Ugly Swan Myth

Summary: Amateur and backyard breeders of the Andalusian sometimes subscribe to the "ugly duckling" myth. Meaning that they believe, given patience and time to grow, all ugly duckling Andalusians will emerge into beautiful swans. The truth should be told.

Amateur and backyard breeders of the Andalusian sometimes subscribe to the “ugly duckling” myth. Meaning that they believe, given patience and time to grow, all ugly duckling Andalusians will emerge into beautiful swans.

The truth should be told.

SOME ugly ducklings will grow into swans; others will stay just plain ugly.


Because genetics takes such a strong role.

If you are looking to purchase a yearling and the seller tells you, oh, he’ll grow into that. It may be true. But its up to you to compare different horses and learn which ones will grow BETTER into that.

But how do you compare them?

Turn yourself into a master gamer. Play the parent game.

See how many traits from each parent you can find in the foal and follow these rules:

1) Height does not always breed true. A tall parent can yield a short offspring and a short parent can yield a tall offspring. Do not judge a foal’s height entirely by the parent’s. Yet, don’t discount it either.

2) If you are buying a filly, give less credence to testosterone-based traits of the sire. Testosterone-based traits include a crested neck, musculature, and “brio” or boldness. For example, an extremely cresty, muscular stallion will not necessary produce an extremely cresty, muscular daughter, but may produce a daughter that approaches more the look of a stallion with a nicely arched neck and some masculinity. A stallion without much crest or extra muscling may produce a daughter that is more slight of build with a straighter neck. Take away the testosterone factor when considering the stallion and imagine him as a regular horse. This is what he has to contribute to your filly.

3) If you plan to buy a colt and geld him, consider that sometimes castration will causeextra growth in height and less growth of the “stallion” characteristics.

4) Heart girth is hereditary. If neither parent has a large heart girth, don’t expect the youngster to “fill out” more than they did.

5) All sorts of things can happen to legs. If, by and large, both parents have straight legs its likely that your foal will grow out straight too. If one or both parents wing or has a deviation, don’t be surprised when your foal starts to wing.

6) All foals can move at any one time or another.

Young foals without the heavy adult weight to hinder them can move like the wind. Don’t be surprised when they lose their movement as they grow into adulthood.

Look for a good walk and a good canter. The trot can fool anybody.

7) The neck isn’t going to fill in. If a neck is thin, prone towards being ewe necked, with a notch between the wither’s and neck there are two reasons for this. 1) genetics 2) poor weight. Or a combination of genetics and poor weight. Adding weight will round out any animal and make them have a crest. Whether they have a nice, smooth shape or not – GENETICALLY – depends on their genetics... If both parents have a smooth neck tied into their back, most likely their foal will, too. Unless the parent’s are overweight and their true conformation is hidden.

8) Average-sized eyes will appear larger as the animal grows and develops dark “eyeliner” around them. Small-sized and large-sized eyes can be hereditary.

9) Large ears will always appear large – and small ears always small.

10) Large bone is bred in, not fed in. Same is true for heart-girth (as mentioned before) and chest size.

Can you remember all the rules regarding each topic below?

Height, testosterone, gelding, filling out, legs, movement, neck, eyes, ears, bone. 

Height – be careful
Testosterone – imagine the stallion without it
Gelding – increases height, takes away stallion look (see previous)
Filling out – mostly genetic
Legs – winging happens
Movement – foals have it
Neck – bred in
Eyes – bred in
Ears – bred in
Bone – bred in

That said, there is some truth to the story about the ugly duckling turning into a beautiful swan. Andalusian horses that are “leggy” may appear slightly ugly and very lanky as they go through a growth spurt. That legginess means that they have ALOT of growing and filling out to do. Still, if you look very closely, you will see the parent’s genes at play and a slight arch to the neck, an upright stance, good conformation and bone structure, etc.

A young horse that is already filled out and has stopped growing may not reach the same proportions and may not get very tall.

A leggy horse without good conformation (cowhocked, very narrow barrel, small eye, long head, etc) will finish out tall but still be able to pass on those traits. A true ugly. 

Skyhorse Ranch - Andalusian horse breeder in Texas with Andalusian horses for sale. Breeders of PRE Pura Raza Espanola horses with cartas from Spain. Selling black, grey, and bay Andalusians. Recommend Andalusian stallions at stud. Pictures, history, facts, and info. Spanish Andalusian horse farm. Bloodlines from Spain in the USA.

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