How to Spot A World Grand Champion - an Interview with Melissa Moore November 24 2014 1 Comment

Long lining a prospect (a young horse)

In our industry, turning a weanling into a World Grand Champion is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Imagine the feeling of achievement at having spotted a horse so early on and training it into a champion.

Here’s the thing: searching for and dealing with prospects can be a huge gamble.  A horse may look great as a weanling, but grow into an adult that has no taste for showing. As an amateur myself, I’ve always been interested in what it is these trainers are looking for when they breed, buy, and sell prospects of their own.  How do they know when they’ve struck Prospect Gold?

I spoke with Melissa Moore of Sunrise Stables in Versailles, Kentucky; a renowned Saddlebred trainer and Saddleseat instructor with more accolades than we could fit into any blog post, to ask her about how she spots a prospect.

The Jodhpurs Company: What kind of physical traits do you look for in a prospect?

Melissa Moore: I look for good confirmation. I like to see their front legs set not too far underneath their shoulders so they can have a free and rolling gait.  It will make it more difficult for them to be a show horse in our industry if they can’t get that free shoulder movement.  I like nice back legs that are also not too far underneath them as well as a natural headset.  Every prospect will change once they have tack on them, but if they can hold their heads up standing still, that’s half the battle!

TJC: What behavioral traits can you look for in a young prospect that might indicate a good show horse?

MM: Beauty is a plus, but some not so pretty horses make great show horses.  Until you spend some time with them under tack, you really don’t know what you have, but a lot can be overcome with a horse show attitude.

TJC: What makes up a “show horse attitude”?

MM: I like a prospect that’s game on their own and wants to go forward and knowing your blood lines helps too.  For example, I’ve worked with some blood lines that get more game the more they’re worked so it’s good to have some idea of what to expect there.  I like something that is sensible, but isn’t cautious.  A show horse attitude is exactly what it sounds like, a horse that likes to show off!

TJC: What are some red flags to look out for?

MM: Poor confirmation.  Poor confirmation doesn’t mean that horse isn’t great for something else; all horses have a place and a purpose, but you obviously won’t be able to sell it as a show horse.  Horses that stand really far back in the knee is a definite red flag; it’s a lot harder for them to use their legs and if they don’t have that show horse attitude.  I don’t like to “wear out my clucker” so to speak!

Gothic Revival, one of Melissa Moor'e top saddlebred prospects

TJC: Any memorable prospects you’ve worked with that really turned out to be great horses?

MM: Gothic Revival, who has a special place in my heart.  Besides his beauty, if you made a noise in the field when he was young, he would flip his tail, snort and show off.  That’s show horse attitude!

TJC: Any memorable lessons learned from prospects that you missed the mark on?

MM:  I’ve learned from every horse I’ve worked with, but I can say I get very attached to my prospects and sometimes give them too much of an opportunity to try to be a show horse.  Unless they are dangerous, if they want to try, I will try and keep developing them.  Sometimes I will turn them out after their yearling year to give them more time to develop and it still doesn’t work out so I think one hard lesson to learn is when to cut your losses and realize they may not be the show horse you hoped for.

TJC: Any parting advice for those of us looking to find the right prospect?

MM: It’s really important not to rush them and to give the horse the opportunity to find their niche,  whether it’s to be a western horse, a country pleasure horse, or a five gaited grand champion.  They might not be the fancy Walk Trot horse you were looking for, but they may be the best hunter jumper horse in the country so you can’t try to put them into a mold that they can’t fit into, but rather, let them be best at what they can be.

Got any advice of your own to offer on spotting a prospect? Any stories to share on developing a horse? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page!