Keeping the ideal dressage- or jumping horse in mind as the breeding standard, KWPN jury members evaluate thousands of young horses for studbook acceptance season after season. Since the mid 1990’s this has been done by using the so-called ‘linear score sheet’.
The linear score sheet consists of two parts, in practice referred to as the ‘lower beam’ and the ‘upper beam’. The lower beam includes a large number of conformation and movement characteristics that can provide a detailed description of the horse. The upper beam, the evaluation of the horse as a whole, follows only after all individual characteristics have been observed and described. The upper beam consists of points for the overall conformation and various movements of the horse.
In this case linear scoring means that each individual horse is compared with the average KWPN dressage- or jumping- horse on all relevant characteristics included in the breeding standard. The characteristics on the form relate to the conformation and movement of a horse. The form describes per characteristic where the horse being evaluated stands comparable to the large group that makes up the average. Is it within the norm, or does it fall that norm. And if it does, to what extent? This has nothing to do with appreciation, in this phase the jury limits itself only to the observation and describing of conformation and movement characteristics.
The linear score form lists various traits of conformation, movement, and jumping separately. Descriptive terms, representing the extremes of each trait (for example, long and short; uphill and downhill) appear by each trait evaluated. The descriptive terms are separated by nine check-boxes representing the degrees between the two extremes. Specifically, the middle three boxes represent a trait as it appears in the average horse. The three boxes left of the middle (for example, uphill) and the three right of the middle (for example, downhill) represent a trait that is clearly evident in the horse, depending where along the continuum the box is checked. Inspectors must check one of the nine boxes to indicate the degree to which the specific trait is evident in the horse. Additional boxes may be checked if a horse demonstrates a fault or abnormality, or if a comment is required for evaluating a specific trait. Examples of faults and abnormalities include an underbite, dissimilar hoofs, and a Roman nose.
After inspectors have marked the horse’s traits on the linear score form, they can determine overall scores. Based on the traits observed, scores are awarded for the primary traits of conformation, movement, and jumping. The score for movement actually has two components: a total score and individual scores for the walk, trot, canter, and carriage. The scoring scale used for this purpose ranges from 40 to 100 points, marked in five-point increments.
Jumpers also receive scores for conformation and jumping. The score for jumping is the average of scores for the canter, reflexes, style, and scope. Scores for the walk and the trot do not count toward the jumping score; however, they must average at least 50 points for a horse to be accepted in the studbook and at least 60 points for a horse to receive the ster predicate.
Dressage horses are scored on conformation and movement. The score for movement is the average of scores for the walk, trot, canter, and carriage.
The linear score sheet for Gelder horses is the same as that for riding horses and the owner will decide whether or not to include the free-jumping evaluation for his horse.
While the movement of the other breeding directions consists of nine components, the linear score sheet for harness horses has seven. Behind the two usual walk characteristics (length of stride and accuracy) there are five evaluation points for the trot in harness horses.
After the evaluation, every mare owner receives a copy of the completed score sheet. Although the majority of owners usually know what the strong and less strong points of their horse are, the independent evaluation of an expert is often a good tool for those that want to succeed in breeding. With clear descriptions of all a mare’s characteristics, the owner can focus on a suitable stallion to either compensate or correct certain characteristics in that mare.
Additionally, a copy of all completed score sheets goes to the KWPN office where the information is entered into the database. Here all the horses are linked to their sires and other family members, making a good image of what a stallion passes on to his offspring, and to what extent. From this information, the breeding values per stallion are calculated and published each year, something that makes it easier for the mare owners to choose the right stallion for their mares.
It is clear that for breeding as a whole, the lower beam (the linear scores on the form) is especially relevant. This data is important for the breeding values and reflect the development within the population. The individual owner will – quite understandably – be especially interested in the upper beam because those scores determine whether a horse is eligible for the studbook or even the ster predicate.