All riders will probably say something different to describe their perfect horse, especially depending on the discipline they intend for it.
For Endurance, I personally will always first look at the confirmation of a horse to deem if it is suitable for my intentions, which would be to achieve the ultimate distance of 160km. My main focus when looking at confirmation is to look from the hoof and up the leg. Without a strong leg, you really have no horse, especially when you require your horse to carry you 160km over various terrains. Small weaknesses can be worked on over time with schooling and strengthening techniques and a good farrier is a must. The angles of the shoulder and hip would be my next point of focus, as depending on the angle it could impact what happens to the lower leg and how they use themselves. It is always of interest to watch the horse move from the ground, on a lunge or long reigning, to help assess how they move and even place their feet down.
My second topic to look at would be the temperament and attitude to work of the horse. A calm horse will do well in Endurance, due to the requirement of vetting to have a sufficient pulse under 64bpm. A horse which is eager to please and keen to go forward is an advantage as with the long miles the horse needs to have a strong character. I personally don’t mind a very forward horse who may need slowing down so they don’t burn out too soon, rather than a happy hacker who needs constant nagging. I always like them to be a little quirky! The occasional spook/buck definitely adds to their character and can make for an interesting ride. One of my horses, Barik, hates dock leaves which have blown upside down in the wind for example, whilst Djelanza always jumps into canter and then produces a buck.
As with everything in riding, there are no hard and fast rules – but for me, an Endurance rider, the right confirmation, particularly of the leg is critical as is the right balance of temperament – calm but forward.
To learn more about Endurance riding why not visit Endurance GB