The head should be intelligent, alert, and display a good temperament. It should be in proportion to the rest of the body. I find a small head ungainly, and a large head makes the neck appear undermuscled and weak, particularly on a long neck. The eyes should be large, kind, and set well apart, giving them a wide vision. The ears should be mobile, curving to a point. The ears display the horse`s temperament by being pricked forward when he is looking at something and engaged, and lying flat back when he is irritable.
The mouth should have enough room for a bit, and the tongue should not be too fleshy – but this depends on the breed. The jaw should be mobile, and the horse neither have an overbite or an underbite as this affects their grazing ability. The lips should be soft, and the nostrils large so that ample air can be taken into the lungs. This is important for an eventer when galloping across country, or a Thoroughbred racing.
The jaw and poll should have enough room for flexion, so that the oesophagus isn`t restricted when the horse is working to a contact, particularly in dressage.
I am a sucker for the dished face of Arabs, finding the Roman nose too heavy for many horses. Except the Shire. I also like a kind eye, feeling that I can engage with the horse and “see” their personality.
Going along to the neck; the horse should have a good topline, but this can be disguised with excess fat. The neck should be long and elegant, but it also serves the purpose of helping the horse balance. The neck should flow onto a sloping shoulder; if it is set on too high, the horse has a “swan neck” which is worsened by an overdevelopment of the under muscles in the neck, further problems caused by this are short shuffly strides, and a tense jaw. But that`s another story. If the neck is set on too low it gives the appearance of the horse being on the forehand, you feel like you`re sat “at the top of a slide”, and the withers always look prominent with this type of neck, and it`s difficult to build up a correct top line.
If the neck is too long it will be weaker, and put the horse on the forehand; whilst a short neck shortens the strides.
Weak necks are my bug bear; I feel they are so unsightly! But there is nothing worse than an overly cresty stallion!
Part 3 coming soon!