This autumn, inspectors, judges and runners from the Netherlands will fly to North America to inspect our horses in this annual event. For those of us in the Friesian world, this is a significant time for our horses (especially the adult horses) and for Friesian lovers everywhere it is a great time to come out and see lots of Friesians in one place.
So, what is an inspection (Dutch word – “keuring”), and what do the judges look for?
The Dutch word “keuring” is not just for horses. It is used when fine materials – such as gold, silver, diamonds – are inspected and rated. Think of a diamond rated for clarity or other traits and then given a score. All are diamonds – but some are rated as “more perfect” diamonds according to whatever rules there are that make a diamond “the perfect diamond”.
And so it is with the horses. The judges inspect each horse individually against the breeding standard for what a Friesian horse is, ideally. The horse is judged in numerous detailed categories for conformation and movement. The Keuring is NOT a horse show. It is an inspection and the results of the inspection will be recorded on the horse’s papers and be with him/her for the rest of his/her life.
A note about the judges: The Dutch judges are highly trained and inspect hundreds of horses each year. The inspection team will consist of a group of judges (called a “jury”), led by a senior (“class A”) judge known as an “Inspector”. There are only a handful of inspectors in the world and these have passed numerous tests and apprenticed as a judge for at least 7 years. Inspectors are accompanied by at least one lower level judge (a “class B” judge) whose scores are also factored into the final scoring. Sometimes there is a third judge (a “class C”) who also has input into the scoring, but whose scores themselves are not factored in. The judges/inspectors themselves are peer reviewed and their results are analyzed via computer for the quality and consistency of their judging. If any judge is deemed to be a poor judge, inconsistent, or one showing favoritism, s/he will have the judging privileges revoked by registry.
These scores are recorded in a detailed “linear score sheet” (see an example) and culminate with a score from 3 (lowest) to 9 (highest) in these major categories:
- Type: How does this horse compare with the ideal Friesian “type” that the registry is looking for nowadays? Type includes things like expression, length of head, shape of the eyes, length of the mouth, length and shape of the poll, elevation of the neck, color, markings and coat. These characteristics, obviously, deal with how the horse looks.
- Frame/Build: These characteristics deal with how a horse is built and whether or not that build will serve the horse in doing what the registry wishes for the horse to be capable of doing. These breeding goals have changed over the years as the Friesian goals changed from usefulness as a riding horse, then farm horse, then carriage horse and now back to riding horse. The items which factor into the “Frame” category include the heaviness of the throatlatch and length of the poll (allowing the horse’s head to give to the bit), the sloping of the shoulder (allowing the horse free movement of the front legs), the shape of the rib cage (allowing for good airflow and bending), the strength and height of the withers and connection of the neck to the back (allowing for proper position of a saddle and placement of a rider), the strength and length of the back (again, allowing proper position and carriage of a rider), the length and shape of the loins, croup and gaskin muscle (allowing the horse freedom of movement and power in the rear so the horse can reach under and propel himself properly).
- Quality of the legs and feet: The inspectors are looking at the shape and angle of the hooves and the overall shape, straightness, and health (musculature, “hardness” vs swelling) of the legs. In a nutshell, the horse needs to have good quality, healthy legs and feet or it will not be able to move properly. Swollen hocks and misshapen hooves are not allowed.
- Walk: The walk should be regular (four regular beats), long stride, relaxed, straight, with the hind leg “pushing” the front leg. Not too narrow, not too wide. The rear legs should come under the horse and the walk should show activity and “power” as evidenced by the horse stepping with purpose (not “dragging” its hind legs).
- Trot: The trot must be regular, with a distinctive 2 beat gait. Again, the hind legs should reach up under the horse powerfully and display a good deal of flex at the hock. The front legs should display knee action and extend well (“reach”) in the front. The trot should be supple, long and show suspension yet balance.
As a general rule of thumb, these scores are weight averaged (conformation is counted towards 40% of the score while movement is counted as 60% of the score) and if the total is around the following, the horse gets the associated score below:
- Less than 6: not in the studbook
- approx 6: included in the studbook, no premium
- 6 to 7: 3rd premium
- approx 7: 2nd premium star
- 7.5 or more: 1st premium star
It is extremely difficult for a horse to achieve a star (Dutch “ster”) rating. On average only about 1 out of every 5 adult horses will achieve this.
These are general guidelines. Foals are rated slightly differently, as are stallions. Also, mares can actually achieve scores higher than 1st premie star in some cases. Horses can also be judged in a performance test.
I will address these topics in upcoming posts over this next week.
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.