Horse Conformation

Horse Conformation

The term ‘horse conformation’ describes the lines, muscling and characteristics of a horse’s body. Whether your horse has ‘good’ or ‘bad’ horse
conformation depends really on what breed your horse is (since each breed is different their horse conformation is different and you’ll be looking for
different good or bad horse conformation points).

Example: If you were going to buy a Thoroughbred then you’d be looking for a tall horse with
long, slender legs, a short back with a longish neck, a deep girth, strong chest and well-sloped withers. But if you wanted a
Andalusian you’d want to look for a horse with a intelligent head, a thick neck, sturdy
but slim legs, a shortish back and a wavy mane and tail.

However, there are a few things that apply to every breed of horse which will determine its horse conformation. Here’s a list of things that come in bad horse
conformation, if your horse has none of these it has pretty good horse conformation:

Back at the Knee – When a horse’s knees, when seen from the side, seem to extend backwards.

Calf Knees – When a horse’s knees are shallow from back to front.

Cow Hocks – When a horse’s hocks, when seen from the rear, turn inwards like a cow’s.

Ewe Neck – When the top line of a horse’s neck is concave and the bottom one is convex.

Herring-Gutted – When there is an upward slope from the front to the back of a horse’s underbelly.

Over at the Knee – When a horse’s knees protrude forward.

Pigeon Toed – When a horse’s hooves turn inwards instead of straight ahead.

Roach Back – When a horse’s spine has an exaggerated upwards curve.

Sickle Hocks – When a horse’s hocks, when viewed from the side, have a concave line in front of the hocks and a slanting cannon bone.

Slab-Sided – When a horse’s ribs are hanging flat instead of curving around it to form a circle-ish shape.

Splay-Footed – When a horse’s hooves turn outwards instead of facing straight ahead.

Swayed Back – When a horse’s back is hollowed out, sinking in instead of lying at its regular line. (NOTE: this often happens naturally in
horses as they get older.)

Tied in Below the Knees – When the measurement of the bone just below the knee is shorter then that farther down the cannon bone.

Roman Nosed – When a horse’s muzzle points straight downwards, sort of like a Greek’s nose. (NOTE: this charateristic is sort-after in some breeds
of horse, while in others, it can cause them to not be registered.)

Here are two pictures of horses with bad horse conformation:


This Nez Perce Horse has very thick legs, a thin neck, a slight Roman nose, a head that’s too small for its body,
almost no tail and oversized ears.


This Mangalarga horse has a thin neck, its back slopes upwards towards the hind quarters and thin, wispy tail.

Here are two pictures of horses with good horse conformation:


This Oldenburg horse has a beautiful head, a perfect neck, sloping withers, a deep barrel, a strong chest, sturdy, but slender legs, well-
muscled hind quarters and a thick tail.


This Dutch Warmblood has a noble head, a strong neck, a big chest,
a deep barrel, sturdy, but slim legs, muscular hind quarters and a thick tail.

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