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Dr. Christian Schacht Conformation Clinic Recap

Dr. Christian Schacht—prominent German veterinarian, breeder, trainer, riding instructor—gave an all-day lecture on conformation at White Birch Farms in Moorpark, June 13.

Dr. Schacht started the day with a history lesson. He asked, “When did humans start riding horses? How were horses used throughout the millennia? What training methods have been used?” Not-so-fun fact: horse trainers in 16th Century France used cats tied to poles to “train” horses. Dr. Schacht then reviewed the evolution of the various breeding programs in Europe, with a focus on Germany, as might have been expected.

“Our goal in understanding conformation is to retire sound horses.”

Dr. Schacht walked through the anatomy of the horse using a series of photos and explained the desirable traits of sporthorses for the different disciplines. He detailed how he looks at horses in breed inspections, and provided very practical ways of evaluating conformation. He spent some time on mouth conformation and stressed that bit selection should be done with consideration for the horse’s conformation, noting “The bit came with the horse,” is not an acceptable reason to use a certain bit! Dr. Schacht also stressed the necessity of quality, purposeful hoof care, and the importance of horse people knowing the justification for their horses’ hoof maintenance approach: Why shoes? Why pads? Why clips? Why that trim?

With the classroom portion over, it was time to look at some real horses! Some brave volunteers brought out their own horses, and Dr. Schacht led the discussion, filled with honest critique, on conformation for each one. The group discussed several warmbloods (including a mother/son combo), a Quarterhorse, and an Arabian cross that showed off his piaffe.

“It takes a special horse to get to International-level competition. Conformation is not everything; the horse needs the right temperament and mind.”

While the clinic was filled with practical/scientific information about equine bone structures, bloodlines, etc., the theme throughout seemed to be the appreciation of horses. By understanding how they work, we can respect their limitations, realize their potential, and retire them sound.

“Every horse deserves good training and a good job, regardless of conformation.”

Thank you to Jen Nunes and the CDS Ventura County Chapter for organizing, White Birch Farms for hosting, and the Santa Rosa Valley Pony Club for providing lunch!

Dr. Schacht's book:

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