In looking over a bunch of horses to pick out a potential stock horse, the first thing I look for is that I like the one slightly aggressive, the first one to "cut the dog" or "chase the raven". The first to notice you, and then approach; and the one with the attitude, "I am a pretty fine fellow, and I think we can get along just fine." I next want athletic ability - quick and handy on their feet; natural deep stops, quick spins and turnarounds.
If I am still looking at the horse now, NOW I check the conformation. I do not want a flat or dropped croup. (Before going any further, let me say that there are always exceptions to any rule, but what I am putting down here are generalities.) Rarely will you find a good stock horse that doesn't have a deep rounded hip and rear! I want a horse that stands square - never behind - if anything, a reining horse might be a little sickle-hocked. If they don't have a hip, then they won't be quick out of the stop nor have the power for the necessary acceleration.
Next I want enough back for the saddle - I want a deep heart girth and a chest wide enough to put my hand flat between their front legs. You have to have room for the strong lungs and heart.
I want a long sloping shoulder and preferably long pasterns. With the long shoulder, a horse can "reach" farther and grab more dirt. He can therefore spin faster and flatter than a shorter steeper shouldered animal. Also, the longer shoulder allows a horse to get lower and "crouch" in front of a cow. The long pastern means a very smooth ride. I want short canons and long forearms.
I don't pay much attention to the head and neck - just so they are in balance with the rest.
I prefer a horse between 14.2 and 15 hands - the taller the horse, generally they are not as quick or coordinated. Now, a rope horse could be 15 to 16 hands - generally I stay 15 to 15.2. A horse that is naturally very upheaded, I would not select for a rope horse.
Primavera Regalo is 15.1 barefoot, so he is on the high side of the ledger, but he gets "gold stars" in the hip, depth of heart girth, chest, and for length of shoulder, plus he's just like a cat. Bravado is 14.2 hands, so is on the short end of the scale, but gets the same "gold stars". Both horses are so quick that if you aren't riding correctly on a stop or roll-back, you could be eating dirt without ever feeling the horse turn!
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