Conformation – The forelimb.

Be it for showing under saddle, racing, reining, or riding for pleasure, a horse needs to be put together properly; but does a horse need to be put together perfectly?

Which limb defects matter and which don’t?

Since horses’ domestication, humans have been scrutinizing equine legs in an attempt to judge which horse will perform best in a given situation. Be it for any discipline, a horse needs to be put together properly; but does a horse need to be put together perfectly? Given that some poorly conformed horses surprise us and go on to be champions begs the question: Is conformation really all that important?

What is Conformation

Conformation simply refers to the physical appearance or ‘outline’ of a horse.”

Conformation is more or less defined by the horse’s bones, muscles, associated soft tissues, and how they all fit together. If all horses were created equal and used for the same purpose, then judging conformation would be easy. Alas, this is not the case. Every classification of horse (i.e., draft, light, or pony) has a different “normal” conformation and its own set of conformation traits defined by the breed and type of work the horse is intended to do. For example, sport, stock, hunter, pleasure, race, and show horses are all types of light horses, and each has its own accepted standard of conformation.

Conformation assessment involves a fine eye, patience, and a bit of luck. The horse is usually examined with four key functional components in mind: the head and neck; the forelimbs; the barrel and the hind limbs. Ideally, the forelimbs are evaluated from the front and sides.

Forelimb Conformation

A horse’s forelimbs should match and bear weight equally. Both toes are expected to point forward, and when the horse stands square the feet should stand as wide as the limbs are at their origin (i.e., the chest). If a straight line is drawn from the point of the shoulder, it should course perfectly down the front of the limb to the middle of the foot.

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