These days many breeds seem to be splintering off into various factions, however it frequently boils down to Halter or performance as though the two are not (or should not be) intrinsically linked.
There are still a few stellar performers who can also win in the Halter ring, but they are disappearing in a myriad of breeds. My question is, why are there not Halter judging standards across the board which reward overall good conformation, movement and form-to-function in a horse? Both segments of the industry would benefit from such a thing, in my opinion.
One of the most glaring examples is the difference between a World Championship Quarter Horse from the Halter ring and a Western Pleasure horse of identical quality within his chosen division. Add in the working performance horse (Reiners, Cutters, Reined Cow Horses) and you've got three distinct types of horses. When judges are pinning post legged, crippled moving beasts that often look more like beef cattle than horses, there is likely a problem.
We have a similar issue in the Arabian breed, which was a major reason there was such strong support for a numerical scoring system from the performance enthusiasts. A good many Arabian Halter horses have lost the breed's trademark athletic ability, rendering them virtually useless as performance horses. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Another issue along the same lines are those folks who just prefer one over the other. This is something I've never really quite understood, because I enjoy both ~ whether watching or competing. Some folks just seem to have that preference for either Halter or performance. That's fine, I guess. It just doesn't resonate with me.
Here is how I view it: You judge a Halter horse based on two basic criteria; how he most exemplifies his breed and how well he is put together for a performance career. From my perspective, you cannot have one without the other. Some may say, what about the horse who becomes injured and cannot reasonably compete to win under saddle? As long as he is conformed correctly in the first place, there is no issue. He is still a correct individual and had he not been injured he likely would have excelled as a performance prospect.
Getting back to basics, here is why to my way of thinking it is important that Halter judging needs to become based more on form-to-function and conformation as opposed to remaining strictly a beauty contest. We have some truly beautiful horses out there, however, National or World Champion Halter winners are held up as each breed's ideal. So, what happens when folks who are looking for a nice, solid, sound horse who's going to have longevity in a performance discipline are swayed by images of "perfect" Halter horses held up as the epitome of what their chosen breed is supposed to look like? See the problem there?
When the naive public views those Halter winning horses as what they should be searching for to have a distinguished career in Dressage, or Reining, or Endurance (for instance) and the vet bills are mounting after purchase because it wasn't wise to buy that "pretty Halter horse" to begin with, making such an investment can be viewed as throwing good money after bad. Which, in turn, causes people to flock away from the horse industry in general (and the show ring specifically) having been burned by reality.
Nothing is wrong with owning, breeding, training or showing Halter horses. I would just rather see judges rewarding what they should be and see better horses being pinned as the "perfect" or "ideal" representative of any given breed, that's all.