first book was entitled Ten Conformation Myths.
As to the comments that I expect all horses to compete at the top level of a particular sport or discipline, all I can say is that one has to set the bar somewhere when trying to help people understand how conformation affects function. One way is to use the world’s best horses in order to demonstrate how they function so well in their sport/discipline and how they differ from horses in other sports/disciplines. They are used as ideals or points for comparison – and perhaps as goals for breeders and/or competitive riders and coaches – not as the only acceptable type.
Do I believe that all horses need to be built to be the best in the world? No, but I do believe that we humans need to understand that just because our horse is by Famous Stallion and from Champion bloodlines through the dam, it may not be built to meet human expectations. By showing how far a horse is from championship form (functional conformation) or from the ideal for a certain sport/discipline (functional conformation) , we should be able to set realistic expectations for that individual and keep it happy and sound within its own comfort zone. That is my sincerest wish for every horse, and it has been for a long time.
Those who have emailed me within the past couple of decades or so may well have noticed the following quote in my replies:
"My goal - as always - has been to do well by the horse.
That usually is in the best interests of horsemen as well,
though I know that what I say and do is not always (hardly ever!)
appreciated in the short run." James Rooney, DVM