The Halter Horse
Selecting the halter horse is somewhat different then selecting a horse for such classes as Western Pleasure, Trail Horse, or Stock Horse. In the first place, a halter horse is usually a young horse, rather then a mature, aged animal. Many folks start showing their horses at halter when they are but weanlings. They do this largely because they have nominated certain individuals to one of the many halter futurities which are seen all over the country. Young horsemen also do this as part of 4-H horse activities. By the time young horses are yearlings, more people then ever are showing them at halter because most horse associations recognize and give points for yearling halter classes. This of course also applies to the two, three and four year olds, plus aged horses.
Halter classes are “beauty contests” and when it comes to beauty, it’s hard to beat youth. This is true of horses as well as with humans. So the younger they are, the easier it is to accumulate halter points which are necessary to breeds in their championship awards and honors. In a sense then, halter horses are individuals which owners, breeders and trainers select because of their breeding and early conformational qualities. The trained eyes and combined experience of many judges do a most creditable job in selecting young horses which will develop into the champions of tomorrow.
Why the emphasis on conformation? Because it is an indicator of a developing performance ability. Conformation faults, on the other hand, denote a “weakness” and there are many which almost automatically eliminate certain individuals from certain performance activities. This doesn’t mean that all horses with good conformation are automatically going to be good performance horses, but it does mean that they have a much better chance of success (on average) then those exhibiting conformation faults. Also the conformation of the halter horse must be balanced. One can have a horse with a great head and body, but with poor legs he’ll have nothing. The leg should be straight with the cannon bone set square in the middle of the knee. The ankle must be attached straight to the end of the cannon bone, and extend into a clean pastern and foot which travels straight ahead when the horse is moving. The back should be straight and short. The neck should be clean and taper into a thin throatlatch on a good, small head with medium sized ears that are equally set. The eyes should be big and set well apart and out on the front of his head so that the horse can see where he is going. your halter horse should have a good tail set. He should have a good deep chest with nice V shape muscle definition and a good set of withers that can carry a saddle.
Good all-over conformation is a must for the halter horse. One should remember that most halter horses “graduate” into the various performance classes. Judges pick halter horses with good conformation because it is an indication that these horses are mechanically well equipped and have the potential to develop into good performance animals.