Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bad Intel, Part II

Last summer, I did a post on "bad intel", explaining the importance of the customer's information and input when it comes to saddle fitting - especially when we're doing it long-distance through photos and tracings.  Recently, I've been receiving a rash of photos that don't offer a whole bunch of information, so I thought I'd do an entry on why the conformation photo is so important, and what qualifies as a conformation shot.

The conformation shot sort of fills in the blanks in the saddle fitting equation.  The tracings give us a lot of necessary info, but they can be open to a bit of interpretation.  The topline tracing, for example - we often can't tell how we should position it to show "level".  If  we receive a tracing like this, we can assume that the topline tracing is level (and hope that we're assuming correctly):

This shows me a horse with a bit of a dip in the back, a good wither, and probably an uphill build.  But sometimes, due to space constraints, you have to put the topline tracing on diagonally ... let's say we get a tracing like this:

Obviously, the topline tracing isn't level in this shot (unless maybe it's a tracing of a giraffe).  Since there's nothing showing what's level, it might be this:

Again, a good wither with a bit of a dip.  But again, "level" could be this:

This is a horse with a dippy back that looks croup-high ... but without the conformation shot, we can't really tell.

Conformation shots also tell us about the horse's overall build and balance, which plays a considerable part in saddle fitting.  In addition to giving us real info on the topline, it will tell us if the saddle may tend to walk forward due to a short back and a big engine behind, or if it may want to slip back because of a big wither and an uphill build.  It will also give us an idea of the horse's overall condition, and whether we may be facing a lot of back changes due to weight loss or muscle gain or just plain growing up.

Here are some good conformation shots.  Each horse is very different, with unique fitting challenges, but these sorts of photos are the perfect complement to the templates.  They show overall build and balance, and give us clues about how the horse might move and what fitting issues we might run into that the template either doesn't address or only hints at.

Now, here are some photos that do NOT qualify.

In this first shot, I can't tell anything about the fitting needs of either horse ... and I can't tell which horse I'm supposed to be evaluating (the notation with the photo was, "The light chestnut with the blaze next to the fence."

The following two photos show the back pretty clearly, but leave me guessing about the overall balance and build.  Since I can't evaluate the whole horse, I can't assess how the conformation might effect saddle fit.

The next two photos are pleasant, but when the head's down that far, the topline is distorted; the back will often appear flatter and more developed than it really is.  All I can really tell from these photos is that, according to the barrel, the horse seems to be spending a LOT of time in this position ...

A striking and dramatic photo, but again, the unnatural head position distorts the back.  While the belly gives me the idea that this horse is either overweight and unfit or possibly a broodmare/in foal, and probably does have some dip to the back due weak/stretched abdominals, the back may come up quite a bit when the head's in a normal, relaxed position.

As you can see from the examples of "good" conformation shots, you don't have to be a professional photographer to take a clear, informative photo.  I don't even mind if the horse is unclipped or hasn't been groomed; I don't mind if your lawn's not mowed or the barn aisle hasn't been swept or if the cat (or dog, or child) is loitering in the background.  Just make sure that your horse is on level ground against a fairly plain (or at least contrasting) background, with all four feet bearing weight and head in a relaxed position.  That will give me the info that the template doesn't provide, and give me a clearer idea of the saddles that would be worth sending, so you don't blow a good portion of your saddle shopping budget on shipping.


Rebecca said...

HAHA @ horse with the blaze next to the fence. Thanks for another great post. :)

SallymetHarryHorse said...

very good :-)
made me feel better that i sent my saddler traces with marks on horse in photos with chalk to show where i did traces plus an embarressing amount of photos from every possible angle distance LOL! great post