A champion halter horse wins not just on exceeding the Quarter Horse conformational ideal, but on a presentation that displays the horse’s structure to its fullest. Healthy weight, balanced muscling, and a shining hair coat are necessities for showing off a horse’s perfectly conformed underlying bone-structure.
Tom Robertson is one of the AQHA halter greats as a breeder, trainer, handler, and judge – and has the Congress and World Championship wins to prove it. He and his wife Mary are dedicated to the overall wellness of all of their horses and have made SUCCEED a part of their daily program. Enjoy this look inside Tom Robertson’s feed program for a glimpse of how he prepares his winning halter horses.
What Makes a Winning Halter Horse
Halter horse classes are all about identifying the optimal breed body type in terms of overall structure and balance. The AQHA has detailed this conformational ideal in their Judging Halter (PDF) handbook. Key elements include:
- Overall balance in equal thirds (head/neck/shoulder, barrel, and hindquarters)
- Neck set high with a 2:1 ratio in length (top vs. bottom of neck)
- Sloping shoulder
- Short back and long croup
- Level topline, or slightly higher at wither
- Good legs
- Pretty head and throatloatch
In addition to initial bone structure, which Tom says is the about the only thing that can’t be improved with feeding and conditioning, overall muscling and condition play a significant part in reaching the Quarter Horse archetype.
Feeding for the Optimal Halter Horse Body Type
Along with a good conditioning program, feeding is an integral part of achieving the right physical look for a halter horse. A horse’s nutrition obviously has a direct affect on its weight, but can also influence how and where muscling develops.
Feed a high-quality alfalfa hay
As is true for any breed in any discipline, Tom says that offering a quality hay is the best way to feed a halter horse, especially for promoting a healthy weight. He feeds the best alfalfa he can find in the area (he’s based in Michigan). Alfalfa hay is nutrient-rich and high in protein – making it a good choice for both nutrition and weight-gain. And don’t worry about the old wives tale that “alfalfa makes horses hot.”
Evaluate concentrates for each horse’s specific needs
Performance horses have different nutritional needs in addition to constant access to quality hay or pasture grass. After trying many different types of grain-based feeds, Tom has found his horses do best on steamed crimped oats, or Omelene for the youngsters and picky eaters.
Tom avoids pelleted feeds because it is difficult to know what is actually in them. While he doesn’t mind sweet feeds, he prefers something higher in protein that helps develop a leaner look.
Support joint and digestive wellness
Longing work commonly used to condition halter horses can be difficult on the equine joints. Tom manages his horses’ joint health with several good supplements, including a good potassium and calcium balance.
He also says that, “We put these horses through so many more challenges than people even know. We see a huge difference when using SUCCEED. I love SUCCEED because it helps the horse use its feed to its optimum efficiency – and cuts down on the grain budget.”