Gerd Zuther: Out of the Archives

By Charlene Strickland

Growing up in Germany, he trained with legends Willi Schultheis and Harry Boldt. He rode in all three Olym- pic disciplines, and to Grand Prix in dressage. After moving to the United States in 1979, he ran November Hill Farm in Virginia, imported horses, ran auctions and the 100-day stallion tests and also became a popular clinician. From audio archives, we found many of his droll comments and astute judgments that capture the wisdom he shared so honestly and openly.


Horse Evaluation When you judge a horse, there is an old breeder’s rule: three days, three months, three years. At three days, the horse now stays on his feet and doesn’t have fat covering him. You can see the bones and the joints. In your mind you can project the bones out through the skin. Later on, it’s much harder to see the angles—the point

of the hip, point of the shoulder, scapula, shoulder joint— they get a little blurred. At three months the horse has the height of the moth-

er’s milk. He starts to be independent. Growing up in a herd, he plays with other horses. You start to see the first trot movement and the athletic ability of the horse. Project the three-month-old horse into a larger picture

and you most likely have the picture of an adult horse. After three months is the time of the growing spurts— very hard to judge. At three years you have a horse that has finished growth. The length of the legs don’t grow any more. Every horse has to go over the back. This horse could

have a little more muscle connection in the loin. When he is correctly ridden, the loin will be rounder and more elas- tic. Ride the horse over cavaletti, cross rails, cross country, on the trails. Don’t ride only in the ‘sandbox,’ without chal- lenging, because it’s harder to develop the loin. The wither on this horse is not pronounced. There is not enough definition. The saddle could roll. I give a 6 maximum. I would not fight you for a 5. While evaluating Abdullah, who was over at the knee: We saw him shortly after the Olympics [1984], inspected

Photos by Charlene Strickland

s a prominent judge at inspections, Gerd Zuther (1940-2018) was a major influence on the Hanoverian breed in North America.

Gerd Zuther commenting at a Hanoverian inspection in 2003.

for the Hanoverians. We had a heavy discussion about it. Some of the group would not take him. Some said we have to take him because he is so successful. I did know his sire [Donauwind *E*]. I rode him in the stallion perfor- mance test. He didn’t have this type of leg. He was very correct. The bone structure of the hind leg should bloom up like a tulip, into the supporting hock situation. And not be pinched in, so it can carry more weight. The hock must hold the whole weight of the horse and the rider, and to push up to jump a big oxer. A horse that is post-legged is upright. Even if he has a good shoulder, he doesn’t have the push from behind. The power plant doesn’t put out what you need. It’s like you have a Porsche with a VW engine—an old VW engine with 36 hp! The croup is a selection point for dressage or jumper.

Push and up into the air—the dressage horse has to do both. They have to sit and compress, and sit and come up in piaffe and passage. The jumper has to compress to a certain degree, and then open up as much as possible. The front leg comes up higher, when the hind leg is still on the ground. When I was learning, we wore the old breeches of the

military type that had an air bulge. They were good for stealing potatoes from the fields! So a horse has to have hosen (pants)—those old riding pants. Another judge told me you have to describe a horse like Marilyn Monroe, not flat but curvy muscles on the croup.

Evaluating the Horse in Motion More forward! Move it! When you show the horse in hand, let the neck down, so then he can move. He should not

Warmbloods Today 55

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