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An Introduction to the CWHBA Inspection and Evaluation System:

by Chris Gould

The First Step:
The in-hand evaluation on the triangle for 2 1/2 year old stallions or mares is the first step in estimating the breeding value of our production horses. It is predicated on the assumption that this evaluation can be used to predict future breeding outcomes. That assumption can be debated - however it leads necessarily to the questions, 'what breeding outcomes are we looking for' and 'which outcomes can be addressed through the in-hand evaluation.'

Warmblood horses like other competition breeds are bred for performance; primarily for the Olympic disciplines. Individual breeders may target more specific markets or broaden their aim to include recreational trail riding etc, however the outcome we are selecting for as a breed is clearly focused on Olympic equestrian sports. That in itself presents a difficult challenge because characteristics maximizing jumping ability are not necessarily compatible with dressage aptitudes. Within the context of performance we must also consider rideability, soundness, temperament, and character.

To answer the 2nd question then, what aspects of performance outcomes can be predicted through in hand evaluation, we must look at the evaluation in more detail. Numerical values are given in six categories for mare inspection and eight categories for stallions and long format mares:

  • Breed and Sex Type
  • Conformation
  • Correctness of Gaits
  • Swing / Elasticity of Gaits
  • Walk
  • Jumping (long format for stallions and mares)
  • Gallop (long format for stallions and mares)
  • General Impression & Development

The value for Conformation is derived by averaging six sub-scores:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • saddle position
  • frame
  • forelegs
  • hindlegs

An overall numeric value is reached by averaging the 6, or in the case of stallions/mares long format - 8 categories.
An examination of the categories reveals that the inspection process is largely concerned with what may be called external qualities and is neutral for interior qualities such as trainability, temperament, character, except to the extent that these might prevent a horse from being presented to it's best advantage. Jumping ability is scored for stallions but not for mares; gaits which may be directly related to dressage performance are scored for both mares and stallions. Soundness is addressed in correctness of gaits and conformation scores for legs. Rideability is an elusive aspect, however the head & neck as well as the saddle position & frame bear directly on the horses ability to carry a rider and accept the bridle. The category 'General Impression' also factors in to the extent that balance and harmony contribute to the horses ability to collect and perform under a rider.

Weighting of Categories:
It is important to keep in mind the weighting of the categories: for mares - 50% to evaluation of movement, 33% conformation, 16.5% over-all impression. For long format - 50% movement, 25% conformation, 12.5% jumping and 12.5% over all impression. To answer the question then, 'Does this system address a primarily performance oriented breeding goal?' I think the answer is YES. Could it be improved? Probably, however there is evidence that it works. The first proof is the dominance of warmblood horses at international level competition in dressage and jumping. The second proof comes from statistical work previously done and ongoing in Europe which finds positive correlation between inspection results and future performance results for individual horses and their offspring.

The second Step:
The second step in determining breeding values is the performance evaluation. It is important to realize that the in-hand inspection is not an end in it's self and does not constitute a definitive judgment. It is an arbitrary number placed on a horse as a comparative value to be used as a tool in a planned breeding program.

The question is often asked, since performance is our primary goal, why not skip the inspection process and use only performance or competition data. This approach would certainly maximize certain aspects of performance but it ignores the complexity which was referred to earlier. 

When selecting for breeding we have set a goal which is a well conformed, sound horse with excellent gaits, superior jumping scope / technique and the best interior qualities. The belief that we can produce a horse that looks good, has a great disposition and performs at the top in both disciplines is implicit in this goal. The point is we are selecting breeding stock. Faced with two horses of equal athletic ability, would we not want the one with the straight legs, great neck & saddle position?

This makes sense when we are dealing with equals in one important aspect but what about when none of the variables match? It is about reality where one horse moves well but has a long back, another jumps a little better but the neck is thick and it paddles and a third horse is tall and elegant but shows only average movement and jumping ability. This is where the system takes over and the numbers begin to really make sense.

Scoring within the categories is from 1 to 10. Each number corresponds to a normative word, from: I - very bad to 10 - excellent as in the Summary list. Thus in the above scenario each of the horses would receive high scores for their positive attributes and lower scores for their negative points.

The end result could well result in equal overall scores but the variations between horses would be clear from the category scores. In this way we understand the system as an evaluation tool and move away from the concept of winner and loser or pass and fail. Many horses with varying qualities will be found sufficient, satisfactory and fairly good. Only a few will achieve good and very good.

The Judging System:
Another important aspect is the judging system: Three or four judges are used depending upon whether mares or stallions are being inspected. It is a collaborative system where discussion between judges is encouraged and consensus sought in arriving at a score. Statistical analysis has led to the conclusion that three judges results in a high degree of accuracy when compared to two, and that four judges is a further improvement, but more than four is not warranted.

In spite of our best efforts, the evaluation system is subjective at heart and must be viewed with a degree of skepticism and some tolerance & generosity. Remember we are trying to put a breeding value, expressed as a number on a horse which we see for five minutes and do not ride and which will be bred to an unknown mare or stallion. In each individual case, in some sense, we will always be wrong. It is when we take our breeding population as a whole and apply this selection pressure over a number of generations that we will in the end be right.

NEW: World wide, registries are introducing and refining a system of Linear Profiling to give a much clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of each animal being inspected. Since 2018, CWHBA has begun to introduce this system of Linear Profiling which will continue to be refined to suit our needs. We expect this to provide much more valuable information to our breeders.


  • We are evaluating breeding stock for desired breeding outcomes.
  • Performance at Olympic Equestrian Sports is our desired breeding outcome (goal)
  • In-hand evaluation is weighted towards exterior qualities of gaits & conformation which encompasses aspects of athletic ability, soundness & rideability. It is neutral regarding evaluation of interior characteristics.
  • Numerical values are given in six categories for mares and eight categories for stallions/mares in the long format:
    Breed and Sex Type, Conformation, Correctness of Gaits, Swing and Elasticity of Gaits, Walk,
    Jumping (long format only), Gallop (long format only), and General Impression and Development
  • Scoring is based from 1 to 10. Each number corresponds to a normative word.
    1 - very bad
    2 - bad
    3 - rather bad
    4 - insufficient
    5 - sufficient
    6 - satisfactory
    7 - fairly good
    8 - good
    9 - very good
    10 - excellent
  • The Inspection result is not an end in and of its self. It is only one part of the evaluation process. 

Performance evaluation and offspring evaluation are the other parts.

  • It is a tool in a planned breeding program. It is not designed to pick winners or losers.
  • It works; performance data correlated to conformation evaluations has been quantitatively studied with positive results.
  • A three or four judge system gives a high degree of accuracy.
  • It is subjective and should not be over rated.

In cases where there is a question of eligibility for mares registered and/or entered with breed associations that are not listed above, the Stud Book Committee reserves the final decision on the level of eligibility based on documentation and approvals submitted with the application.
The CWHBA Stud Book Committee will consider, upon application, warmblood horses registered with the 'Zuchtverband fur Duetsche Pferde e.V.' (ZfDP) of Verden, Germany based upon the approved generations of warmblood pedigree and according to the rules and requirements set forth in our Stud Book regulations.
The 'Zuchtverband fur Duetsche Pferde e.V.' (ZfDP), which has been recognized by the German Equestrian Federation since 1984, does not keep a studbook/category: Canada. Papers issued in Canada under the ZfDp's previous name of "Deutscher Pferdezuchtverband e.V", often referred to as "German Warmbloods", are NOT considered valid registration papers. They are not recorded in any recognized Stud Book in Germany or Canada and as such are not recognized by the CWHBA.

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Updated: January 2, 2019