Monday, December 2, 2013

What makes a Colonial Spanish horse?

In October we spent a few days in Oklahoma checking in on some Choctaw horses, and progress toward our new Choctaw hog project. The horses greeted us at the cabin door of our gracious host Jim Stephens. On a roadtrip to nearby ridgelands, Bryant Rickman, who is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge of Choctaw horses, introduced us to several free ranging bands. Jeannette got more great pictures, despite steady rain. Choctaw horses are both culturally and genetically significant (see Looking Back and Looking Forward With Choctaw Horses, Winter 2013 Livestock Conservancy Newsletter).  
Alison with Lightnin'
This brief visit gave me another opportunity to "train my eye" on horses, an important job skill for telling breeds apart, and most especially, telling the influence of cross breeding.  With a landrace breed like Colonial Spanish horses, the breed standard is "descriptive" rather than "prescriptive", and the variation between the different strains of Colonial Spanish horses is important to being adapted to the local region.  Nevertheless, all the strains have a number of characteristics in common that make them distinctly Spanish in origin.

Below is a partial reprint of the Colonial Spanish Horse Score Sheet (or breed standard, if you like).  The entire sheet can be found in "Managing Breeds For a Secure Future", by Drs. Phil Sponenberg and Don Bixby, or write the Conservancy to obtain a copy.  

Colonial Spanish Horse score sheet developed by D. P. Sponenberg and Chuck Reed. Horses are scored on various aspects of conformation and type. The final result is not a simple average of scores, but rather a close look at the number of not typical (high) versus typical (low) scores. The head character weighs in heavily in the final determination, especially if the body scores well. Put another way, a high-scoring body with a low-scoring head is still rejected because these horses are unlikely to be Colonial Spanish.  NOTE:  This is a partial reprint, showing only the characteristics for the head.

most typical – score 1
not typical - score 5
1. concave/flat on forehead and then convex from top of nasal area to top of upper lip (subconvex)
2. uniformly slightly convex from poll to muzzle
3. straight
1. dished as in Arabian.
2. markedly convex.
Wide between eyes (cranial portion) but tapering and “chiseled” in nasal/facial portion. This is a very important indicator, and width between eyes with sculpted taper to fine muzzle is very typical.
Wide and fleshy throughout head from cranial portion to muzzle.
Small, thin, and crescent-shaped. Flare larger when excited or exerting.
Large, round, and open at rest.
Small to medium length, with distinctive notch or inward point at tips
Long, straight, with no inward point at tip. Thick, wide, or boxy.
Vary from large to small (pig eyes). Usually fairly high on head
Large and bold, low on head.
Refined, usually with the top lip longer than the bottom lip
coarse and thick with lower lip loose, large, and projecting beyond upper lip.
Fine taper down face to nostrils, slight outward flare, and then inward delicate curve to small, fine muzzle that is narrower than region between nostrils.
Coarse and rounded, or heavy and somewhat square as the Quarter Horses, rather than having the tapering curves of the typical muzzle.

Other characteristics on the complete score sheet include appearance of the neck, height, withers, back, croup, tail set, shoulder, chest, chestnuts, color, hind legs, rear, hip, front cannon bones, and overall muscling.  

Train your own eye by looking at these characteristics for animals you know to be of different breeds.  It works for other species too.  If you raise goats, pigs, sheep or cattle, what are the characteristics that distinguish your breed from other breeds?  How well trained is your eye?


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