Do You Have a Good "EYE"
Spring heralds the appearance of new life - as in young Dane puppies. The 'pick of the litter' bouncing into the ring, out to prove the worthiness of their breeder's eye at picking the good ones. Mistakes are often made when evaluating a litter, however, it has been my observation, that people who can spot a good, sound horse just might have a foot in the door when it comes to evaluating a Dane, or any working breed, be it puppy or adult.
My Father, like many Irishmen, had a great eye for a good horse or dog. His philosophy was "Might as well feed and raise a good 'un', be it horse or dog, and us kids, all six of us, enjoyed the fruits of his selections with much success.
Our ponies had to be able to follow the hounds, compete in the show ring, and gymkhanas, plus learn a few tricks. Our dogs - Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Irish Setters, and there was an English Pointer, a Dalmatian, a Boxer and a Pekingese in the mix at one time, were family pets, hunting dogs, show dogs, plus had to put up with whatever very active kids do with their pets. Of necessity, temperament was given top priority.
Keeping all the above activities in mind, my Dad, when evaluating a horse, would start with the front end. Good slope to shoulders was a must, with a long, strong musculature neck that attached smoothly at the withers and mid-chest.
Mid-section had to have a well-sprung rib cage, short, strong, well muscled loin, and correct leg structure, with good flat bone, set under the four corners of the body. He looked for the balanced animal.
All of the above evaluations could be excerpts from our Dane Standard. His rationale was very sound. A horse or pony with such attributes could give optimal performance, with minimal stress on the animals body, legs and lungs. On the other hand, a horse (Dane) with a straight shoulder (a huge problem in our breed today) has less power, poor reach, a short stride and less shock absorption.
Slab-sided mid-section cuts down on lung and heart room. Also, since the spinal column is the only skeletal attachment between the front and rear of the horse (Dane) a weak or long loin area will provide much less drive, power and maneuverability than a short, strong, well-muscled loin area.
Forelegs set too far back create an overloaded front. Bowed or weak fetlocks/pasterns will breakdown when stressed. Rear legs with poor musculature and set too far back puts more stress on the animal's spine and front.
A Dane's neck is, perhaps, shorter than that of the horse, but the required placement and conformation is the same. Our Standard calls for "firm, high set, well arched, long and muscular. From the nape it should gradually broaden and flow smoothly into the withers. The neck underline clean".
It has been said that one has to be born with a "good eye", but am sure it may be "developed over time", especially if one recognized the mandatory conformation requirements for physical soundness of a working animal, and understands a weakness will effect the whole, and should be avoided. Temperament is very important, it is influenced by heritage and environment, socialization or lack of it. One does not need a "congenital eye" to evaluate good temperament or disposition - just recognize the essentiality.
Total open-mindedness is essential when evaluating a litter. One must not let a beautiful, sculptured headpiece, elegant neckline, sweet disposition - whatever - blind us to straight shoulders, weak rears, narrow chests, all of which indicates lack of balance and soundness.
By reaching and stretching, very objectively, in their "mind's eye" for that balanced perfection, one will find the "good uns" and our breed will benefit when they become stud dogs and brood bitches, and produce correct shoulders, rears, substance, soundness, elegance and balance.
It can be an exhilarating process, and the closer one comes to perfection, the greater is the reward. Here is hoping the Dane youngsters all fulfill their promise, and prove their breeders really do have an "eye" for their babies. Hopefully, I will be testing my own "eye" this Spring. That is like "putting your money where your mouth is"!
Mrs. Paddy Magnuson,