Allrounder


Introduction

Allrounder is a term rather than a breed although many breeds of horses have been created to try to fit the term. As the name suggests a good allrounder is a horse that can manage comfortably across a range of disciplines without necessarily being an expert in any off them. Arguably the ultimate allrounders in the equine world are the 3-day eventers, who have to manage the finesse of dressage, the boldness of cross-country and the strategy of show jumping.

History

In the early days of domestication, humans tended to try to breed horses for specific purposes according to their local needs. This would produce animals with specific physical characteristics and ultimately broadly similar temperaments. These would typically be best suited to the work for which they were bred but could also be used for other work. For example the Highland ponies of Scotland were bred to carry heavy weights but also made acceptable riding horses and the Cleveland Bays were bred to be stylish carriage horses but were also athletic riding animals. As the horse became less of a working animal and more of a recreational animal, it became less important to have animals which could fulfil one role of work perfectly and more important to have animals who could adapt to a variety of situations according to their owners' requirements and inclinations. In particular today, weight-pulling ability and usefulness as a driving animal are much less valued than the ability to hack out safely and to compete in a variety of disciplines at amateur level.

Appearance

As the terms allrounder describes a type rather than a specific breed, there are no specific breed standards. The term can be used to describe anything from the smallest children's ponies to substantial adult horses. For this reason allrounders can be any colour and can come in a variety of shapes as well as sizes. In practice there are certain expectations depending on the size of the animal. Smaller ponies, i.e. animals intended for very young children will often be native breeds or at least of native breed type although they are not always registered. Here a good temperament is prized above all other virtues. The smaller native breeds, however, tend to be resourceful and capable little animals and can perform well in lower-level competitions as well as being reliable hacking ponies. Moving up to the level of older children and smaller adults, native ponies are still a popular choice for those who want an economical pony for fun rather than serious competing. The larger native breeds can perform well but for serious competing crosses between native breeds and more refined animals are often preferred. These animals still have a decent level of hardiness and reasonably sensible temperaments for pleasure riding, while being lighter and faster than the full natives for competition. Moving up again into the fully adult world, allrounder becomes a very broad definition covering everything from cobs, which are mainly for hacking but can compete at local shows to sporting horses which are sensible enough to use for hacking.

Temperament

Although allrounders are all individuals, the term implies an animal with at least a decent degree of common sense. It also implies an intelligent animal since allrounders, by definition, are expected to be able to perform well at a variety of tasks. Beyond that, however, an allrounders temperament will largely be a combination of its breeding and handling, which is why prospective buyers should do everything feasible to find out about both as well as making sure they are given the opportunity to observe the animal's behaviour. While it is probably too much to hope, for example, that the animal will need a visit for the farrier when you go to see it, you should ask to see it being caught, tacked and generally handled. If at all possible you should see it being loaded and unloaded. Allrounders are bought essentially as pleasure horses and so it is important that they have good temperaments and are easy to manage. Horses which are bought primarily as competition animals may have challenging behaviours accepted (the great eventer Murphy Himself was notorious for pulling) but these would soon try the patience of most recreational riders, if not cause a serious accident.

Allrounder Health

Like the comments about appearance, the health of allrounders depends largely on breeding and handling. One of the issues with them, however, is that they may not have been bred from registered stock and their sellers may simply not be familiar with their breeding or background. Fortunately some help from a vet and a little common sense can resolve this issue. It is strongly advisable to have all animals vetted before purchase and in practical terms may be a requirement for insurance purposes. This will pick up any health issues currently showing in the animal (which will hopefully be none). For broader issues, which may affect horses of a particular breed, look for clues in the animal's appearance. Chances are if a horse strongly resembles a particular breed then it probably has a strong link to it and any health issues it may potential have in future will be linked to that breed.

Caring for a Allrounder

Again as the term allrounder describes a type rather than a breed, it's difficult to generalize. All horses and ponies need time in a field where they can stretch their legs and relax. They also need grooming (ideally daily) and regular footcare and worming. All animals should be visited at least once a day (twice or more is better) even if they do not actually require care. This will enable you to check that they are healthy and injury free and will also give you an opportunity to check that their paddock is secure. Thinner-skinned animals will need stabling in colder weather and sturdier ones may need stabling in summer to keep them from getting overweight. The amount of food animals need, if any, will depend on their breed, their workload and the weather.

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