Yesterday Teresa and I had the great pleasure of attending the Friesian Horse Association of North America's 2011 Regional Keuring, which was held at the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, Colorado.
A Keuring is a type of judging event in which horses of a specific breed (typically European in origin) are evaluated for their suitability as a breeding animal.
Although horses of all ages may be presented at a Keuring, today's post is all about the babies. Friesian foals are required to attend a Keuring before they are permanently entered in the Foal Book. At the Keuring, each foal is given a designation of 1st, 2nd or 3rd or No Premium (Premie) which reflects how closely he or she adheres to the breed standard.
Foals are shown one at a time alongside their mothers. Here's a quick look at the inspection process.
The mare and foal are bought to the ring and turned over to the "runners."
The runners are special presenters from the Netherlands. In addition to being very fast, these men are experts at showing a horse or foal to its best advantage.
Although it's considered somewhat ill-advised, some owners prefer to forgo the use of runners and show the horses themselves.
The first part of the class is an evaluation of the foal's breed type and conformation. The foal is led over to the judges and stood up for inspection.
Of course, this sounds a lot easier than it actually is. The foals at this keuring ranged in age from six months to three months and most were too excited to stand quietly for any length of time.
It often took all three runners and a lot of patience to get through this stage of the inspection!
Gaits are evaluated next, beginning with the walk.
The mare is led around the ring with her foal following freely at her side.
In order to give the judges an unobstructed view of the foal, the runners often have to intervene a bit.
At the judges' signal, the mare is moved into a trot.
The trot is the signature gait of the Friesian horse. The judges are looking for a strong, uphill way of going that includes both knee action and a long moment of suspension.
In order to get each foal to trot its best, one of the runners provides extra encouragement in the form of a whip and shaker box.
Many of the foals misinterpreted this encouragement and responded with little baby fireworks...and race horse imitations.
The runners were persistent, however, and eventually each foal rewarded them with moments like this...
Once the judges have seen enough...
the mare is brought to a halt, the foal is captured and the two of them are led out of the ring. While this is happening, the judges announce the results of their evaluation. They discuss what they did and not like about the foal's conformation and gaits and award it entry into the Foal Book.
After all the foals have been shown, the two highest scoring foals are invited back to the arena for awards.
They receive their prizes, pose for photos...
and the champion takes a victory lap.
Lots more Friesian pictures to come!