Buyers new to the industry often fail to recognize unsoundness in draft horses, as do individuals from families that have draft horses but have participated in few organized breed activities.
Early in the 20th century most stallions offered for public service were licensed. Before a breeding horse was granted a license, it was inspected by a government or breed-appointed inspector. These stallion inspectors were respected horsemen or knowledgeable authorities, such as veterinarians and animal science professors. Today, few stallions–Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron or Suffolk–are inspected.
What constitutes unsoundness in a draft horse? Stringhalt, shivers, roaring (whistling), sidebones, ringbone, bog spavins, bone spavins (jacks), curbs, cataracts, navicular disease, defective genital organs and defective conformation.
Today, most horsemen have a basic knowledge of what defective conformation is, what bog spavins and roaring are. However a number of draft horse enthusiasts are unable to identify a sidebone on a draft horse, let alone a bone spavin or ringbone. Several fail to differentiate desired hock action from stringhalt, which is an unsound condition.
Breed judges have been criticized for failing to inspect a stallion's genital organs. Ringside pundits have often questioned the expertise of a judge who fails to examine breeding horses for sidebones, cataracts, parrot or monkey mouth. These are inherited traits–traits which can cost inexperienced breeders if they are not identified. Breeding classifications at draft horse shows should offer new breeders a learning experience. They need to know what constitutes unsoundness so they can appreciate why their horse is placed to the bottom of a halter class. Too often, judges fail to inform new breeders that their horses are unsound. This is understandable, for some new breeders will react in a negative manner to constructive criticism. However, many will appreciate it, knowing such criticism can facilitate their future success as a draft horse breeder.
New breeders should approach two or three respected horsemen/horsewomen before buying a horse, to ensure the horse in question is sound. Likewise, experienced breeders should offer the assistance to individuals that are new to a breed. This can save new buyers expensive mistakes, which often concludes their interest in a breed. Draft horse breeders can ill afford to lose those enthusiasts who are new to the industry.
At least this is how I see it!