When inspecting a horse for the KFPS inspection, two of the three gaits are inspected: the walk and the trot. Stallions who are attempting to become approved as breeding stallions may have the canter inspected as well, but foals and mares are looked at (presently) for the walk and trot only. These are judged while the horse is in hand being led/exercised by a runner while a second runner (“the whip”) encourages the horse to move on.
My take: A good runner/whip can make a big difference. The ones who are experienced will know how to best present your horse. I encourage you to use a professional or experienced runner and whip, especially with an adult horse.
The Friesian horse has an impressive trot and many people seem to ignore the importance of the walk and focus on the trot. I personally believe this is a big mistake. Judges will look quite carefully at the walk and they are looking at it many times – when the horse enters the ring (the judges are looking for correctnesss in the stride and how correct the legs are), when the horse starts walking after being judged on conformation (the judges watch the horse move away, looking from behind for correctness. Then they judge the movement itself), and finally as the horse is walking back to the center of the ring after the trot has been done.
The walk is a gait that is very difficult to change or correct via training. Any gait can be improved upon, but the walk is an especially tough one. So, a judge may use this gait as a more realistic metric of how the horse innately moves without benefit of training discipline and aids. An Inspector told me last year that he makes most of his determination of movement and a horse’s abilities to move based on the walk.
My take: When training your horse, never neglect the walk. The horse needs to have a powerful yet relaxed walk. It may take months – especially for a young horse – to improve its walk.
The judges evaluate the walk based on three criteria, and in this order of importance (“An Introduction to Judging the Friesian Horse”, 2007, p. 17. Available for purchase from the KFPS):
“The walk is a long reaching distinctively 4 beat gait. As seen from the front and back, the legs are parallel with each other. The hind leg displays flexion at the hock and is placed powerfully and far enough beneath the body. The hind leg is pushing away the foreleg, which is nicely extended with plenty of flexibility at the shoulder.”
From page 45:
“Evaluated are, in order of importance:
- Correctness of the walk
- Length of the walk
- Expression of the walk”
“Correctness” indicates a regular, lateral gait where the footfall is straight. “Length” is somewhat self-explanatory. “Expression” is indicated by the degree of bend in the hock and the degree to which the horse brings the hind legs under the body (“An Introduction to Judging the Friesian Horse”, 2007, p. 46). The walk should be active – marching of the back legs. Not weak – dragging of the back legs. You should practice walking with your horse, and in various circumstances. Horses will tighten up and shorten their strides when stressed, so often a horse at a keuring becomes excited and does not show the walk well. The horse needs to be energetic, yet calm and purposeful in its movement.
Update: Someone pointed out to me that a “too roomy” or “too long” walk can be bad too. This was a very good point. So here is what the Judging text has to say about what is NOT desired in the walk:
“Undesired in the walk:
- If the hind leg is brought forward at the same time or almost at the same time as the front leg of the same side, we speak of [pacing]. Often this way of moving goes together with an extremely large overstep. It is frequently seen in weak horses or horses that are ridden in a forced manner. Very undesirable. Therefore
- The walk should not be short but also not too roomy. If the walk is very roomy the horse will often twist its hindquarters and the power is lacking”
– An Introduction to Judging the Friesian Horse, 2007 p. 47.
Once again, here are my mares being used as guinea pigs for demonstration purposes.
YOU SHOULD MAXIMIZE THE VIDEO TO FULL SCREEN SO YOU CAN SEE THE DETAIL.
Jeannine Everhart, the author, is citing information from the KFPS text “An Introduction to Judging the Friesian Horse”, available for purchase from the KFPS. She has been attending inspections with her horses since 1998 and attended a week long intensive judging clinic/class in the Netherlands during the summer of 2009. Jeannine and her family run Tanbark Acres, a small Friesian breeding operation.