4-Year-Old Quarter Horse Geldings
Holden, of Hamilton, Ohio, got started with horses when he was just 8 years old. In 1980, he became a self-employed horse trainer with a focus on Western and hunt seat performance horses. Eventually, he specialized in conformation horses. He’s shown and/or trained Congress champions, World Show top-ten placers, a national high-point winner, and a world champion.
Holden is an AQHA-specialized halter judge, and he’s also carded with the World Conformation Horse Association. Over the years, he’s officiated at shows such as the Lone Star, Greater Houston, Horseman Quarter Horse Association of Georgia, Louisiana Quarter Horse futurities, AQHA Select World, Red Bud, and the APHA World.
When I walk into a class, the first thing I look for is general eye appeal. A horse has to catch my eye. After that, I look at the head—it’s the first thing you notice. To place well on my card, a horse needs to have a pretty head. A lot of people think that a gelding can have a common head and still place high, but our Quarter Horses have improved enough that we want to see pretty heads on geldings as well as on mares and stallions.
I want to see balance—from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. It’s asking whether all the horse’s parts fit together. Does the head fit with the shoulder? Does the shoulder fit with the back and the loin? The whole horse needs to be balanced. The withers-to-hip ratio also is important for balance. A horse should be either level or higher in the withers so he’s not going downhill.
After that, I look for a horse with structural correctness. He should have good, straight legs; be solid on his knees—particularly in an aged class; and have a pretty topline. I want the most structurally correct and sound horse I can find.
Finally, I look at the horse’s overall conditioning and muscling. The horse needs to be in good flesh and tone. A lot of people confuse conditioning with fat, but it needs to be “fit fat.”
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