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Understand traits before you sell short

Azteca owner unsure whether her gelding's 'paddling' is an asset

By RAY ARISS / Horsetrader columnist - December 3rd, 2009 - Q&A Hey Ray!

HEY RAY!: I know you are very familiar with the Andalusian. I have an awesome Azteca gelding I am considering selling with incredible movement -– great for dressage. When he moves, he has a “paddling” motion with his front feet. I believe the correct term is “Termino”. This is part of the Paso Fino movement, but is it acceptable in the Andalusian breed?
— Heidi Mahler

HEY HEIDI: First, there is no such thing as a perfect horse. In my 30 years of training horses, I have worked with hot bloods, warm bloods, cold bloods, exotics and domestic horses as well as miniatures, drafts and gaited horses. At one time or another, I remember recognizing the winging that you refer to in all of these breeds — sometimes on the left or right leg, and sometimes on both. I guess we should label it for what it is: a crooked leg.

What’s more important than that is this: Why would horses evolve into having crooked front legs? Because the Andalusian is a very old breed and a foundation to many of the breeds that exist today, a lot of characteristics of the breed have been passed on, including the “paddling.” Because these horses lived in marshes, when threatened and attacked by predators, the only horses that contributed to the gene pool were either those who paddled — skimming their hooves over the water more quickly — or the straight legged horses that had enough knee action and speed to move just as fast as the horses that had Termino. It should be easy for us to relate to the value of this movement by simply remembering what it felt like to run in water knee deep at the beach when trying to go fast. We too paddled our feet over the water because it was easier, regardless of how silly it may have looked.

A benefit of paddling recognized by many Peruvian Paso breeders was the fact that it made the horses back smoother to ride. By the way it’s the Peruvian Paso horse that wings, not the Paso Fino horse you mentioned above. Paso Fino horses are very straight moving, and move nowhere in a hurry, which if you have ever experienced this ride, it‘s a kick in the pants. Secondly, I am happy to hear that you are excited about your horse, and you see values and characteristics that you feel would make this horse an awesome dressage horse. That’s the most important aspect. If you were to keep this horse, I’d say focus on his strengths to keep you motivated in his training, and then expose all weak links in order to compensate and keep your horse healthy.

I’ve known many successful performance horses of different breeds that wing. The reason they have had long and successful careers was because of the attention to detail when trimming their feet. Like any good shoeing, having the hoof make contact with the ground perfectly flat when moving is key.
So Heidi — to finish answering your question – yes, it is acceptable but not necessarily desirable. Remember any extreme fault or quality should be carefully weighed and prioritized in order to achieve a well-balanced horse, partner and friend. Before you could sell this horse successfully, you have to remember what motivated you to buy or breed this horse initially.

This information should make the selling process valuable for both sides. “You have to be sold on your horse before you can sell him well.”

As always, Trust your instincts and be safe.


Horsetrader columnist Ray Ariss, husband to Pippa Ariss and father of six, shares his insight into the relationship of horseand human twice each month, in print and on www.horsetrader.com. He lives and trains in “Horsetown USA”, Norco, Calif., at his bustling Starbrite Riding Academy, where he currently has 50 horses in various stages of training, including Andalusians, Friesians, Quarter Horses, Paints, Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Mustangs and more. Ray attributes his training success to the support of his wife and partner, Pippa, and a system he calls S.W.A.P., to which he credits his multiple championships in several disciplines. His passionate understanding of the “human-horse” relationship was evident when he took on the challenge of training a wild Mustang and — in just 100 days — produced the highest-priced adopted Mustang ever — $50,000. Does your “horse-human relationship” leave you with a question for Ray? Click here to submit one!

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