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Horse Conformation Notes

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Again, from "The Horse Conformation Handbook" by Heather Smith Thomas. not in any way a complete set of notes but a good basic start.




Head -- Head and neck should be of equal length. The neck should be 1/3 of the total body length.

Mouth -- measure from front of incisors to the chin groove. A shallow mouth will end before the chin groove; a deep mouth extends beyond the narrowest part of the chin groove.

Head and neck angle -- should be able to place two fingers between jaw and vertebrae.

Neck and shoulder angle -- the base of the neck should be level with the point of the shoulder or higher.


Underline -- the underline should rise gradually to the hindquarters, not up sharply to the flank.

Chest -- viewed from the front it should be wider at the bottom than at the top.

Ribs -- well sprung ribs should curve outward and project backward, producing a rounded rib cage and short loin.

Heart girth -- The heart girth measurement should always be greater than the horse?s height.

Back -- from the peak of the withers to the point of the croup should be 1/3 of horse?s body length. Body length is from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock.

Body -- horse?s body is in thirds; neck, back and hip.

Topline -- withers to tail, the topline should be shorter than the underline.

Loins -- should be short and wide. Drawing a line from hip bone to hip bone, the LS joint should be as close to the hipline as possible.

Croup -- the point of the hip should be in line with or ahead of the point of the croup.

Quarters, length and slope -- The length of the pelvis is important to speed. Measure from the point of the hip to the point of the buttock. It should be at least 30% of body length. Length of quarter is more important than slope.

Shoulder -- the humerus should be 50-60% of the shoulder blade length. When standing square, the angle between shoulder and upper arm should be between 100-120 degrees.

Elbow -- the elbow should line up below the front of withers. Angle of humerus should match the angle of pelvis and femur.

An athletic, well balanced horse has a long shoulder, short humerus, long forearm, short cannon and long pastern.

Cannon -- The average riding horse should have about an 8? cannon bone circumference per 1,000 lbs of weight. A 1,200 lb horse should have a 9.6? cannon bone.

Alignment -- pick up a foot and bend fetlock completely. The space between the heels should line up with tendons. The same idea applies to the knee joint, flex and the lower leg should line up with the upper leg.

Pastern -- the ideal front pastern should slope 47-55 degrees. A too long pastern would be more than ? the length of the cannon; a too short pastern would be less than ? of the cannon bone. The length and slope of the pastern influence the soundness of the joints above it. Too much slope puts too much stress on the sesamoid and navicular bones. A steep pastern cannot act as a shock absorber. If pasterns are too long and sloping they will be weak, if they are too short the horse will have a choppy gait.

Front legs (overall) -- when looking at a horse head on, an imaginary line dropped from the point of the shoulder should go directly down the center of the front leg, bisecting the forearm, knee, cannon, fetlock, pastern and hoof. From the side, the leg from elbow to fetlock should appear perpendicular to the ground and the underline of the horse. A line dropped from the front of the withers should go down the center of the font leg and barely touch the heel of the foot or be right behind it.

Front end/chest -- if the distance between the points of the shoulders and the distance between the elbows is approximately the same, creating an imaginary box, the horse will usually have straight front legs. If the box is wider at the top the horse is in at the elbows and will toe out. If it?s wider at the bottom he?s out at the elbows and he?ll toe in.

Base wide -- legs are farther apart at the feet than at the shoulders and forearms.

Base narrow -- horse?s feet are closer together at the feet than at the chest. Seen often in horses with large pectoral muscles and a wide chest.


Ideal hind leg conformation -- from the rear, the legs look straight and the feet are directly under the stifles. From the side, the quarter (rump) is long, the point of the hip is directly over the stifle and the cannon is vertical with it?s rear line pointing directly at the buttocks.

Slope of hindquarters -- the topline of the hindquarters may be sloped or nearly level. A slight slope is generally considered to be the ideal topline for conformation but this varies from breed to breed. SYMMETRY is essential no matter what the shape of the hindquarters.

Hip -- the horse?s front end and hind quarters should be in balance with the hip point no higher than the pivot point of the shoulder blade. The hip joint is located in front of and at the same level as the point of the buttock, the rearmost point of the hindquarter. A vertical line dropped from the hip joint (NOT point of hip) should pass through the tibia and middle of the hoof if the horse is standing squarely.

Hind end shape -- the ideal hind end when viewed from the rear should be somewhat square or pear shaped. A pear shaped hind end (wider at the thighs than the top) is more desirable with a QH.


Ideally the femur and tibia are approximately the same length, resulting in a relatively low stifle. A short femur sets the stifle too high (above the sheath or udder) and a long femur sets it too low (same level or slightly below sheath or udder).

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Yeah Mods, can we pin this?

Oh wait...that's me...


I'll try to figure out how it's done...old dog, new tricks and all that.




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I found this on the net to show the different body points for the different types and breeds of horses to help others see. I hope this help clear up the differences of conformation points for the different breeds and will give others an opportunity to see how the lines are draw out..

I'm so glad you started this as I'm still learning and find this interesting. :happy0203:


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I have a video of a few horses in motion. Would they be okay to put up for conformation???

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If it's video of your own horses, i don't see why not. Otherwise, PM char and ask her, or i'll ask her.


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What one needs to remember, is that there is a big difference between fad and correct conformation that relates form to function, and the later is standard, regardless of breed

Halter evaluation has many fads that are rewarded in the different breeds, but that are detrimental for optimum athletic performance

Thus the level croup in an Arabian halter horse is not designed for hind end engagement, and you won't see Arabian reiners built this way

When we had the Alberta horse Improvement program, the same scoring system was used, no matter the breed evaluated

The card included hind limbs, forelimbs, overall body balance and then a score as to' type'

Faults were listed as major and minor. If any part earned a score of less than 10 out of 20, then the entire score could not be added up, as a serious fault affecting future soundness was present

I don't have a card, but am giving an example of forelimb faults, just off of the top of my head

Tied in at the knees

off set at the knees,

insufficient bone

too small feet

club foot

coon footed

up right pasterns

Movement was evaluated moving the horse out on a large triangle. Athletic movement is the same for all brreds

correntness of travel




Writen scores were given by three judges, one of which was a equine vet.

This evaluation show was an eye opener, as some horses that had won at halter all year at their breed shows received low scores.

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