The gallop is generally performed out hacking or perhaps if are able to ride in a field, rather than in a school. This is because it requires a good amount of space to get up speed and decelerate again.

The gallop is not something that involves being "out of control" as this pace can be varied and controlled just like any other. Gallop is most often ridden in a forward seat that is very similar to jumping position. To achieve this, as when jumping, you may wish to shorten your stirrups. The aim is to hover just above the saddle supporting yourself on your knees and stirrups without pulling on the reins to hold your position.

Some horses may get exciteable and strong in the gallop and in this case it can help to bridge your reins, as this gives you a secure contact. Bridging your reins means once the rein has passed between your thumb and fore finger it goes across the horse's neck to your other hand where it is held between your thumb and forefinger. You can do this with one or both reins. Keep your hands low, resting them on the horse's neck if you wish.

In order to gallop, first go into a canter and then adopt a forward seat; then use both legs to ask the horse to gradually accelerate. When you want to stop steady the pace with your reins and sit back down into the saddle. Here are some further tips.

  • Don't try to gallop if you're control in canter is uncertain!
  • Pick a good piece of level or slightly uphill ground which is straight and gives you plenty of time to see ahead and stop if need be.
  • If you're not sure you'll be able to stop practice in an enclosed field at first.
  • Don't try and go too fast. You should feel that you could stop at any moment should you need to.
  • Remember that the riding arena is too small a space in which to practice galloping!
  • Oh and enjoy it too!

If you should find that you can't stop then keep calm, sit down in the saddle and sit up straight. If the pace is too fast or unbalanced for you to sit to reasonably then stay in forward seat. Don't get into a tug-of-war with the horse by continually pulling on the reins but try short pulls on the reins, releasing in between until the horse listens. If this has little or no effect, and there is room the easiest thing to do is to ride ever decreasing circles. As the horse circles it will slow up to balance itself and then you can stop. If circling is not possible then place one hand firmly on the neck with the crest of the neck between your thumb and fingers and pull firmly on the other rein with a long pull and brief release until you have the horse again under control. If you ride sensibly you will very rarely, if ever, be really out of control.

The How And Why Of Bridging The Reins
By Ron Petracek

When teaching my beginner jump student one day, her horse was becoming a bit strong over fences. Though she was sufficiently capable of handling him, she was slightly concerned as she suffered muscle weakness in one arm from an old injury. That weakness sometimes prevented her from maintaining consistent contact on both reins when she grew fatigued.

It was then that I recalled a technique that my old jumper trainer had taught me when I was a junior rider retraining an ex-racehorse—bridging my reins. Bridging my reins had then become a subconscious effort whenever I was on a spooky horse or a strong mount that pulled over fences. By bridging my reins, I had greater security and consistent contact. My hands didn’t grow harder, but they had a backup now. And the technique allowed me to maintain greater control over the position of the horse.

To bridge your reins, you hold them as you would normally but then turn your hands slightly to face thumbs briefly as you adjust your reins to the bridge. As the rein passes through your thumb and finger, it now goes across your horse’s neck to the other hand, where it also goes through your thumb and finger. Doing so on both reins now allows for a bridge. Then return your hands to the normal position while maintaining the bridge.

Bridging the reins gives the rider a bit more security with horses that try to pull the reins from their hands. A common technique used by those riding very forward cross country, bridging the reins also helps riders who have the bad habit of opening their fingers and allowing the reins to slip through their fingers or who are often losing contact for whatever reason. It helps the rider regain the contact without too much fuss and does not restrict the horse. It also helps riders consistently maintain contact when they are learning how to judge contact and when to fix it. Additionally, bridging the rein helps beginner riders maintain awareness of where one hand is in relation to the other; the technique assists in keeping the correct spacing between hands as well as keeping them from being held too high.

Riders who fuss too much with their reins can benefit from the technique as well as fussy horses who are affected by inconsistent contact.

Reins can also be bridged to just one hand so that you can ride single handedly over jumps. Doing so helps the rider maintain her own balance and helps keep her from leaning on the horse’s neck. It also helps in exercises for building independent aids, such as jumping with one hand out to the side. To bridge the reins to the single hand, hold the outside rein normally as you would, then place your inside rein over the top of the outside.

Bridging the reins is a good technique to try when you need more security or when you need to work on maintaining your hands as independent aids.

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2008/02/27 16:24 2008/02/27 16:24


The Snaffle

There are many different bits available, each designed to have a different amount and type of control on the horse. The snaffle bit is a simple design and the most commonly used bit. Although it has variants in its 'family' it basically consists of a metal jointed bar with large rings at either end.


How it Works

The bridle will be adjusted so that it holds the bit in the gap between the horse's front and rear teeth. In this position it will rest against the skin covering the inside of the lower jaw called the bars.

Bars of Mouth

When you pull on the reins, because of the joint in the snaffle bit, it acts like a nutcracker and applies pressure on the horse's lower jaw. This can be quite a severe action so be thoughtful of being gentle on the reins. (The acquiring of the 'feel' of the reins will take some time to get.) Control is also effected by the bit putting pressure on the corners of the lips of the horse.


Bit Positioning (superimposed)

Subject: Positioning The Bit
Author : From the Archives of Jessica Jahiel's Horse-Sense Mailing List

Internationally-acclaimed clinician Dr. Jessica Jahiel is the author of the award winning book for adult working riders, "RIDING FOR THE REST OF US: A Practical Guide for Adult Riders", as well as "The Horseback Almanac", "The Parent's Guide to Horseback Riding" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Horseback Riding". Read more about Jessica's books in the Books section of the Gift Barn! Dr. Jahiel teaches dressage, jumping and Holistic Horsemanship,, an all-encompassing approach to horse and rider, emphasizing Communication, Cooperation, Balance and Harmony. The following article is an excerpt from Jessica's subscriber-supported Horse Sense Mailing List. Contact information can be found at the end of the article.

From: Melanie
Hi Jessica, I have been wondering about this question for awhile. It seems like a lot of people determine where to position the bit based on the number of wrinkles in the side of the horse's mouth. I don't see why every horse with all the different types of teeth set, mouths, noses etc. should have the bit placed just based on the number of wrinkles that appear in the corner of
ifs mouth. What am I missing here?

Also, I have seen some people let the bit hang loosely, almost where it can hit the front teeth, and see where the horse naturally would want to carry the bit itself, and then adjust the bridle so the bit is carried in that place. That seems more logical to me. Do you see any problems with this method? Would it matter as to where you would want the bit if you wanted contact, such as in dressage, versus non contact, such as in Western Pleasure?

If you don't mind answering one more, somewhat related question :)? I am wondering why the flash is used? I mean, I know it is used to keep the horse's mouth shut and I guess, so it won't fry to get its tongue over the bit etc. But if the horse is trying to do that, isn't something usually bugging it, like the way the rider is riding, or the way the bit feels, or maybe it needs dental work etc.? I would appreciate knowing your thoughts on this. Thanks in advance, Melanie

Hi Melanie! Your instincts are very good, and you are right. It makes perfect sense to adjust the bit to make the horse able to carry it in comfort!

When it comes to snaffles, I'm not sure where this "wrinkle" idea came from - it's recent, and we would do well to get rid of it. It's a fad and a fashion, like the bearing rein (remember "Black Beauty"?) and just as (non)functional. You see those wrinkles everywhere, especially in certain major tack catalogues where there seems to be a full-color photo of a bridled horse on every page, ALWAYS with the bit far too high and the noseband far too tight.

Not so terribly long ago, a snaffle was said to be positioned correctly if it just touched the corners of the horse's mouth - it didn't have to be jammed up into them, and there was no "wrinkle" formula to follow. This is where I would begin with any bit, moving it up or down slightly according to the horse's comfort level and response.

With a young horse that's just learning to carry a bit, it's preferable to adjust it a little high in his mouth, so that he doesn't manage to get his tongue over it. This typically happens with young horses when their bits are adjusted too low. Not only is this uncomfortable for the horse, but putting the tongue over the bit can become a habit, and it's a very difficult habit to break. And like any bad habit, it's better prevented than cured.

Horses should have their teeth checked before they ever have a bit put into their mouths, and they should continue to have their teeth checked at regular intervals for the rest of their lives. Eating can be compromised if a horse's teeth need floating, and so can a horse's mouth comfort! A bit and noseband can become instruments of torture in the mouth of a horse with sharp edges and hooks on its teeth, and even the simplest, gentlest, mullen-mouth or French-link snaffle can cause acute pain to a horse that still has its wolf teeth.

A bit can rub the skin in the corners of the horse's mouth (you can prevent this by applying a little Vaseline). A bit can pinch the horse's lips against the outside edges of its teeth -- no problem if the teeth are smooth, but terribly painful if they have sharp edges. When you check your horse's teeth, check the inside of his mouth as well, including the insides of his lips and cheeks. Sores and ulcers are all too common.

The bit itself can be at fault, either in terms of design, suitability, or condition. Some bits are inherently unkind, and should not be used. Other, inexpensive ones, can be rough or pitted, and cause sores. Perfectly good-quality bits may be too small or too large for a particular horse, or may simply be unsuitable for that horse's mouth conformation.

The French-link snaffle is about as near as I have found to a "one-size-suits-all" bit, and even so, some horses simply go better in a KK snaffle with the different cannon configuration and the lump in the center! In order to choose the right bit, you need to know about bits, and you need to know your horse - does he have a short mouth, a long mouth, a high palate, a low palate, a thin tongue, a thick tongue? How old is he - does he need his wolf teeth removed? Is he retaining tooth caps? Do his teeth need floating? It's really just consideration, and common sense. Choose a bit for your horse with the same attention and care that you would give to selecting a comfortable pair of shoes for yourself! ;-)

As for the Flash noseband - anyone who has ridden with me in a clinic knows that the first thing I generally do is remove the flash attachment and loosen the cavesson. Riders need to distinguish between goals of schooling and goals of showing - schooling means looking for problems and fixing them, whereas showing means finessing the problems and showcasing what you do best.

The flash noseband was invented by someone who wanted to combine the features of the dropped noseband, which ties the horse's mouth shut, with the ordinary cavesson, which serves as an anchor for a standing martingale. You can't put a standing martingale on a dropped noseband. The flash is a very popular item just now, and in some areas it's difficult to find a bridle that doesn't come with a flash! But this is a fad, and as soon as everyone has bought a bridle with a flash, the fashion will almost certainly change in time for all of us to buy new bridles...

Tying the horse's mouth shut may be advantageous when showing, although I think NOT (more about this in a moment), but it is definitely counter-productive when one is schooling. If the horse is opening its mouth, it is almost certainly doing this as a REACTION to something: the bit, the rider's hands, or discomfort elsewhere. A good rider will want to know what the horse is feeling, and will want to do something to make the horse comfortable if he isn't comfortable. A horse can't learn when it it tense or in pain, and it certainly can't enjoy itself. And whether you are schooling or showing or just hacking out, you should care, very much, whether your horse is comfortable and enjoying himself.

A tight noseband of any kind is uncomfortable for the horse, and it seems very silly for riders to insist on tying the horse's mouth tightly shut when one of their goals is to get the horse to relax his jaw! Horses can't relax in the jaw, or at the poll, or in the neck or back, when they are stiffening their jaw in reaction to a tight noseband. Try this yourself: as you read this, tense your jaw, then while KEEPING it tense, try to relax your neck muscles and those in your upper back. You can't do it!!!! No human can - and neither can a horse.

Again, just use your common sense. If you know it isn't possible to relax the neck and back when the jaw is stiff, don't put your bridle on in a way that causes your horse to have a stiff jaw. ;-) If your bit is riding comfortably in the horse's mouth, and the cavesson is adjusted loosely so that the horse can flex comfortably, you will both enjoy your rides much more. ;-)

Copyright © 1996 by Jessica Jahiel, All Rights Reserved.
Horse-sense mailing list materials may be distributed and copied for personal, non-commercial use provided that all authorship and copyright information, including this notice, is retained. For more information on the horse-sense mailing list, send e-mail to with the message text: info horse-sense or visit Jessica's website at

2008/02/26 01:10 2008/02/26 01:10

Neck Movement (Kinematics) of the Horse

James Rooney, D.V.M.

Observations were made on the movement of the cervical vertebrae of the horse. There appears to be little relevant literature other than that of Demeter (1916), Smith (1921), Rooney (1969), and Clayton and Townsend (1989). The anatomy is described in Ellenberger-Baum (1943) and other veterinary anatomical texts.

This investigation was anatomical and mechanical and restricted to the movement of the head and neck in the sagittal plane. Additional studies are in progress on lateral and rotational movements. The head/neck system was dissected and manipulated in six fresh carcasses, removing the extrinsic muscles attached to the cervical vertebrae but leaving the head, intrinsic muscles, and ligamentum nuchae intact, Figure 1. (After Ellenberger and Baum)

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Figure 1


In the ventroflexed – grazing - position the neck is concave ventrally. When fully raised - dorsiflexed - the neck is concave dorsally. In the usual standing position, between ventroflexed and dorsiflexed, the cervical vertebral column assumes a sigmoid, S-shape. As the neck moves from dorsiflexion through the S-shaped position into ventroflexion, the cervical vertebrae move smoothly in series: C2-3, C3-4, C4-5, C5-6, C6-7, C7-T1, Figure 2.

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Figure 2

Movement at the atlantoccipital joint does not effect neck movements and is not considered here. There is little or no movement in the sagittal plane between the atlas and axis (C1-2) and very little movement between C2-3 (Rooney 1969).

The mechanics may be described as follows, Figure 3.

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Figure 3

The neck is considered as a flexible, jointed, cantilever beam (as, also, in the model below) with the head as the weight (W) on the free end of the beam. This is not strictly true but is sufficiently accurate for present purposes. W acts around distances, l, to produce counterclockwise rotations (moments)at each successive intervertebral center from C2-3 to C7-T1. In Figure 3, l2-3 is the moment arm, l, perpendicular to the line of action of W to the center of rotation at cervical intervertebral joint 2-3. Similarly, l7-1 is the moment arm of W to the center at C7-T1. The other moment arms are not labeled in order to avoid clutter in the figure.

These moments are balanced by clockwise moments produced by the tensile force (LN) in the funicular ligamentum nuchae together with the tonically active dorsal muscles of the neck acting over the distances, g. The notation is as given above.

The value of W is constant. At any given instant or static position, LN is constant, and we can write the moment equilibrium equation:

Wl - LNg = 0

(Obviously, this is oversimplified; while W and LN are constant, the values of l and g are different at each intervertebral joint. The equation, then, can be considered as an average with the values of l and g being averaged.)

In order for the head and neck to ventroflex, move downward, LN decreases, so that Wl is effectively greater than LNg. That is, either the dorsal cervical muscles relax and/or the ventral muscles contract (the ligamentum nuchae is, of course, a passive structure). In Figure3 it is apparent that the moment produced by LN is greatest at C7-T1 and decreases cranially; that is, the g at each cervical intervertebral junction is less as one moves cranially. As Wl causes downward movement, then, the resisting moments of LN are least cranially, increasing caudally to C7-T1. Therefore, cervical vertebrae ventroflex in series as described.

The system operates in reverse as the head and neck are raised. From the ventroflexed position rotation begins at C7-T1 and continues in series to C2-3 as the neck passes through the sigmoid position into dorsiflexion. As LN increases-by muscle action- those joints with larger LN moments will move first just as those joints with smaller LN moments moved first when the neck moved in the opposite direction.

There is, then, a locus of centers of rotation as the neck moves up and down, that locus having the form of an exponential curve, Figure 4.That is, as the neck moves there is not one center of rotation, such as the axle of a wheel, but a series of centers or rotation, one after the other.

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Figure 4

The model of Figure 5 is readily constructed and helpful in visualizing the action of the neck with and without the ligamentum nuchae. Blocks of wood representing the vertebrae are glued to pieces of rubber or plastic foam representing the intervertebral disks. A rubber band serves as the funicular ligamentum nuchae. Without the rubber band the model simply bends downward, rotating around the center formed by the last block and the support (C7-T1). With the rubber band in place increasing W bends the neck into the S-shaped sigmoid curve continuing into ventroflexion just as in the anatomical specimen. In life, of course, W is constant; increasing W in the model or the anatomical specimen is equivalent to decreasing dorsiflexing muscular action and increasing ventroflexing muscular action as already noted.

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Figure 5

The lamellar ligamentum nuchae are tense when the neck is in the sigmoid position and remain tense as the neck is dorsiflexed, beginning to loosen only as the limit of dorsiflexion is approached. This limit in the anatomical specimen in vitro appears to be beyond what is possible and/or usual in the live horse. As the neck ventroflexes the lamellae tighten and collapse upon themselves. Demeter (1916) believed that the lamellae caused the S-shape, but that shape is caused by the funicular part of the ligamentum nuchae alone as demonstrated by removing the lamellae. The S-shape also appears in the model without lamellar elements. The action of the lamellae can be included in the model with additional rubber bands as indicated by the dotted lines in Figure 5.

The lamellae, then, are tense and assisting the funicular ligamentum nuchae and dorsal musculature in supporting the head and neck in all positions except marked dorsiflexion.


Sagittal movement of the neck is controlled by the ligamentum nuchae and those cervical muscles acting in parallel with the ligamentum nuchae. Because of the passive, energy-sparing ligamentum nuchae, less muscular work is required to maintain the head and neck in any given position. A basic, tonic muscular contribution is, however, necessary as indicated by the lack of muscular tonus in seriously ill or debilitated animals which stand with the head and neck more ventroflexed than in the usual standing position.

Clayton and Townsend (1989) found that the dorsoventral movement of the cervical vertebrae in vitro was greatest at C7-T1 and decreased to C1-2. This is certainly true for the neck deprived of the action of muscles and the ligamentum nuchae (Rooney 1969). Resistance to movement is provided by a combination of muscle, ligaments, and intervertebral disks. With muscle and ligamentum nuchae removed, as in the Clayton and Townsend study, there are only intervertebral disks and the fibrous joint capsules, and the neck moves like a rod, a simple cantilever beam, rotating around the C7-T1 center as it moves from the dorsiflexed to the ventroflexed position. When the ligamentum nuchae is intact, the series rotation described herein pertains.

Smith (1921) mentioned the function of the funicular ligamentum nuchae. He believed it assisted the muscles in keeping the head extended as, for example, when grazing. He also said that shortening of the ligament was responsible for the dorsiflexion (opisthotonus) of the head/neck after death. This is not the case since severing the ligament does not release such dorsiflexion; rigor mortis of the dorsal cervical muscles causes opisthotonus after death.

Smith also believed that the ligamentum nuchae did not have an important role in supporting the head since the head did not droop down when the funicular part was divided. Since the position of the head and neck is a function of both muscle and ligament action, the muscles together with the lamellar part of the ligamentum nuchae support the head and neck when the funicular part of the ligament is severed. It is clear from dissected specimens with the muscle removed and the head and neck positioned as in life that the ligamentum nuchae plays an important passive role.


Clayton, H M and Townsend, H G G (1989) Kinematics of the cervical spine of the adult horse. Equine Veterinary Journal 21: 189-192.

Demeter, H (1916) Das geformte elastische Gewebe bei grossen Säugern. Archiv für Wissenschftliche und Praktische Tierheilkunde. 42: 303-311.

Rooney, J R (1969) Biomechanics of Lameness in Horses. Williams and Wilkins. Baltimore.

Smith, F. (1921) A Manual of Veterinary Physiology. 5th Ed. Alex Eger. Chicago.

Zietzschmann, O., Ackernecht, E., and Grau, H. (1943) Ellenberger-Baum. Handbuch der Vergleichenden Anatomie Der Haustiere 18th Ed. Springer-Verlag. Berlin. pp.43-44.

Return to Dr. Rooney's home page.

Image coming soon!.
2008/02/09 00:56 2008/02/09 00:56

In Horse Racing, what is the difference between a firm, soft, and yielding track condition.?

Does it change the speed of the horse, and by how much in each case?

What is Yielding? What does it mean?
  • 3 months ago
MissNewmarketSalsa's Avatar by MissNewm...
Member since:
April 10, 2006
Total points:
9283 (Level 5)

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker

Yielding is an Irish description of going: it is what we would call heavy ground here in GB.

Basically good ground is genuine ground with a bit of spring in it that most horses should run well on.

Firm ground is ground that has dried out and is therefore firmer to run on. You will find horses run faster on firm ground as there is no give in the ground to slow the speed. However, horses can get injured on firm ground as there is no absorbtion of the shock of the horses foot hitting the ground. If you hear a commentator or trainer say a horse "likes to hear his hooves rattle" they mean the horse runs best on firm ground.

Soft ground has slightly more give in it than good ground, but is still considered safe for most horses to run on.

Yielding/heavy ground is very stamina sapping and therefore will slow horses down considerably. Try to imagine yourself running through a muddy field: your feet are being sucked into the mud and you use up a lot of energy.

I'm not sure about how much (in terms of mph) the ground slows or speeds up a horse but having looked at the last 18 runnings of the 2,000 Guineas (over 1 mile) the fastest running was in 1994 by Mister Baileys in 1.35.08 on Good to Firm ground. The slowest was in 1998 by King of Kings in 1.39.25 on Good to Soft going.

Hope that helps.
  • 3 months ago
Asker's Rating:
5 out of 5
Asker's Comment:
Thank you very much for this explanation. It was really helpfull.

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Other Answers (3)

  • Eddie D's Avatar by Eddie D
    Member since:
    January 03, 2007
    Total points:
    3612 (Level 4)
    I think that the different going descriptions with moisture are as follows; good, yielding, soft, (holding), heavy. Yielding means that the ground yields to the pressure of hooves. For instance the official going at Listowel recently on September 23 was described as good to yielding, so I hardly think that yielding is equivalent to heavy as that would amount to nonsense.
    • 3 months ago
  • Pamela H's Avatar by Pamela H
    Member since:
    October 09, 2007
    Total points:
    197 (Level 1)
    its about turf tracks,its basicly the heigth of the grass
    • 3 months ago


    my name is track daddy
  • horsemanspal's Avatar by horseman...
    Member since:
    June 06, 2007
    Total points:
    3285 (Level 4)
    OK,to start with the different descriptions of the track indicate how much water there is in the ground,with firm less water than yielding.The speed of the horse is governed by the action(way it moves) of that horse.Horses that like yielding ground tend to have a high knee action and can get their feet out of the sticky conditions easier than a low actioned(daisy cutting) horse who skims across the surface.this type is usually suited to fast ground conditions.the range of going descriptions are ..Hard,Firm,Good to Firm,Good,Good to Soft,Soft,Yeilding(irish term meaning soft)and Heavy.After heavy the course is unraceable.
    • 3 months ago


    pro.trainer for over 25 years in the uk.
2008/01/29 13:04 2008/01/29 13:04

Conformation Clinic: Quarter-type Geldings
Evaluate and place these aged Quarter-type geldings in your order of preference. Then see how your choices compare to our expert judge's.

I consider four criteria when evaluating conformation: balance, structural correctness, quality/breed characteristics and muscling. I look for a horse that's the best combination of all four.

To assess balance, I first look to see if a horse's body ties together smoothly and proportionately. Then I mentally divide him into three sections: 1) from point of shoulder to heartgirth (behind the horse's shoulder); 2) from the heartgirth to the point of hip; and 3) from the point of hip to the tailhead. Ideally, these lengths will be equal.

I want a horse's neck to be long and lean, and I want him to have an equally sloped shoulder and hip. I also want him to have a level back, and for his withers and croup to be the same height. Structurally, he should exhibit upright, correctly aligned leg bones, and hocks with neither too little, nor too much angle.

For quality/breed characteristics, a horse's head should be short (from poll to muzzle) and proportionate, tapering at the muzzle for a chiseled appearance. His eyes should be large with a kind expression. He should also show his breed's ideal characteristics.

Then I evaluate muscling on volume (muscle amount), length (how far it extends to its connection point) and definition (tone and conditioning).

Click "Next" to find out how I placed these aged Quarter-type geldings.

First: Gelding C
Of the three horses, this horse really has the greatest combination of balance, structural correctness, quality and adequate muscling. His biggest advantage over the second and third place horses is in his balance and the quality of his head and--especially--the quality of his neck. Compared to the other two horses, his neck is trimmer and ties in much higher at the base of the neck (where it ties into the shoulder and chest). Trimness reflects flexibility and functionality. A horse uses his neck as a leverage point, and a trim, thin, long, high-tying neck is a conformational advantage.

This horse is also more structurally correct, especially down both front and hind legs, viewed from the side. Leg structure is the foundation for support and soundness. Viewing leg structure from the front and rear, I look for straight alignment--from point of attachment down through knee and hock, through the cannon bones, pasterns and toes. From the side, I look for a front leg with adequate angle in the arm (as it comes out of the shoulder), and extends down a straight column of bone. For cushion, shock absorption and stride, I like to see a 30- to 45-degree angle in pasterns (hopefully about the same as the shoulder angle). The hock should be properly placed so the cannon is upright and there's a correct angle in both the stifle and the hock--that'll allow for proper motion of the hind leg and a stride underneath the body.

This horse also has an overall smooth blending appearance that reflects his balance. And good balance contributes to performance capabilities. He has a desirable shape to his head, which reflects adequate quality and breed characteristics, and he has an acceptable topline which contributes to his overall balance. Ideally he could be cleaner in his throatlatch, and I'd like to see him heavier muscled.

Second: Gelding B
The second and third place horses are a really close pair, in my mind. However, with an emphasis on the advantages in balance and structural correctness in the front leg, I placed this horse second. Specifically, this horse has more slope to his shoulder and is stronger behind his withers and in his back than the third place horse. From a functional standpoint, that reflects more strength in his overall topline--a definite conformational advantage. In addition, he appears longer in his hip, and from this photo it looks like he carries more substance of hindquarter down the longer hip.

He's also somewhat trimmer in his throatlatch and neck. While neither horse ties in as high at the base of their neck as I like to see, the second place horse appears more correct down his front leg. Ideally, this horse would have a more refined head, his neck would tie in higher at the base of the neck, and he'd be straighter down his hocks when viewed from the side.

Third: Gelding A
While this horse has a nicer head and brighter appearance than the second place horse, he doesn't appear as structurally correct in his legs. He seems slightly back at the knee, which is undesirable from a conformational and functional standpoint. If you draw a plumbline down the side of his front leg, you'll see he's not as straight as the first two horses. A horse that's back at the knees can suffer from soundness issues because he can't absorb concussion as efficiently. I'd like to see him trimmer in the throatlatch, and ideally, his neck would tie into the shoulder higher. I'd also like to see a more level, stronger topline to allow for greater impulsion and collection.

The two clear advantages this horse has over the second place horse is that again, he has a more attractive head, which tapers down his face to a more refined muzzle; and he's straighter down his hock from the side than the second place horse.

John Pipkin, Ph.D., holds judges cards for the American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, National Reined Cow Horse Association, and National Snaffle Bit Association. He's judged nearly 300 shows nationally and internationally, including the AQHA Youth World Championship Show (twice), the APHA World Show, AQHA Amateur World Show (twice) and the APHA Youth World Show. Aside from judging, John is a professor at West Texas A&M University.

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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Email and include your contact info and your horse's breed, age, gender and height.

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2007/12/30 23:57 2007/12/30 23:57

Conformation Clinic: Aged Arabian Mares
Evaluate and place these aged Arabian mares in your order of preference. Then see how your choices compare to our expert judge's.

As someone who rides performance horses, I'll always prefer a horse I think is usable, versus one that's "just a pretty horse." And I feel compelled to stick to the class specifications and criteria set forth by Arabian judging standards.

We have to consider a horse in this order: Arabian type, conformation, suitability as a breeding animal, quality, movement, substance, manners and presence.

So, as an Arabian judge, the first thing I evaluate is type, which is basically made up of the characteristics that distinguish an Arabian horse from other breeds. There are five main points of type: head, neck, back, croup and tail. Because the horses in these photos are standing still, it's difficult to judge criteria like movement, presence and tail carriage. But I'll evaluate suitability as a breeding animal because this is a class of mares. "Like breeds like," so to me, good conformation and type contribute to a horse's suitability for breeding.

Click "Next" to find out how I placed these three aged Arabian mares.

First: Mare C
This mare's conformation far exceeds the second- and third-place horses, although she doesn't show as much Arabian type as the mare I placed second. She has a plainer head than the second-place horse, and she doesn't have a great neck, but it ties in to her shoulder better than the second-place mare. This mare and the second-place horse both have short cannons (which contributes to stamina and soundness). But this mare's shoulder angle (which improves elasticity and movement) and the ratio of her shorter topline (from withers to croup) to her longer underline (point of elbow to stifle) are the best of the three, which gives her the best balance in this class.

I would, however, like her to have a little more angle to her pasterns for better shock absorption and soundness. While I can't judge movement from a photo, I can make some assumptions by studying her body angles and leg structure. Based on those, I'd expect this mare to be the best mover of the class. She has good hip angulation and overall balance, which suggest it'll be easiest for her to hold up to the rigors of performance.

Second: Mare B
This mare is the typiest of the three. If you stood back and looked at all three mares, this is the mare you'd most readily identify as an Arabian. She has a slightly concave (dished) face, and the shortest distance between eye and muzzle of the other two mares in the class. She has good angulation from the point of her hip to the point of her buttocks, however, her neck doesn't set well back into her withers, and she has an average back. Her topline-to-underline ratio isn't as good as the first-place mare, but I wouldn't say it's bad. She also has the most horizontal croup of the three horses, which is a type characteristic for Arabians.

This mare has the best angle to her hip, but it appears (at least in this picture) that she camps out behind--if you dropped a plumbline from the point of her buttocks, the mare's hocks and fetlocks would stand behind that line. Because she's camped out behind (which will make it more difficult for her to engage her hindquarters) and she has a steep shoulder, she probably won't be the athlete that the first-place horse may be.

Third: Mare A
Based on the photo, this mare doesn't appear to have much Arabian type. I placed her third because of her lack of typiness and her less desirable conformation. She has a borderline ewe neck (the neck bends upward rather than arching down, which can make collection difficult), and she has a long back in relation to her underline (a ratio of 1:2 is preferred for the length of the topline to the underline). That ratio is an important indicator of balance and athleticism. Her face is long, but on the positive side, it looks like she has the shortest ears in the class.

She has a short and borderline "rafter-type" hip (a flat hip, shaped like a "T" from behind), both of which can make it more difficult for her to collect and work from behind. Her long cannon bones could make her more susceptible to injury. She doesn't have good muscling, her joints are small, and her body conformation is not well-balanced, all of which tell me she'll have to work a lot harder than a well-conformed horse, and may have difficulty holding up to the demands of performance work.

Michael Damianos operates Michael Damianos Performance Horses at Starbuck's Ojai Valley Ranch in Ojai, Calif., where he lives with his wife, Dawn, and daughters. A trainer for 25 years, he trains and shows Arabian performance horses at the regional and national level in Western pleasure, reining, trail, driving, and English classes, and coaches youth and amateur riders. He's a carded judge for the Arabian Horse Association, AQHA, ApHC, APHA, NRHA, NRCHA and NSBA.

This article originally appeared in the September 2007 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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2007/12/30 23:42 2007/12/30 23:42

Conformation Clinic: Quarter Horse Geldings
Evaluate and place these 3- and 4-year-old Quarter Horse geldings in your order of preference. Then see how your choices compare to our expert judge's.

I look at balance, eye appeal and breed character--I want a horse to look nice. Next I'll look at soundness and structural correctness. I'll start at the head and want to see that he has a nice, kind eye, a little fox ear, and that his head is in balance from the eye to the point of nose, and to the muzzle. I want to see a clean throatlatch, a head that ties in nicely to the neck, and a neck that ties in well to a long, sloping shoulder.

For balance, I look for shortness of back compared to the underline, and a long croup that carries down deep into the stifle, with good gaskin muscling. I like to see good depth of heartgirth.

And then I'll assess straightness and how the horse travels. All four legs need to be correct--just like a car can't run on three tires, a horse needs to have four legs that are structurally sound.

Click "Next" to find out how I placed these three 3- and 4-year-old Quarter Horse geldings.

First: Gelding C
I placed this bay gelding first because he exhibits the best balance, eye appeal, breediness and structural correctness of the three. Starting at his head, he has a soft, kind eye, nice fox-like ears placed well on his head, and a clean throatlatch. His head sets well on a clean neck that connects correctly into a nicely sloped shoulder. The muscling in his shoulder ties down deep and well into his forearm, and his legs appear straight and sound, with a correct, clean front end. He's got a good set of withers, a nice short back compared to the length of his underline, and a lot of depth to his heartgirth. All of that tells me he'll be able to lift his front end and work off his hindquarters.

The one area where I'd like to strengthen him a little is in his croup, but it's adequate and carries into the stifle and gaskin muscle, then down deep into his hind legs. His hocks are a little hard to see, but they're down where they belong so he can get under himself and handle himself. When this horse is jogging and loping he'll be able to stick his hind leg under himself, and when his front foot leaves the ground, his hind leg will reach forward and his hind foot will step right into the same place. He's balanced and should be a nice horse to ride.

Second: Gelding A
This horse and the third-place horse are a close call, but I chose this horse ahead of the other because he looks like he'll be a better mover. These horses are geldings, which means we're going to be riding them, and I chose this horse because his conformation tells me he'll be sounder and more athletic than the third-place horse.

He's a nicer-headed horse than the third-place horse, and while I'd like to see a longer, cleaner neck on him, his topline is shorter in relation to his underline when compared to the number three horse. Because of his shorter back, its ratio to his underline (you want to see a 1:2 ratio for length of back to length of underline), the depth of heartgirth and where his hock is, he'll probably be a better mover than the number three horse. He has a little more substance, and nicer, flatter bone than the sorrel horse. I suspect he won't face the soundness issues the third-place horse might have. I like him better in the shoulder and withers, too. Again, they're a close pair, and I'm going to pick the one that fits my needs best. If I had to pick one to play in the roping pen, I'd pick this dun over the sorrel.

Third: Gelding B
I placed this horse third because he lacks the balance, structural correctness and breediness I like to see. He's light in the shoulder, with not nearly the muscling of the first two horses. He does have a nice, clean neck that comes out of his shoulder well, and he has a clean throatlatch--he should be able to flex well at the poll. But he's long-headed from his eye to the point of his muzzle, which contributes to a plain head. If you compare his ear placement to the ears of the other two horses, his ears are setting a little forward. I'd like to see this horse with a little more bone and substance.

Moving to his hind end, he's shortcrouped, and just looking at the way he's made I'd guess he's a little base-narrow and weak in the front end. He'll have a much harder time working with his hind-end underneath him. I'd also like to see more muscling. He doesn't appear as structurally correct as the others, and he may toe out, based on the positions of his ankles and hocks in the photo.

Darrell Bilke has been judging horses for more than 30 years, and holds some 15 judges cards, including more than 20 years judging for the American Quarter Horse Association and the American Paint Horse Association. Bilke has judged all major world shows, including the AQHA, APHA, and ApHC world shows, and has presided over Australian and European championships. Bilke owns and operates Bilke Enterprises in Miami, Okla.

This article originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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2007/12/30 23:19 2007/12/30 23:19

Test Your Eye for Horse Conformation
Evaluate and place these three geldings in your order of preference, then see how your choices compare to our expert judge's. Plus, learn how to get your horse into Horse & Rider magazine's next Conformation Clinic.

When I'm judging or evaluating a horse, the first thing I look for is overall balance. A horse that has balanced conformation--with neck, back and hip of equal length--will generally be a good mover and that translates into good performance. A horse that exhibits correct conformation should be a natural athlete.

An overabundance of muscling is the last thing I look for. Excessive bulk can cause soundness problems. Muscle mass and conditioning don't change a horse's basic structure. I want to see a horse that's structurally correct, pretty, and balanced -- that's the type of horse that can win a halter class and go on to do well in performance classes.

At first glance, I look for a pretty head -- one with small ears, that's broad between the eyes. A clean, slender throatlatch will make it easier for a horse to flex at the poll and work with his head at the proper angle. Next, my eyes go to a horse's topline and shoulder. Everything hangs on the quality of a horse's shoulders and back. The slope, or angle, of a horse's shoulder determines the length of his neck and back and also the way his front legs are set onto his body. Together these attributes contribute to length of stride and balance. The back is the "hub" of a horse, and a short, strong back is essential to a horse staying sound and performing well. Distinct withers of medium height will help keep a saddle in place.

From there, I work my way back and down. I like a croup without too much angle; a steep croup can mean a weak hip and incorrect set (angulation) to the horse's hocks. I like to see a long, strong hip with adequate muscling and low hocks. These attributes usually indicate a horse that can stop well and will naturally work off his hind end -- making him a stronger athlete. And when a horse's shoulders and hips are of equal angulation, it means he'll be able to collect himself well and travel correctly.

Finally, I want to see clean, well-defined, straight legs that aren't too finely boned. A small-boned horse is more likely to have soundness problems.

Horse A is my choice for first place in this group. Even though there are some negative aspects to his conformation, for the most part the positives outweigh the negatives. Although he's a little coarse in his muzzle, this horse has a pleasant expression and a nice eye and ear. He appears alert and bright. His throatlatch is slender enough that he should flex well at the poll. His neck is appropriate in length, but it ties into his shoulder much too deeply, which may make this horse travel (or carry his weight) on the forehand and could limit his overall flexibility.

This gelding has a good shoulder with nice, pronounced withers that will hold a saddle well. He also appears to have a strong back, and his neck, back and hip are of relatively equal length. While his croup is long enough, its angle is slightly steep, giving his hindquarters a pointed appearance. However, he has adequate hindquarter muscling, both in his hip and gaskin, which should give him the power to perform well. This horse is very nice and square. He has straight legs, with a good, low hock set. His conformation indicates he's an athlete that can handle a lot of work. Overall, he's a nice horse to look at, and despite his few problems, he should be a good performer.

Horses B and C are a bit more challenging to place, as both lack overall balance and conditioning. However, Horse B is my selection for second, as he has much better legs than Horse C. This gelding has an average head and neck, and his expression isn't as alert as Horse A's. His slightly thick throatlatch may restrict his flexibility at the poll. Although his neck is a decent length as far as his overall balance, like Horse A's, it ties into his shoulder too low for correct balance and flexibility.

Horse B's shoulder has a nice slope and overall angle, indicating he should have a decent stride. But he lacks muscling in the shoulder and forearm, some of which may be due to lack of condition; this gives him the appearance of being weak in his front end. His back is acceptable, but his croup is much too short, which makes him inadequately muscled in his hip. This will affect his performance, as he won't have the power needed to drive from behind. When we look at his legs, he has a nice angle to his pasterns, and his legs appear good and straight. Overall, I'd like to see this horse in better condition, with more weight and muscle and less belly.

Horse C is very similar to Horse B in his head and neck. Both are average and lack overall refinement. Horse C's neck also ties into his shoulder too low, which may make him travel with too much weight on his forehand, and will make him less flexible in his neck. His shoulder is too straight up and down, which will place even more weight on his front end while he's performing. This, in turn, will further reduce the power from his hindquarters. His back is adequate, although it could be slightly shorter for more strength. His croup also is adequate in length and angle; however, he's lacking hip muscle, which could limit his athleticism.

As we move to his legs, we find front pasterns that are too steep. When combined with his straight shoulder, he'll have a shorter stride and not as much "shock absorption" as a horse with more normally sloped pasterns. Conformation such as this often leads to soundness problems. The ideal slope of the pastern and shoulder is between 45 and 50 degrees. This gelding also is too high in his hocks, which will prevent him from getting his rear legs under his body to stop well. This, combined with light hindquarter muscling, will reduce his ability to drive strongly from his hind end. Overall, I wouldn't expect Horse C to be as good a performer as the first two horses.

Tim Finkenbinder is an accredited judge with the American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association, Palomino Horse Breeders of America and the National Snaffle Bit Association. He has served as a judge for the AQHA World Show, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Show, the All American Quarter Horse Congress, the NSBA Breeders Championship Show and many major circuits and futurities. Tim has owned or exhibited world champions in Quarter Horse, Paint, Palomino and Appaloosa competition.

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magazine's next Conformation Clinic?

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2007/12/30 22:43 2007/12/30 22:43

Conformation Components

Excerpt from
Horse for Sale, How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have
by Cherry Hill © 1995


A well-balanced horse has a better chance of moving efficiently with less stress. Balance refers to the relationship between the forehand and hindquarters, between the limbs and the trunk of the body, and between the right and the left sides of the horse.

The center of gravity is a theoretical point in the horse's body around which the mass of the horse is equally distributed. At a standstill, the center of gravity is the point of intersection of a vertical line dropped from the highest point of the withers and a line from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock. This usually is a spot behind the elbow and about two thirds the distance down from the topline of the back.

Although the center of gravity remains relatively constant when a well-balanced horse moves, most horses must learn to rebalance their weight (and that of the rider and tack) when ridden. In order to simply pick up a front foot to step forward, the horse must shift his weight rearward. How much the weight must shift to the hindquarters depends on the horse's conformation, the position of the rider, the gait, the degree of collection, and the style of the performance. The more a horse collects, the more he steps under his center of gravity with his hind limbs.

If the forehand is proportionately larger than the hindquarters, especially if it is associated with a downhill topline, the horse's center of gravity tends to be forward. This causes the horse to travel heavy on his front feet, setting the stage for increased concussion, stress, and lameness. When the forehand and hindquarters are balanced and the withers are level with or higher than the level of the croup, the horse's center of gravity is located more rearward. Such a horse can carry more weight with his hindquarters, thus move in balance and exhibit a lighter, freer motion with his forehand than the horse with withers lower than the croup.

When evaluating yearlings, take into consideration the growth spurts which result in a temporarily uneven topline. However, be suspicious of a two-year-old that show an extreme downhill configuration. Even if a horse's topline is level, if he has an excessively heavily muscled forehand in comparison to his hindquarters, he is probably going to travel heavy on the forehand and have difficulty moving forward freely.

A balanced horse has approximately equal lower limb (front) length and depth of body. The lower limb length (chest floor to the ground) should be equal to the distance from the chest floor to the top of the withers. Proportionately shorter lower limbs are associated with a choppy stride.

The horse's height or overall limb length (point of withers to ground) should approximate the length of the horse's body (the point of the shoulder to the point of buttock). A horse with a body a great deal longer than its height often experiences difficulty in synchronization and coordination of movement. A horse with limbs proportionately longer than the body may be predisposed to forging, over-reaching and other gait defects.

When viewing a horse overall, the right side of the horse should be symmetric to the left side.

Proportions and Curvature of the Topline

The ratio of the topline's components, the curvature of the topline, the strength of loin, the sharpness of withers, the slope to the croup, and the length of the underline in relation to the length of back all affect a horse's movement.

The neck is measured from the poll to the highest point of the withers. The back measurement is taken from the withers to the loin located above the last rib and in front of the pelvis. The hip length is measured from the loin to the point of buttock.

A neck that is shorter than the back tends to decrease a horse's overall flexibility and balance. Be sure to look at the neck from both sides because the mane side often appears shorter than the non-mane side. A back that is a great deal longer than the neck tends to hollow. A very short hip, in relation to the neck or back, is associated with lack of propulsion and often a downhill configuration. A rule of thumb is that the neck should be greater than or equal to the back and that the hip should be at least two-thirds the length of the back.

The neck should have a graceful shape that rises up out of the withers, not dip downward in front of the withers. The upward curve to the neck should be more pronounced in a dressage prospect than in a hunter or western prospect. The shape of the neck is determined by the S shape formed by the seven cervical vertebrae. A longer, flatter (more horizontal) configuration to the upper vertebrae results in a smoother attachment at the poll (as if the neck is behind the skull or the head is attached on the end of a flexible balancing arm) and results in a cleaner, more supple throat latch. If the upper vertebrae form a short, diagonal line to the skull, it is associated with an abrupt attachment (as if the neck attaches below the skull or the head is stuck on top of the neck) resulting in a thick throat latch, lack of flexibility, and possibly a hammerhead.

The curve to the lower neck vertebrae should be short and shallow and attach relatively high on the horse's chest. The thickest point in the neck is at the base of the lower curve. Ewe necked horses often have necks that have a undesirable long, deep lower curve and attach low to the chest. The attachment of the neck to the shoulder should be smooth without an abnormal dip in front of the shoulder blade.

The upper neck length (poll to withers) should be at least twice the lower neck length (throat latch to chest). This is dictated to a large degree by the slope of the shoulder. A horse with a very steep shoulder has an undesirable ratio (approaching 1:1) between the upper neck length and lower neck length. The more sloping the shoulder, the longer the neck's top line becomes and the shorter the neck's underline. The muscling of the topline of the neck should be more developed than the muscling of the underside of the neck. A thick underside to the neck is associated with a horse that braces against the bit and hollow's the neck's top line.

The back should look like it has a natural place for a saddle beginning with prominent withers that are located above or slightly behind (but not exaggeratedly in front of) the heart girth. The heart girth is the circumference of the barrel just behind the front limbs. The withers should gradually blend into the back ideally ending just in front of the midpoint of the back. The withers provide a place for the neck muscles and ligamentum nuchae to anchor and they should attach at the highest point of the withers; there should not be a dip in front of or behind the withers.

The withers also act as a fulcrum. As a horse lowers and extends its neck, the back rises. Low, mutton withers limit a horse's ability to raise his back. A horse with a well-sloped shoulder usually has correctly-placed withers. The heart girth should be deep which indicates adequate room for the heart and lungs.

The muscles that run alongside the spine should be flat and strong rather than sloped or weak. The back muscles must help counteract the gravitational pull from the weight of the horse's intestines as well as support the rider's weight. The line of the back should be flat or level, not hollow (dipped or concave) or roached (bowed up or convex). A hollow back is associated with weakness and a roached back with stiffness.

The loin is located along the lumbar vertebrae from the last rib-bearing (dorsal) vertebrae to the lumbosacral joint. The loin should be well muscled and relatively short. Horses termed "long-backed" often have an acceptable back length but a long, weak loin. A horse with a weak and/or long loin and loose coupling tends to have a hollow back. (The coupling is the area behind the last rib and in front of a vertical line dropped from the point of hip.) A horse that chronically hollows its back may be predisposed to back problems.

The loin and the coupling are what transfer the motion of the hindquarters up through the back and forward to the forehand, so they must be strong and well connected. A short, heavily muscled loin has great potential strength, power, and durability yet could lack the flexibility that a more moderately muscled loin may have. Loin muscling (best viewed from the top) should appear springy and resilient not stiff and cramped or weak and saggy. A lumpy appearance in the loin area may indicate partial dislocations of the vertebrae.

The croup is measured from the lumbosacral joint (approximately indicated by the peak above and slightly behind the points of hip) to the tail head. The croup should be fairly long as this is associated with a good length to the hip and a desirable, forward-placed lumbosacral joint. The slope to the croup will depend on the breed and use. Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds traditionally have round croups; Arabs and Warmbloods have flat croups.

The topline should be "short" relative to the underline. Such a combination indicates strength plus desirable length of stride.


The head should be functionally sound. The brain coordinates the horse's movements, so adequate cranial space is necessary. The length from the base of the ear to the eye should be at least 1/3 the distance from ear to nostril. The width between the eyes should be a similar distance as that from the base of the ear to the eye. A wide poll with ears far apart is associated with the atlas connecting behind the skull rather than below it. A wide open throat latch allows proper breathing during flexion; a narrow throat latch is often associated with a ewe-neck attachment. Eyes set off to the side of the head allow the horse to have a panoramic view. The eye should be prominent without bulging. Prominence refers to the bony eye socket, not a protruding eyeball. The expression of the eye should indicate a quiet, tractable temperament.

The muzzle can be trim, but if it is too small, the nostrils may be pinched and there may be inadequate space for the incisors resulting in dental misalignments. The incisors should meet evenly with no overhang of the upper incisors (parrot mouth) or jutting out of lower incisors. The width of the cheek bones indicates the space for molars; adequate room is required for the sideways grinding of food. The shape of the nasal bone and forehead is largely a matter of breed and personal preference.


Quality is depicted by "flat" bone (indicated by the cannon bone), clean joints, sharply defined (refined) features, smooth muscling, overall blending of parts, and a fine, smooth hair coat. "Flat" bone is a misnomer because the cannon bone is round. Flat actually refers to well-defined tendons that stand out cleanly behind the cannon bone and give the impression the bone is "flat".

Substance refers to thickness, depth, and breadth of bone, muscle, and other tissues. Muscle substance is described by type of muscle, thickness of muscle, length of muscles, and position of attachment. Other substance factors include weight of the horse, height of the horse, size of the hoofs, depth of the heart girth and flank, and spring of rib.

Best viewed from the rear, spring of rib refers to the curve of the ribs; a flat-ribbed horse may have inadequate heart and lung space. Besides providing room for the heart, lungs, and digestive tract, a well-sprung rib cage provides a natural, comfortable place for a rider's legs. A slab-sided horse with a shallow heart girth is difficult to sit properly; an extremely wide-barreled horse can be stressful to the rider's legs.

Substance of bone indicates adequacy of the ratio of the bone to the horse's body weight. Bone measurement is taken on an adult horse around the circumference of the cannon bone just below the knee. For riding horses, an adequate ratio is approximately .7 inches of bone for every 100# of body weight. Using that thumb rule, a 1200 # horse should have an 8.4 inch circumference cannon bone for his weight to be adequately supported.

Correctness of Angles and Structures The correct alignment of the skeletal components provides the framework for muscular attachments. The length and slope to the shoulder, arm, forearm, croup, hip, stifle, and pasterns should be moderate and work well together. There should be a straight alignment of bones and large clean joints when viewed from front and rear.


Both forelimbs should appear to be of equal length and size and to bear equal weight. A line dropped from the point of the shoulder to the ground should bisect the limb. The toes should point forward and the feet should be as far apart on the ground as the limbs are at their origin in the chest. (See Movement for deviations) The shoulder should be well-muscled without being heavy and coarse.

The muscles running along the inside and outside of the forearm should go all the way to the knee, ending in a gradual taper, rather than ending abruptly a few inches above the knee. It is generally felt that this will allow the horse to use its front limbs in a smooth sweeping, forward motion. The pectoral muscles at the horse's chest floor (an inverted V) should also reach far down on to the limb. These and the forearm muscles help a horse move its limbs laterally and medially as well as to elevate the forehand.

Front limbs, when viewed from the side should exhibit a composite of moderate angles, so that shock absorption will be efficient. The shoulder angle is measured along the spine of the scapula from the point of the shoulder to the point of the withers. The shorter and straighter the shoulder, the shorter and quicker the stride and the more stress and concussion transmitted to the limb. Also important is the angle the shoulder makes with the arm (which should be at least 90 degrees) and the angle of the pastern.

The length of the humerus (point of shoulder to the point of elbow) affects stride length. A long humerus is associated with a long reaching stride and good lateral ability; a short humerus with a short choppy stride and poor lateral ability. The steeper the angle of the humerus, generally, the higher the action; the more toward horizontal, the lower the action.

To evaluate the medial-lateral slope of the humerus from the front, find the left point of shoulder and (a spot in front of) the left point of elbow. Do the same on the right side. Connect the four points. If the resulting box is square, the humerus lies in an ideal position for straight lower limbs and straight travel. If the bottom of the box is wider, the horse may toe in and travel with loose elbows and paddle. If the bottom of the box is narrower, the horse will likely toe out, have tight elbows and wing in.

The way the shoulder blade and arm (humerus) are conformed and attach to the chest dictate, to a large degree, the alignment of the lower limbs. Whether the toes point in or out is often a result of upper limb structures. That is why it is dangerous in many cases to attempt to alter a limb's structure and alignment through radical hoof adjustments. When assessing the lower limbs, be sure the horse is standing square.

The knees should be large and clean, not small and puffy. The bone column should be functionally straight and sound, not buck-kneed (over-at-the-knee) or calf-kneed (back-at-the-knee). The calf-kneed horse suffers strain at the back of the knee and concussion at the front of the knee which can result in carpal chips and other problems. The buck-kneed horse is unstable as the knees shake and are on the verge of buckling forward.

The flexor tendons running behind the cannon bone should be even and straight, not pinched in (tied-in) at the back of the knee or lumpy (indicating possible bowed tendon) anywhere from the knee to the fetlock.

Normal front pastern angles range from 53 to 58 degrees. Exceptionally long, sloping pasterns can result in tendon strain, bowed tendon, and damaged proximal sesamoids. Short, upright pasterns deliver greater concussive stresses to fetlock and pastern joints which may result in osselets, ringbone, and possibly navicular syndrome. Fetlock joints should be large enough to allow free movement but they should be devoid of any puffiness. The hoof should be appropriate for the size of the horse, well-shaped and symmetric with high quality hoof horn, adequate height and width of heel, and a concave sole. The hoof angle should be the same as the pastern angle making a smooth continuous line. For more information on hoof conformation and management see

Maximum Hoof Power


Hind limbs

The bone structure and muscling of the hind limb should be appropriate for the intended use. Endurance horses are characterized by longer, flatter muscles; stock horses by shorter, thicker muscles; all-around horses by moderate muscles.

Hind limbs, when viewed from the side should exhibit a composite of moderate angles, so that shock absorption will be efficient. A line from the point of buttock to the ground should touch the hock and end slightly behind the bulbs of the heels. A hind limb in front of this line is often sickle hocked; a hind limb behind this line is often post-legged or camped out.

The hindquarter should be symmetric and well connected to the barrel and the lower limb. The gluteals should tie well forward into the back. The hamstrings should tie down low into the Achilles tendon of the hock.

The relationship of the length of the bones, the angles of the joints, and the overall height of the hind limb will dictate the type of action and the amount of power produced. The length and slope to the pelvis (croup) is measured from the point of hip to the point of buttock. A flat, level croup is associated with hind limb action that occurs behind the hindquarters rather than underneath it. A goose rump is a very steep croup that places the hind limbs so far under the horse's belly that structural problems may occur due to the over-angulation.

A short femur is associated with the short, rapid stride characteristic of a sprinter. A long femur results in a stride with more reach. High hocks are associated with snappy hock action and a difficulty getting the hocks under the body. Low hocks tend to have a smoother hock action and the horse usually has an easier time getting the hocks under the body. The gaskin length (stifle to hock) should be shorter than the femur length (buttock to stifle). A gaskin longer than the femur tends to be associated with cow hocks and sickle hocks.

Hind limbs with open angles (a "straighter" hind limb when viewed from the side) have a shorter overall limb length and produce efficient movement suitable for hunters or race horses. Hind limbs with more closed joints (more angulation to the hind limb) have a longer overall limb length and produce a more vertical, folding action necessary for the collection characteristic of a high level dressage horse. If the overall limb length is too long, however, it can be associated with either camped out or sickle hocked conformation. No matter what the hind limb conformation is at rest, however, it is the way which it connects to the loin and operates in motion that is most important.

From the rear, both hind limbs should appear symmetric, to be of the same length and to bear equal weight. A left to right symmetry should be evident between the peaks of the croup, the points of the hip, the points of the buttock, and the midline position of the tail. The widest point of the hindquarters should be the width between the stifles. A line dropped from the point of the buttock to the ground will essentially bisect the limb but hind limbs are not designed to point absolutely straight forward. It is necessary and normal for the stifles to point slightly outward in order to clear the horse's belly. This causes the points of the hocks to face slightly inward and the toes to point outward to the same degree. The rounder the belly and/or the shorter the loin and coupling, the more the stifles must point out so the more the points of the hocks will appear to point inward. The more slab-sided and/or longer coupled a horse, the more straight ahead the stifles and hocks can point. When the cannon bone faces outward, the horse is often cow-hocked; when cannons face inward, bow-legged.

Soundness problems can occur when the hocks point absolutely straight ahead and the hooves toe out; then there is stress on the hock and fetlock joints. The hind feet should be as far apart on the ground as the limbs are at their origin in the hip. Normal pastern angles for the hind range from 55 to 60 degrees.

Cherry Hill

Subj: Gait of Foxtrotters
Date: 98-04-14 18:21:47EDT
To: MFTHorses

Perhaps you could direct this question to Ms. Zeigler, who seems to have lots of knowledge on horse gaits, etc. A recently published article on Foxtrotting show horses said that when the show Foxtrotter walks, and foxtrots, it does not bend at the knee. Is that possible ? It seems that a stiff front leg would not give as smooth a ride, and would also subject those horses to be "stumbley" on the trail, or flat dangerous in rough terrain. It seems that in the long run, this type of movement would be detrimental to the breed as a trail and pleasure riding horse. Your thoughts....


In answer to the question on bending the knee at the fox trot. Of course they bend at the knee, they could not move their legs if they did not! I believe that what the writer was trying to say was that Fox Trotters do not have high knee action, and tend to reach "out" rather than "up" with their front legs. This type of leg use in front is different from that of the typical Tennesee Walker or Saddlebred, for example, but similar to that of a Tbred or good moving Quarter Horse.

For this reason, good conformation in the front quarters of a Fox Trotter should include a long, well sloped shoulder and a long, more horizontal than vertical humerus. This predisposes to reach rather than action. In a TWH, however, an upright shoulder and more vertical humerus are desireable because they will predispose to high, short action in front.

The humerus bone is; " the bone running from the front point of the shoulder to the elbow"

Hope this answers the question.

Lee Ziegler

Croup. The croup is of fundamental importance in animal mechanics, because it is the corner-stone of the transmission of the posterior impulse (hocks) to the anterior, and its inclination (according to the axis of the coxa) is directly correlated to the length of the posterior muscles (gluteals and ischeo-tibials) and hence to their angulation. In fact, the femur forms an angle with the coxa which varies from 90° to 120°, and since the metatarsal is always perpendicular to the ground, it is obvious that the inclination of the thigh (femur) and leg (tibia) will depend upon the slope of the croup. We will discuss this further in the section on hindquarters.  

A horizontal croup, typical of gallopers, presupposes long ischio-tibial muscles with a consequently greater ability to contract, and thus an ample oscillation of the limbs. An inclined croup, typical of trotters, presupposes shorter muscles. In the Cane corso the croup is slightly inclined: in fact, its typical gait is a lengthened trot.  

The croup should be long, because it acts as the fulcrum of transmission; the efficiency of action is in relation to its length.  

The width of the croup is in relation to the schelectric construction, and consequently to the development of the muscular mass. The croup of the Cane Corso must be broad because he must develop more power than speed.  

A serious fault is a steep croup (over 35°) since it means an insufficiently angulated posterior, caused by the shortening and weakening of the ischio-tibial muscles; the dog, to avoid fatigue, puts one bone radius over the other as vertically as possible with incorrect articulation of the coxo­femural and the knee. This pathology often goes with a croup which is higher than the withers and with an excessive weight on the anterior, causing a difficult and clumsy movement. Just as bad but rarer is a horizontal croup (under 15°) which determines a femur-tibial straightening and angles which are too open (If this is associated with a short croup, movement is seriously limited).  

Tail. When the Cane Corso relaxes his tail it should look like the backbone of a fish. Being wide at the root and narrowing toward the end, the adipose tissues which cover the caudal vertebrae, resting on the buttocks, give it this characteristic "V" shape. A low-set tail usually goes with a sloping croup. If the tail is too narrow at the root it will be held candle-like in action, and this too should be penalized.

2007/12/30 22:21 2007/12/30 22:21

Conformation Clinic: Thoroughbred Mares
Evaluate and place these 3-year-old Thoroughbred mares in your order of preference, then see how your choices compare with an expert judge's.

Basically, I look for overall balance first. A well-balanced horse will be able to perform athletically and will be a nice mover. I'll draw an imaginary line from the tail to the front of the hip, then right in front of the hip to the withers, and from the wither to the poll, and then I'll look to see how balanced those three pieces are.

I'll also look for a pretty head, and I'll check to see how the neck ties in--I want to see it tie in at a good angle with the shoulder.

I also want to see a nice topline and a big, round hip from adequate muscling.

From there, I'll check for breed and gender characteristics. I want a mare to look like a mare; she should be pretty and shouldn't look like a gelding.

I'll go on to look for any structural faults, checking to see if her legs look correct and properly aligned, and the hocks are well-angled and low-set.

Click "Next" to find out how I placed these three 3-year-old Thoroughbred mares.


First: Mare C
This horse is very appealing; she shows the balance I like to see, and has a feminine appearance. She's got a very pretty head and neck. If her mane was banded, it would set off her neck nicely, but you can still tell she has a pretty neck. She has a nice short back, which contributes to her overall balance.

Her long sloping shoulder, coupled with pasterns at the same slope, tells me she should have a soft stride. Typically, if a horse is real straight in the pasterns, she'll be real straight in the shoulder, too, which will lead to more concussion on the joints and possibly soundness issues. She ties in really well from her neck to her shoulders to her back. The way she's standing, she looks a little higher in her hip than her withers, but that may just be the photo. She has a nice hip, and her hocks are low to ground, which'll help her with impulsion and collection, and she has a nice tail set--she'll carry herself well.

She might be able to put some more muscle on, and sweating her neck might make it a little more elegant, but overall I thought she was a really attractive mare.

Second: Mare A
This mare shows nice attributes, but her head isn't as attractive as the first place horse. She looks more like a gelding to me than a mare. I don't like how she ties in from her neck to wither--she's almost a little ewe-necked. Compared to the first place horse, she's a little straighter through her shoulder (though not as straight as the third place horse), which may make her heavier on her front end.

She's a lot more balanced than the third place horse, with a really nice hip, and hocks that sit low enough to the ground for good impulsion. She should be able to work with her hind end underneath her. She's also little longer in the back than the first place horse. She may have a little bit of a splint on her right front, but unless it's accompanied by other structural problems, it's probably just cosmetic.

Third: Mare B
I put this horse third because she lacks the balance and refinement I like to see in a halter or performance horse. Her head is not nearly as attractive as the first two mares'; it's longer and coarser, and her throatlatch is also really coarse. Her neck is short and ties in to a straight shoulder, which makes her front end appear heavy. She'll probably have a more difficult time moving softly and smoothly than the first two horses, and her thicker throatlatch may make it harder for her to flex at the poll.

Moving back, her hind end appears weak, and her hocks sit really high, which tells me she may lack impulsion from behind, and it'll be harder for her to collect and work off her hind end. She almost looks a little over in the knees, which could lead to soundness problems, though it might just be the way she's standing.

Rob Meneely is a carded judge for the American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association (APHA), Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC), Palomino Horse Breeders Association, National Reining Horse Association and the National Snaffle Bit Association. His judging assignments have included Paint Horse Congress, the APHA World Show and the APHA European Championships in Australia, France, Italy, Germany and Denmark. Rob and his wife, Mary, and their clients have more than 400 ApHC world and national titles to their credit.

This article originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

Enter Your Horse in Conformation Clinic!

To submit a photo of your horse to be evaluated in our Conformation Clinic, send us a left-side view photo of your horse (for digital phots: high-resolution, 300 dpi, in at least 3" x 5"). Make sure he's well-groomed, looking straight ahead and standing on level ground--and try to avoid distracting backgrounds.

Email and include your contact info and your horse's breed, age, gender and height.

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2007/12/30 00:19 2007/12/30 00:19

The Horse’s Back and BTB

There are some things that, once said, seem so fundamentally obvious that you have to wonder why they aren’t uppermost in your mind all the time and why you might ever need reminding, and here to start this article is one; the back is the most important structure in the ridden horse.

 Horses can, and do, perform remarkably well with sore feet, which is probably just as well given the trauma of shoeing. Back pain is another thing entirely and is quite capable of turning the most mild mannered and willing of horses into a bad tempered and uncooperative lout. And who can really blame them? But, unlike the foot, which is relatively simple by comparison, the back is complexity itself. It’s only in the last few years that studies of the spine have come along, primarily due to the development of technologies that allow 3D imaging of its structures while in movement and under loading.

But if this complexity prevents the average owner from a detailed knowledge of spinal structure and operation there have to be some basics that we all take on and keep firmly in mind, since they impact heavily on our ability to maintain the horse’s wellbeing during work. And, if you are wondering where the ‘BTB’ (bitless-treeless-barefoot) comes into this then wonder no more. Bitless bridles, treeless saddles and barefoot trimming are all attempts to address problems caused by our use of horses, and each impacts on the operation of the back.

We may make a primary connection between bitless bridles and the mouth, but any pain caused directly in that area is really of secondary importance; what is of greatest concern is the impact on the back, and therefore the whole musculo-skeletal structure of the horse, as the horse attempts to avoid such pain, and the postural changes it goes through in the process.  

We’ve touched on this before, but not in any detail, so perhaps we should go over the ground again as part of building up a holistic approach to what we put on our horses and what we ask of them once we have. Rather than describe the movement sequences in each of the four paces – walk, trot, canter and gallop – I’ve taken some ‘licence’ in coming up with a way of describing a composite of movement for the sake of discussion – so I hope purists will pardon the generalisations! And just so we keep a broadly scientific grounding throughout I’ve added quotes from scientific papers that have dealt with these issues.

First of all there have been several attempts to develop a diagram illustrating the basic design concept of the horse’s back; below is the most recent and generally considered to be most accurate. 

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This is known as the bow and string model, and although it may look a little complicated the principles are fairly straightforward.

The bow equals the spine between wither and tail and this, as is shown, is naturally braced in a convex curve, while the string roughly approximates the belly line. The sternum and abdominal muscles act to support the downward force on the belly, while the abdominal viscera pull down against the string. The epaxial musculature (def: above the axis of the spine) also exerts a downward or flattening effect. The muscles that extend the foreleg, or the protractors, exert downward pressure on the bow, while those that pull the foreleg back, the retractors, exert upward pressure – while with the hindleg this action is reversed.

 So far so good – but we now have to add a further complication with the effect of head and neck. First we’ll look at flexion.


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As the head is lowered the ligaments that run from head to tail tighten, supporting the back;  the foreleg swings forward (protract) and propulsion from the hindleg is transferred via the hip along the spine.


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The head raises, ligament lengthens allowing foreleg to swing back (retract) and hindleg to swing forward. 

So we have a constant cycle of flexion and extension while the horse is moving – but this only deals with the movement of the spine as if the horse’s body is in a straight line travelling over perfectly flat ground with no irregularities. In reality, horses are rarely, if ever, so straight, and ground surfaces, even those that appear quite flat have any number of minor or major irregularities. The vertebrae allow the horse to harmonise with the ground surface by rotating in 3 dimensions.

With the healthy horse in free action these forces flow through the spine to produce that beautiful harmony of movement and speed that we so admire – but in the ridden horse there are extra forces at play that are not part of the natural design concept and can have a major impact.

So let’s go through flexion and extension again with rider weight added. We’ll say that rider weight is, in this case, not extreme as a percentage of the horse’s own body weight, that the horse is reasonably fit and has been given reasonable preparation before being asked to perform under this extra burden, and let’s assume that we won’t cause too much of a problem.

During flexion the tightening of the ligaments supports the back against the downward pressure of rider weight, but at extension the back is less well supported and rider weight impacts more heavily making it more difficult to retract the foreleg and bring the hindleg forward under the body ready for the next flexion phase.

• The movements of the back directly influence the head and neck position. With a high head and neck position, the stride length and extension of the back are significantly reduced. The neck can be a useful measure of stretch through the back as well as stride length. ( Rhodin, M., Johnston, C., Holm, K.R., Wennerstrand, J. and Drevemo, S. (2005) The influence of head and neck position on kinematics of the back in riding horses at the walk and trot. Equine Vet J 37, 7-11.)

If we now consider the same situation, but with a heavy rider, it becomes very clear that the spine will be operating under far greater stress. There is no question that such a horse will tire more rapidly and will be more likely to stumble as the energy required to bring hindleg forward and retract foreleg is increased. But we have only just begun to consider the interference we impose – at this point our model is working with neither bridle and bit nor saddle – so let’s add those in next.

Bit and bridle first, and we’ll assume that not only is our rider a good weight for the size of the horse but that they are fit and well trained. So what we are really assuming here is that the combination of bit, bridle and rider are having no effect on the movement, and are merely following it with the lightest of contact. But what if our rider is not quite fit or well trained? During flexion the head, instead of being able to move freely forward and down, has to drag the weight of the rider’s hands, arms and upper body forward while at the same time supporting, in fact actively lifting, the extra weight. As the extension phase occurs, the rein contact changes, requiring some adjustment in gait. Our rider shortens the loosened reins just in time for the head to go forward again, and instead of the head being able to go smoothly down and forward it is checked with an increase in pressure on the tissue of the mouth and gums. In an effort to adapt to these changes the muscular tension increases, the process becomes more tiring still, and the flow of one phase into another is less smooth. No doubt there is also an element of irritation involved, as the horse is well aware of how easy the same movement is without rider interference.

• Movement of the back at the wither is significantly reduced in the ridden horse (Townsend, H.G., Leach, D. and Fretz, P.B. (1983): Kinematics of the equine thoracolumbar spine. Equine vet. J. 15, 117-122.) 

Now add a rigid saddle.  

• Without a rider, the saddle still exerts force, due to vertical acceleration - particularly in trot where it shows a marked up / down motion. (Peham, C. and Schobesberger, H. (2004) Influence of the load of a rider or of a region with increased stiffness on the equine back: a modelling study. Equine vet. J. 37, 703-705.)

Obviously there is a question of added weight, but on top of that the points of the tree impede the free movement of the shoulders and tend to dig in or at the very least cause a pulse of increased pressure when the back is least supported at the start of extension.  

• Tree pressure points can cause pain, muscle wastage, problems related to the willingness of the horse to be ridden, moving the back away from the underneath of the saddle, stiffness in lateroflexion, dorsoflexion, and ventroflexion, and difficulties in transitions as well as in collection. (Nyikos, S., Werner, D., Müller, J. A., Buess, C., Keel, R., Kalpen, A., Vontobel, H. D., Plocki, K. A. von, Auer, J. A., Rechenberg, B. von (2005) Measurements of saddle pressure in conjunction with back problems in horses. (Pferdeheilkunde, 2005 (Vol. 21) (No. 3) 187-198Nyikos at al., 2005.)

As the vertebra rotate in order to compensate for unevenness in the ground surface they are either restricted by the rigidity of the saddle or buffeted by increased contact and pressure between back and underside of the saddle – and if we then put our heavy rider back on the model, give them poor rein contact and an uncomfortable bit, we have all the components of a potentially miserable experience for the horse.

• The range of motion of the ridden horse is significantly lower than that of the unridden horse. If a saddle provokes localized pressure concentrations, the horse terminates the forward swing of the leg and stride length decreases. (Peham, C. and Schobesberger, H. (2004) Influence of the load of a rider or of a region with increased stiffness on the equine back: a modelling study. Equine vet. J. 37, 703-705.)

And if that was not enough, we’ll also fix rigid metal shoes that alter the nature of the foot’s impact with the ground, the potential for the toe to cut in and greatly reduce shock-absorption and the safe distribution of heat away from the concussive surface, and there is absolutely no surprise that we might easily exceed the tolerance of the structure – with back ache, overflexion of joints and lameness the outcome. But even if none of those happen and the structure is not clinically damaged we can expect the living creature that inhabits our model to be less than enthusiastic about performing.

• The influence of a saddle with weight can best be described as an overall extension or hollowing of the back. This may contribute to soft tissue injuries and Kissing Spines Syndrome. (DeCocq, P., van Weeren, P.R. and Back, W. (2004) Effects of girth, saddle and weight on movements of the horse. Equine vet. J. 36, 758-763.)

No wonder then that they attempt to take control of the bit, or fight its pressure. The rider might think they are pretty stupid to do so and that all they have to do is relax and stop pulling for comfort to return – but the horse knows too well that it was discomfort that made him try to take back the control over his own body that he is used to having when this damned lump is not in his mouth and on his back!

• A kind horse may become awkward and rather fractious. This may be seen as a loss of enthusiasm for work. There may be a disinclination to jump, particularly the combination-type fences…or a horse may lose its fluidity and timing and tend to rush his fences. (Jeffcott, L. B., 1975: The diagnosis of diseases of the horse's back. Equine Vet. J. 7, 69-78. 1975)

Having gone through this over-view process let’s now bring the discussion around to the practical realities of what we can do to decrease the negative aspects of riding.

 The development of the bitless bridle was driven by two distinct aims. Firstly to reduce pain or discomfort in the mouth and decrease symptoms such as head-shaking, and secondly to deal with the negative change of posture commonly associated with bit use. The older solution, and one often recommended in the past when mouth problems caused by bit use were such that a horse became virtually unrideable, was the hackamore.

And while the hackamore certainly gets rid of the bit it still operates on the basis of pain/discomfort by allowing the rider to exert pressure on the ‘chin-groove’ and nose by way of leverage. Once again the rider’s hands dictate how much interference there will be. Given a knowledgeable rider that is aware of the mechanical advantage offered by the leverage and a good degree of sensitivity in terms of how such force might reasonably be applied, plus a level of physical fitness so that the hands are able to act at all times independently of the rider’s torso, the hackamore is not a bad device. But where any of these conditions are missing, or where harsh designs are used, such as those made with sharp curb chains or chunks of bicycle chain (leather covered or not) over the nose, what you actually end up with is something that can do even more damage. So while the hackamore gets rid of pain in the mouth it tends merely to transfer it elsewhere – with equally bad or worse effects on posture and movement.

 So in terms of the second aim, it is essential that the bridle does not cause discomfort in any part of the head and face, chin groove, nose or poll. And unfortunately once complexities are introduced in design, such as where straps cross over or under one another, there tend to be problems with binding or seizing – so that the bridle tightens, applying pressure  to the lower jaw, poll or face, but does not release dependably as soon as the hands give.

 So perhaps it is fair to suggest that these cross under or over types have more to do with the rider’s perception regarding security than with achieving a pain-free medium of communication. Any of those of us that were raised on bitted bridles have absorbed the notion that we must be able to impose our will on the horse by being able to increase mechanical pressure in order to get them to stop. So there is a background feeling of insecurity when we use a bridle that does not allow us to do so. But you just have to watch a bunch of kids riding over jumps in bitless sidepull type bridles and it very soon becomes obvious that the horses are more relaxed and far less likely to refuse to do as asked.

The present trend for using treeless saddles was also a response to the problems of tree’d saddles.

Around the late 1990s the results of scientific research into the effect of conventional saddles on back problems and lameness caused owners and innovative saddlers to begin designing alternatives. Typically the problems they were attempting to solve were to do with the conventional saddles inability to flex through those same 3 dimensions as the vertebra so that, even where saddle fit was good on the standing horse, it simply could not match the changes of shape that occur in the back during movement. And, as discussion of these alternatives grew, it also became increasingly obvious that while some riders had the resources to ensure saddles fitted as well as possible and were made to a high standard many did not.

• 73% of a group of horses showed uneven saddle panels causing significant pressure on the back, with 57% showing back pain and muscle atrophy from saddles with serious multiple fitting problems. (Harman, J.C. (1997) Measurements of the pressures exerted by saddles on the horse’s back using a computerized pressure measuring device. Pferdeheilk. 13, 129-134)

In some cases the problem was that sellers simply didn’t concern themselves overly much with ensuring a good fit.

• Saddles are sold with little consideration of fit and even less knowledge about the consequences of poor fit. (Harman JC (1999). Tack and saddle fit. Vet. Clin. N. Am.: Equine. Pract. 15: 247–261.)

But whatever the reason, research showed that poor fit and unevenness was the source of a great many problems, and established clear trains of cause and effect.

• Poor saddle fit is among the major causes of back pain among horses. (Jeffcott, L.B., et. al., 1999.
Validity of Saddle Pressure Measurements Using Force Sensing Array Technology - Preliminary Studies.
The Veterinary Journal, Vol 158: 113-119.

It is certainly true that the intention of treeless saddles was to prevent these problems occurring, but any type of saddle used by a rider whose weight is either too great, or is concentrated over too small an area, will cause problems – treeless or not.

• Saddle fit and rider weight distribution are an important aspect of ability to move freely. (Peham et al 2004)

So the claims made by some vendors when treeless saddles came onto the market – that their saddles would work on any shape or type of horse and would cure all kinds of problems – were simply not justified. Although the treeless saddle offers a different set of options, the complexities of the equine back and the interaction between it and rider weight offer a challenge that requires attention to detail and the development of designs suited to specific combinations of horse, rider and activity.

Since NHP began this subject has been an integral part of our journey of discovery, and once we had begun to try a few types out and to develop our own ideas it seemed a natural extension to establish a line of saddles and accessories that would fulfil the ethical imperative that every horse should be able to work in the greatest degree of comfort and safety, and with the least possible impact on natural fluency of movement.

© Andy Beck – W.H.E.E.P. 2006

2007/12/25 14:31 2007/12/25 14:31

Tennessee Walking Horses generally range from 14.3 to 17 hands and weigh 900 to 1200 pounds. The modern Tennessee Walking Horse possesses a dry, pretty head with small, well placed ears. The horse has a long sloping shoulder, a long sloping hip, a fairly short back and short, strong coupling. The bottom line is longer than the top line, allowing for a long stride.

Jamaica Shaker


 1. Hoof 15. Withers 29. Shoulder
 2. Coronary Band 16. Neck 30. Pectoral Region
 3. Pastern 17. Throatlatch 31. Forearm
 4. Fetlock 18. Occipital Crest (Poll) 32. Elbow
 5. Cannon 19. Forelock 33. Carpus (Knee)
 6. Hock 20. Eye 34. Cannon
 7. Gaskin 21. Face 35. Fetlock Joint
 8. Stifle 22. Nose 36. Pastern Joint
 9. Thigh 23. Muzzle 37. Coronary Band
10. Point of Buttock 24. Nostril 38. Hoof
11. Croup 25. Chin 39. Upper Arm
12. Point of Hip 26. Cheek 40. Ribs
13. Loin 27. Jugular Groove 41. Flank
14. Back 28. Point of Shoulder 42. Chestnut

The Tennessee Walking Horse - Head
The Tennessee Walking Horse's head should be in proportion to the rest of the animal's body. The head and throatlatch should be refined and clean-cut, with the facial bones exhibiting a chiselled appearance. The eyes should show character, being of good size and well placed, with good width between the eyes. They should be clear and bright. The face should be straight, rather than convex (Roman-nosed) or concave (dish-faced). The ears should be well set, medium to small in size, and they should be carried forward showing attentiveness. The muzzle should be small, with large, sensitive nostrils. The upper and lower teeth should meet. The jaw should show bone structure but should not show excessive thickness.

The Tennessee Walking Horse - Neck

The head should join the neck at approximately a 45 degree angle, with a distinct space between the jawbone and neck. The neck should be medium to long in length, and the head should be carried high. In the adult, the neck should be slightly arched. The neck should be lean and muscled and blend smoothly into the shoulders and withers. Excessive arching or a crested neck is undesirable.

The Tennessee Walking Horse - Balance
A Tennessee Walking Horse should have a balanced appearance. Balance is the single most important characteristic in equine selection because it forms the basics for movement, length of stride and, ultimately, performance. Balance is determined by the skeletal structure. When judging, it is important to attempt to visualize and evaluate the skeleton of the horse underneath muscle and other tissues. Slope of shoulder is critical to balance. Slope of shoulder changes drastically when the angle of the shoulder is increased or decreased. Not only does the top-to-bottom line ratio of the neck change, but the ratio of length of back to length of underline also changes. It is ideal to have a short top line and a long underline.  The balanced horse will also have legs that are approximately the same length as depth of heart,

The Tennessee Walking Horse - Shoulder
The shoulder should be long and slope forward at an angle of 45 degrees from the withers to the point of the shoulder. The shoulder should be smooth, yet well muscled. The withers should be at least as high as the top of the rump.  In addition to overall balance, slope of shoulder influences length of stride. Thus, the steeper the shoulder, the shorter the stride. Angle of shoulder and angle of pastern serve to absorb shock when the horse moves. Horses with long sloping shoulders will be better able to disperse the damaging effects of concussion, and their strides will have more freedom of movement and style of action.

The Tennessee Walking Horse - Topline
The topline of the Tennessee Walking Horse should be level, or slightly sloping to the hindquarters. The back should be short to medium length, with a short, strong loin. The croup should be long with good muscling and a well set tail. The croup should slope moderately from the point of the hip bone to the point of the buttock.  The topline of the horse includes the withers, back, loin or coupling and croup. As viewed from the side, a properly balanced horse will be higher at the withers than at the croup. When the withers are higher than the croup, the hindquarters are positioned more under the body, which enhances the athletic ability of the horse. Strength of topline, which includes prominent withers, short, strong back and well-muscled loin, has a positive influence on soundness and athletic ability.  The ideal withers should be sharp, prominent and well-defined. The well-defined withers are important from the standpoint of holding a saddle on the horse without excessive tightening of the front cinch.  Tennessee Walking Horses should have short, strong backs relative to a long underline. The topline to underline ratio (Figure 3) plays an important role in balance, length and type of stride. Length of back is directly related to length and slope of shoulder and top to bottom line neck ratio. The loin (coupling) should be well-muscled and strong . The loin is the pivot point of the horse's back and is the area between the last rib and the croup. Short, muscular loins are needed to carry power from the hind legs forward.  The croup should be long and gently sloping. This adds length to the stride as well as dimension and muscling to the hindquarter. The flatter and more level the croup, the more likely that horse will move with a vertical action behind and less of a horizontal action. The horse with a steep croup will move with the legs more collected under the body. The angle of the croup will have a great influence on the position of the hock. Moreover, these two factors together will dictate a collected, balanced horizontal movement. 

The Tennessee Walking Horse - Hindquarters
The hindquarters of the Tennessee Walking Horse should be of moderate thickness and depth, well muscled when viewed from the side and rear. The muscling should be evident inside and out on the rear legs. The hock joint should be fairly wide and deep, with the joint being clean. The cannon area should be vertical from the hock to the pastern, with the pastern showing a 45 degree angle with the ground. 

Conformation of the Tennessee Walking Horse is directly related to skeletal structure. It includes the bones and ligaments which bind the bones together to form joints.  The manner in which a horse moves is determined by the horse's conformation and skeletal structure. The usefulness of Tennessee Walking Horses depends on their ability to move and perform in an appropriate manner.  Structural correctness ultimately determines the value and usefulness of a horse. Regardless of whether the horse is a favorite at the Celebration or a youth's pleasure mount, the length and angle of the bone structure, combined with skeletal correctness play a critical role in the usefulness of the athlete. An understanding of skeletal make-up will assist in the evaluation of horse conformation.

2007/12/12 03:36 2007/12/12 03:36

Equine Conformation Part 1
Equine Anatomy - The Head, Neck and Body

There is no such thing as the perfect horse...
However, by being knowledgable about the finer points of equine anatomy and conformation, you can find a horse that is more likely to be able to do what you want him to do, without being compromised by his shape and build.

Below is a drawing showing the main points of equine anatomy and conformation, including some of the things I will be discussing.

Parts of the Horse
Art Explosion by Nova
A Muzzle B Poll C Crest D Withers
E Back F Loins G Croup H Dock
I Point of Hock J Hock K Thigh L Stifle
M Chestnut N Ergot O Coronet P Pastern
Q Fetlock R Cannon S Forearm T Point of Elbow
U Shoulder

Let's start at the front end
The first thing people look at in a horse is the head. Although it has little to do with the actual performance of the horse, except for the points noted below. most people like to see a horse with a refined head, bright, kind eyes, pricked ears and an alert expression.

Old English terms such as fiddle-headed refer to horses with coarse, unrefined features, and roman-nosed refers to a horse with a convex profile such as is found in the draught breeds, as opposed to the concave, or dished, profile of the Arabian and similar breeds.

Horses are not capable of breathing through their mouths, so the size and shape of the nostrils are important to horses in highly aerobic activities, such as race-horses. This is the reason that Thoroughbreds tend to have larger nostrils, with finer cartiledge than, say, a draught horse.

The eyes and ears can give clues to the temparament of the horse, if not his athletic ability. Large, kind-looking eyes, with no white showing and no rolling of the eyeballs, indicates a more tractable demeanour, as do ears that are pricked and alert, rather than pinned back against the horse's head.

Two areas of the head which can have an effect on the performance of the horse are the throat and the poll. The poll is where the skull of the horse fits on to the spine, right behind the ears. Stiffness in this area can cause the horse to have difficulty in softening to the rider's hand and "come on the bit". Likewise, a horse with a thick throat area may have difficulty giving to the rider and may give the rider the feel that he is riding a plank of wood.

The horse's neck should be in proportion to the rest of the body, appearing neither too long nor too short. A gentle arch to the neck is pleasing, without excessive muscling underneath. Stallions are more prone to have more crest along the topline of the neck than either geldings or mares, although the more a horse is worked in certain disciplines, such as dressage, the more the muscle along the topline will be toned up. A horse with thick muscling along the underside of his neck will feel stiff and resistant to ride. This can also be changed with exercises to build the muscle along the top of the neck, encouraging the horse to relax the muscles along the underside.

The term ewe-necked refers to a neck that appears to be put on upside down and a horse with a swan-neck has a very long neck, usually with excessive bend similar to a swan, from which the term is taken. Both of these conformations are considered undesirable.

Equine Anatomy - The Shoulder
The way the neck joins the body can influence the way the horse goes. Some horses, such as the Quarter Horse, have a lower set-on neck than do others, such as the Saddlebred. This predisposes the Quarter Horse to carry his head lower than the Saddlebred, such as is desired in Western Pleasure classes and makes him a natural choice for these classes, Many of the carriage breeds, such as the Cleveland Bay, the Friesian and some of the German Warmbloods (who were originally bred as carriage horses and who now excel in sports such as dressage and showjumping) have a much higher neck, giving them a higher head carriage which lends an air of presence.

The shoulder itself is critical to the horse's way of going. A well sloped shoulder (as measured from the point of shoulder to the withers) will allow the horse to take a long, economical stride, enable him to extend in the trot, gallop easily, will make for a more comfortable ride, and is desirable in the riding horses such as the Thoroughbred, the Quarter Horse, and the Hunter. However, it is not found in all riding horses, and the breeds in which a high-stepping, showy action is required, such as the Andalucian, the Saddlebred, and the Morgan will be more apt to have a more upright shoulder, which places the foreleg more underneath the body and results in less extension of the forelimbs, but more upward knee action.

Equine Anatomy - The Body
There are several points that should be noted about the body. This is where all of the horse's major organs are, such as the lungs and the heart. They need to have room in order to be able to be most effective. The shape and size of the chest controls the amount of room that the lungs have to expand, important in the athletic horse. Ahorse with a chest that is too narrow, not only will have his aerobic capacity reduced, but his forelegs will also be too close together, making him more likely to brush his forelegs together when being worked, possibly causing injury.

The girth, or barrel, of the horse should be deep, giving the horse plenty of heart room to contain the internal organs. The body should be rounded and the ribs well-sprung. The term slab-sided refers to a horse with a narrow, flat-sided body.

The back should be considered to be the most important part of the riding horse. The horse is not naturally a weight carrier, it is more designed by nature to be a weight puller, so it is expecially important to make note of types of conformation that predispose the horse to even greater weakness in the back.

First of all, the back should be shaped in such a way as to accept a saddle comfortably and should be neither too long nor too short. A back which dips excessively is called a sway back and which is generally found in older horses, and its opposite, a roach back both can cause difficulties with fitting a saddle. An excessively long back will have inherant weakness which may not stand up to concentrated work, and a very short back will give the rider a bumpy ride as the propulsion of the hind legs will tend to bounce him out of the saddle.

The point where the back joins the quarters is called the loin and it is very important that this area is strong and muscular if problems are to be avoided. Horses with long backs are prone to weakness in this area. The croup is the highest point behind the saddle and should be level with the withers in the mature horse (as horses are growing, their growth spurts often make the croup higher than the withers) . In the mature horse, a croup higher than the withers will cause a tendancy to lean on the forehand and be heavy in front. This is not the same as goose-rump or jumper's bump, both terms which refer to a high, well muscled rump usually associated with jumpers.

Equine Anatomy - The Hooves and Legs

The legs could be said to be the most important part of the horse, for if a horse has weakness or bad conformation in his legs, his athletic ability is going to be seriously compromised, no matter what you plan to do with him. From a general standpoint, the legs should appear straight, muscular and sturdy, and capable of carrying the horse.

On to Specifics
Looking at the horse head-on, the front legs should be neither too far apart nor too close together as they join the chest. Too far apart will result in a rolling gait, that may make you sea-sick to ride. Too close together, they will predispose the horse to injuries as one foreleg knocks against the other as he moves. This interference may be alleviated somewhat with special hoof trimming and shoeing, but is better avoided in the first place. The legs should appear straight and not twisted in or out.

The forearm should be long and muscular and the knee should be large and flat, not round and puffy. The tendons have to pass through the knee to the lower leg and that is why large, flat knees are desireable, to allow the maximum movement.

The cannon-bone, the bone in the lower leg, should not be too long. Looking at the horse from the side, the knee should appear low in the leg. If it appears high, it means that the cannon bone is longer than ideal, and prone to weakness.

The way the lower leg joins at the knee is important to the functionality of the leg too. In some horses you will see that the lower leg appears tied in below the knee , where the leg is narrower directly underneath the knee than it is further down. This can restrict the movement of the tendons. In some cases the horse may be over at the knee where the lower leg appears set back in comparison with the upper leg. The opposite of this is back at the knee where the knee and upper leg appear set back in comparison with the lower leg.

As the horse's ability to carry weight depends on the inter-functioning of all these parts, it is important that they line up correctly, in order to be most efficient.

The pastern is the horse's shock absorber, at times carrying the horse's entire weight, plus that of the rider. The ideal pastern is neither too long nor too short, too sloped or too upright. Overly long sloping pasterns will place a strain on the suspensory ligament and the tendons which run down the back of the leg. Pasterns which are too upright do not perform sufficiently well to overcome the concussive effects of movement and so the leg may suffer with soundness problems because of it.

Equine Anatomy - The horse's hoof
You know the saying "No horse", well - never a truer word was spoken. The ideal hoof is well-matched with it's partner in size and shape (hind feet will be bigger and the footprint more oval than the front feet) The horn should be strong and flexible, not weak and shelly or dry and crumbly. (I plan on doing some extensive research and bringing you the latest information and help on how to keep your horse's hooves in tip-top condition). Problems with the hoof walls will mean that the horse will have difficulty holding on shoes (a problem I am all too familiar with). Different breeds of horse tend to have different sized feet. The draught breeds have huge soup-plates of feet whereas the Arabians have small strong-horned feet. When trimming and shoeing the horse it is necessary to maintain the natural size of the foot, not to trim it down to fit the shoe, as this will cause problems with soundness, by compromising the natural shock-absorbing qualities of the hoof.

The feet should point straight forward and the horse be neither pigeon-toed, where the toes point in toward each other, nor toed-out , where the horse appears duck-footed with his toes splayed out.

The feet should have fleshy, well-sprung frogs and should not be boxy and upright, like those of a donkey. Lateral ridges around the hoof wall can indicate previous laminitis or, at the very least, changes in growth rate due to illness or changes in feed etc.

Equine Anatomy - The hind legs
The hocks are one of the very important features of the hind leg. This acts as an additional shock-absorber. Like the knee, it is preferable for the hock to be set low, thus lessening the strain on the hind cannon. How the hock lines up underneath the hind quarters of the horse will make a difference to its action. Ideally, in the riding horse, the point of the hock should line up underneath the point of the buttocks and a straight line be carried down the back of the hind cannon. However, hocks that fall in front of this line are often seen in jumping horses, as they give additional thrust. Horses with hocks that fall behind this line will be lacking in propulsion, making jumping more difficult for them and well as making it difficult for them to perform the more advanced dressage movements.

Looking at the horse from the back, the hind legs should be straight and neither cow-hocked, where the hocks turn in (accompanied by turned out toes) or bow-hocked , where the hocks turn out. From the side, the horse should not be sickle-hocked, where the front edge of the leg appears overly curved or bent. All of these conformations can cause soundness problems by compromising the way the shock absorbing qualities of the hock are supposed to work.

Equine Anatomy and Conformation - The whole picture
If all of the above points have been taken into consideration, you should be looking at a horse that is well-balanced, nicely proportioned and physically capable to doing what you want him to do. As I said at the beginning of the Part One of this article, there is no such thing as the perfect horse, but being knowledgeable will help you find the best horse for your needs.

Find this article at:
2007/12/10 23:19 2007/12/10 23:19


                  Dr. Doyle G. Meadows, Professor University of Tennessee

    Conformation of the Tennessee Walking Horse is directly related to skeletal structure. It includes the bones and ligaments which bind the bones together to form joints. The skeletal structure provides the framework that gives the body shape and protects the vital organs. The skeleton of the horse will determine the length and slope of shoulder, overall height and length, length of back and all the other things that are related to skeletal design.
    Generally, the skeletal structures that receive the most attention are the feet and legs. It is obvious that a horse must have structurally correct legs to be a performance athlete or to provide pleasure to its owner. The manner in which a horse moves is determined by the horse's conformation and skeletal structure. The usefulness of Tennessee Walking Horses depends on their ability to move and perform in an appropriate manner.

Front Legs - Front View
The horse's forelimb bears about 65 percent of the weight of the horse. It is, therefore, extremely important to have straight, structurally correct front legs. Due to the amount of weight on the forelimb, there are more front leg injuries as a result of trauma and concussion. It is important to have proper bone length and angle to achieve proper horse conformation (Figure 2).

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tennessee walking horse, tennessee walking horse, tennessee walker

Figure 2. Front column of bones as viewed from the side. Source: Stashak, Ted S. Adams Lameness in Horses. Fourth Edition. 1987.

As viewed from the front, a straight line from the point of the shoulder should bisect the entire front leg all the way to the toe. There should be two equal parts in the ideally structured horse. Although this is actually rare, the toes and knees should point straight forward. Additionally, the width of the toes on the ground should be the same width as their origin in the chest. The cannon bone should be centered on the knee and fetlock (Figure 3).

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tennessee walking horse, tennessee walker

Figure 3. Front leg as viewed from the front: A) Ideal, B)Toes-out (splay footed) C) Toes-in (pigeon toed). Source: Heird, J.C. A Guide for Successful Competitive Horse Judging. Colorado State University, Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory. Bulletin No. 07. 1992.

There are several deviations to the ideal front column of bones as viewed from the front. Any deviation from the normal has the potential to affect movement and, subsequently, performance. Horses whose toes point inward (toed-in) are referred to as "pigeon-toed" while horses that have toes that point outward (toes-out) are called "splay-footed" (Figure 3). Foot flight patterns are shown in Figure 4.
tennessee walki

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ng horse, tennessee walking horse

Figure 4. Way of Going: (A)Normal foot moves in a straight line, (B)"Base-wide," or "Toed-out" feet move forward in inward arcs, "Winging", (C)"Base Narrow," or "pigeon toed" feet move forward in wide outward arcs, "Padding." Source: Heird, J.C. A Guide for Successful Competitive Horse Judging. Colorado State University, Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory. Bulletin No. 07. 1992.

An additional structural deviation in the front leg is base-narrow (Figure 5). This condition is indicative of a horse whose feet stand closer at the ground than at the origin of the legs in the chest. This is typical of horses with larger muscle mass. The base-narrow horse is predisposed to landing on the outside of the hoof wall. Due to the extra weight placed on the outside of the hoof, horses develop conditions such as ringbone, sidebone and heel bruising. Horses with this conformational problem can either toe-in or toe-out.
tennessee walking horse, tennesse

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e walking horse

Figure 5. Front leg view: Base narrow. Front leg view: Base wide. Source: Stashak, Ted S. Adams Lameness in Horses. Fourth Edition. 1987.

Base-wide conformation positions the feet of the horse at the ground wider than their origin at the chest (Figure 5). This condition is seen in many narrow-chested horses and is usually accompanied by feet that toe-out. Unlike the base-narrow horse, this condition allows more weight to be distributed to the inside of the horse's hoof. Horses that are base-wide are also predisposed to ringbone and sidebone.
Bowlegs, knock-knees and bench knees are examples of poor conformation that may affect soundness (Figure 6).
tennessee walking horse, tennes

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see walker

Figure 6. Front leg structural faults: A)Bowlegs, B)Knock-knees, C)Bench knees. Source: Stashak, Ted S. Adams Lameness in Horses. Fourth Edition. 1987

Bowlegged horses present the entire knee in an outward deviation as viewed from the front. This condition causes increased tension on the outside of the leg due to the unequal distribution of concussion and force. Knock-kneed or close-kneed horses have the entire knee set to the inside of a straight line from chest to toe. This condition is generally accompanied by horses being toed-out and with some degree of outward rotation of the cannon and fetlock. Again, this condition is predisposed to unsoundness due to an unequal line of concussion.

Bench knees are another structural fault in horses. Bench or offset knees are characteristic of a horse with the cannon bones set too far to the outside of the knee. This conformational problem increases the possibility for horses to develop splints (Figure 7).
tennessee walking horse, tennessee walking horse,

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Figure 7. Splints are bony enlargements in the groove formed by the splint and cannon bone. They may be high or low, forward or back.

Front Legs - Side View
The front column of bones as viewed from the side should have appropriate slope and angle of shoulder and pastern. Additionally, a vertical line should run from the center of the scapula to the front edge of the knee and bisect the hoof as shown in Figure 8.
tennessee walking horse, tennessee walking horse

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Figure 8. The front legs, side view: A)Ideal, B)Buck-kneed, C)Calf-kneed. Source: Stashak, Ted S. Adams Lameness in Horses. Fourth Edition. 1987.

Some horses are camped-under in front. This condition refers to a horse whose forelimb is too far under the body (Figure 9). This camped-under effect will prevent a horse from having a long fluid stride and predisposes horses to unsoundnesses. These horses typically have excessive wear on the hoof with an increase in pressure on ligaments and tendons.
tennessee walking horse, tennessee walking horse

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Figure 9. Front leg as viewed from the side: A)Camped-under, B)Camped out. Source: Stashak, Ted S. Adams Lameness in Horses. Fourth Edition. 1987.

Camped-out refers to horses whose entire forelimb is too far forward and away from the body (Figure 9). These horses will have excessive concussion and stress on the knees, ankle and hoof. These horses are predisposed to navicular disease and laminitis. Ideal position of the front leg in relationship to the body is shown in Figure 8.

Two primary structural deviations exist in the knees of as horses as they are viewed from the side. The most frequent condition is "over at the knees" or commonly referred to as buck-kneed (Figure 8). This is a forward deviation of the knee set too far forward in the horse's leg. Although a structural deviation from the normal, buck-kneed horses are capable of a long performance life.

The opposite condition to buck-knees is "back at the knees" or calf kneed (Figure 8). This conformation fault is extremely serious and many calf-kneed horses do not stay sound. This condition positions knees that are set behind or back in the horse's leg. Calf-knees allow the knees to bend backwards (hyperextend) and predispose the horse to unsoundness.

tennessee walker

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Figure 10. Pastern conformation: A)Ideal, B)Short and steep, C)Long and weak.

Ideal pastern conformation places the angle of the pastern at approximately 45 degrees in front and approximately 50 degrees in the rear pastern, with a moderate length to the pastern (Figure 10). Short, steep pasterns will not allow for the normal "cushion" effect on the forelimb that is found in the ideal. This condition gives a choppy, rough stride that is predisposed to lameness due to extra concussion on the entire front column of bones. Long, weak pasterns allow the horse to injure ankles, tendons and ligaments because the pasterns are too long relative to length of limb.

Rear Legs - Rear View
Ideally, when viewing a horse from the rear for structural correctness, you should draw an imaginary line from the point of the buttocks to the ground which should bisect the gaskin, hock and hoof (Figure 11). This will provide equal distribution of weight, equal bone pressure and equal strain on ligaments. It is not critical that a horse be perfectly straight from the ankles down as viewed from the rear. In fact, most horses naturally stand with the cannons parallel and toe out slightly from the ankles down. This allows a horse's stifle to clear the rib cage in flight, resulting in a longer-strided, freer-moving horse.
tennessee walking horse

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Figure 11. Structure of the hind limb as viewed from the rear: A)Ideal, B)Cow-hocked, C)Bow-legged. Source: Heird, J.C. A Guide for Successful Competitive Horse Judging. Colorado State University, Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory. Bulletin No. 07. 1992.

Horses that are bowed-in at the hocks, with the cannon bones not parallel, are referred to as "cow-hocked" (Figure 11). Typically, these horses have hocks that are too close, point toward one another and the feet are widely separated. These horses have hind limbs that are base-narrow from the buttocks to the hocks and base-wide from the hocks to the toes. The horse that is "cow-hocked" will have a tendency to be weak in the major movements that require work off the haunches such as stopping, turning and sliding.

Occasionally there are horses that actually toe-in behind and are "out at the hock" (bow-legged). Bow-legged horses (Figure 11) have hocks that are too far apart and are generally predisposed to being base-narrow. These horses have added strain on the bones, ligaments and joints and may have many types of interference in movement. Most of these horses are very poor athletes and should be severely penalized.

Rear Legs - Side View
Conformation excellence of the horse's hind leg structure as viewed from the side is indicated by a line from the point of the buttocks to the ground. Ideally, that line should touch the hocks, run parallel to the cannon and be slightly behind the heel (Figure 12). A horse with too much angle in the hock joint is sickle-hocked. As viewed from the side, the horse is standing under from the hock down, due to the excessive angulation in the hock (Figure 12). Horses with sickle hocks are predisposed to curbs, enlargements below the point of the hock. Many of these horses tend to be outstanding athletes for a brief period of time.
tennessee walking horse, tennessee walker

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Figure 12. Structure of the hind limb as viewed from the side: A)Ideal, B)Sickle-hocked, C)Post-legged. Source: Heird, J.C. A Guide for Successful Competitive Horse Judging. Colorado State University, Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory. Bulletin No. 07. 1992.

Excessively straight-hocked horses have correspondingly less set (or angle) in the hock joint (Figure 12) and are referred to as post-legged. These horses typically have poor movement, with little flexion, which causes limited drive and impulsion from their hind leg. This predisposes the horse to bog spavins, inflammation or swelling of the soft tissue of the hock, and increases the chance for injury and unsoundness.

Structural correctness ultimately determines the value and usefulness of a horse. Regardless of whether the horse is a favorite at the Celebration or a youth's pleasure mount, length and angle of the bone structure combined with skeletal correctness play a critical role in the usefulness of the athlete. As the number and severity of structural problems increase, the expected life, activity and performance of the horse are severely limited.

References:Stashak, Ted S. Adams Lameness in Horses. Fourth Edition. 1987.
Heird, J.C. A Guide for Successful Competitive Horse Judging. Colorado State University, Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory. 1992.

2007/12/10 23:02 2007/12/10 23:02

Judge These Yearlings' Conformation
Evaluate and place these reining-bred long yearlings in your order of preference. Then see how your choices compare with our expert judge's.

Balance is important, regardless of the horse's intended use--whether the horse is a performance horse or a halter horse. I look for a horse with a smooth topline and proportionate lengths to the neck, back, and hip.

I want to see that his neck is long and ties in well to his shoulder on top and underneath.

I'll look at how level he is, and that he isn't too high behind, whether his hocks and knees are on the same plane, and if he has a nice angle to his pasterns.

To place this group of performance-bred colts, I've looked at their balance and how it affects their ability to move correctly, with elevation and impulsion. I'll comment on topline, neck and back length, hock set, and the angles that you want to see in the shoulder and pasterns.

So take a look at the three yearlings at right and place them in your order of preference. Then click "Next" below to find out how I placed them.


First: Colt A
I think this horse exhibits the most balance and the smoothest topline of the three. He's more upright in his withers and shoulder, which tells me he's going to be able to have more lift in his shoulder and front end. He's cute-headed, with a nice aesthetic overall. His eye is kind, and he looks like he'd be an easy horse to work with.

He has a nice neck that comes out of his shoulder and withers flat and ties in nicely with the shoulder. That tells me that he'll be able to use his neck better for balance and will keep his topline level as he moves. I like the angle to his shoulder--it shows that he'll be able to move with a smooth full stride and should have no problem elevating his shoulders.

He's short backed. If you look at the length of his neck, his back and his croup, you'll see they're proportionately similar,which contributes to his balance and the smoothness of his topline. His short back indicates he'll be able to use and round his back athletically.

I really like the set of his hocks. If you compare them with the other two horses, his are a little straighter, and that'll help him to reach underneath himself and work off his hindquarters more efficiently. His hocks and knees appear to be more on the same plane, which goes back to a level topline--his hips and withers are level, and so are his knees and hocks. Again, he'll be better able to use his hindquarters and push himself better from behind. I like the length and ample angle of his pasterns. Because I see a nice slope to the pasterns, I know he's not going to have a lot of concussion on his legs and will move smoothly.

He's a nice performance prospect, and should do well in Western pleasure or Western riding and other all around pattern events.

Second: Colt B
This horse is very attractive, with quality parts, but there are just a few areas where I'd place the first horse above him. He doesn't have quite the same balance. He's lower in front than behind--if you draw an imaginary line from the top of his hip to his withers, you can see he's a little hip high, which may make it harder for him to balance and elevate his shoulders, and use his hindquarters underneath him for balance. I like his head, and his throatlatch looks clean, which should make it easier for him to flex at the poll.

He has a smooth topline and looks good over his croup and back, which tells me most of his angles should be correct. I like how his hip ties in to his gaskin. He looks like he has a little more muscling there than the third-place horse, although he ties into the gaskin lower than the horse I placed first. But his hip looks stronger than the third-place horse. The strength and muscling in his hip and gaskin tell me he should move with good impulsion and use his hindquarters well. He should work well as a reiner or stock-type horse.

Third: Colt C
Overall, this horse looks a little more compact. If you compare him from nose to tail, with the first- and second-place horses, you can see that he's shorter through the neck and over the hip and the croup. He may move with a shorter, quicker, choppier stride than the other two horses. He has a smooth topline but just gives an overall "compact" downhill impression. He's a little thicker through the throatlatch, which may make it harder for him to flex at the poll, and he's quite a bit hip-high. He'll have a harder time elevating his front end and engaging his hindquarters for the impulsion I like to see in a performance horse.

If you look at the angle of his shoulder and pasterns, you'll see they're straighter and don't have the angle the first two horses had. You want to see a little more angle in the pasterns; he's probably going to move with more concussion to his legs on the front end, which makes for a ride that isn't as smooth as the first two horses, and may even put him at increased risk for leg soreness. If you draw an imaginary line from his hocks across his knees, you can see that his hocks are quite a bit higher--which means he'd have a harder time achieving balance and self-carriage.

Overall, he lacks the balance of the first two colts, still he appears fairly athletic and should be able to make a nice performance horse.

Steve Heckaman is a National Snaffle Bit Association past president, who was inducted into the organization's hall of fame in 2001. He's at the top of his game in Western pleasure and has won 13 All American Quarter Horse Congress Western pleasure championships, including the Western pleasure maturity with his stallion, Potential Investment, in 1996. He stands the stallion at his facility in Aubrey, Texas.

This Conformation Clinic originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.

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2007/12/10 22:52 2007/12/10 22:52

Front End Conformation
An Analysis by Liz Graves

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Front End One
Front End Two
Front End Three

Understanding front-end conformation should be an important consideration in evaluating any horse before asking it to start working. The front end is important because as horse stands the front end can bear 60-65% of the horses' total body weight. While the horse is in motion, it is important that we try to help a horse distribute it's weight more evenly to all 4 four quarters of the body. We do this by engaging the hind quarters and asking the horse to carry it's self in as close to level a frame as it's structure allows.  A horses' skeletal structure and muscular structure is inherited.  We, as horseman, need to be aware of our horses’ strong points and their weak points and how it will effect their movement. Knowing what we can do to maintain the good points and strengthen those that may be weak and knowing an individuals limitation comes from conformation analysis. Hopefully giving us many years of good sound service from our horses.

Understanding the angles of the shoulder is extremely important, as that angle will determine the movement of the arm bone. We use 45 degrees as the ideal for basic shoulder structure. But when it comes to desiring a specific movement, a 45 degree angle may not get us the moment in the forequarters that we desire in a specific breed or gait. 

As a general rule we will see an upright shoulder angle give more knee action; that may be desirable in a racking horse, but certainly not in a Fox Trotter. A steeper angle can also give a rougher ride in that it is not as good a shock absorber to the front limbs. This can also make a horse raise and lift the front legs more times in the same distance than a horse with a lower angle shoulder that tends to reach out and forward more with the forelegs. A Tennessee Walking horse that does a true head shaking running walk will have a lower longer shoulder angle, while the Fox Trotter in general will more often have closer to the 45 degrees (if it is doing a true natural Fox Trot). Most often when a horse has been trimmed correctly the pastern angle will be the same or very close to the shoulder angle.

Also in observing the shoulder, look at muscles. Lack of muscle or development lends the shoulder to not having the support it needs to build and maintain strength in movement. But on the flip side; a shoulder with an over abundance of muscle can also hinder the freedom of movement to the scapula as well.

The importance of the arm bone (Humerus) is that it also has side to side movement not only foreword and back.  This bone can determine how the elbow, knee and fetlock raise and lower and fold. The shorter the humerus the choppier the gait, the longer the humerus tends to a smoother gait being more reaching with the front legs. The lower the angle of the humerus, less the tendencies of high action of the front limbs, the steeper the angle the higher the horse can raise it's knees.

When desiring a longer humerus we are looking for it to be at least 50% the length of the shoulder blade. When looking at the bones of the legs: are they set on straight? An example being a cannon bone not set straight and looking as though it has been set in the leg more towards sideways. Are the front legs set to far forward or back? Are the pasterns of the horse to long or to short? A long pastern tends to be more sloped and can stress the tendons and ligament running down the leg. A short pastern can put more stress on the front limbs tending to cause the horse to take more concussion in the front feet. Are the horse hoofs set straight or do they tend to toe in or toe out? Is the over at the knees or back at the knees? Does the horse has enough bone (circumference) to carry it's self or too heavy in bone so that it restricts a certain desired amount of action. 

Any deviation from Ideal can effect a nice clean, straight lift and set down of the forelimbs. When this happens with over use, lack of correct conditioning or incorrect use this opens a horse up to developing an unsoundness that effects gait and performance. 

Below are three pictures of front ends for evaluation. These are all side views so we will not be able to examine the width of base or how the legs bone are set on as we could from the front. Also being these are still picture we do not have the option of asking a horse to move forward, back or to stand square in front to be sure that this is truly how a horse naturally stands. So when utilizing still pictures always do so in the manner that what you see is what it is. Even though it may not be the true stance of an individual.

Front End One
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The shoulder angle on this horse looks to be a few degrees steeper than a 45 giving a tendency toward a bit more lift in the front legs. Also notice that the pastern angle it almost the same as the shoulder angle. The humerus is a bit longer than the 50 % so at the same time we should see some reach or added length in this horses stride. 

The front legs of this horse are set on well not being to far forward or back. This horses neck in set on well too. Not being to high or to low. The neck on this horse though does show some extra development in the upper half possibly saying that this horse has been held in a high more up headed collection building up more muscles it this area. Being held in this position can reduce the amount of forward reach in the front legs. This also tells me this horse may very well be doing a ventroflexed gait such as a rack or stepped pace.

Front End Two
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This horse has a bit lower shoulder than #1 ,about 46 degrees and the humerus is at about 50% of the shoulder length. This horses neck comes out of the shoulder a bit lower and looks to be heavier necked that horse #1. This horse legs are not set back to far but the chest is more to being out  on this horse possibly limiting reach in the front legs even though the horse has good shoulder angles and humerus length.  This horses neck set on lower and is thicker at the root. 

This can tend the horse to be force it to a ventroflexed gait if the head is pulled up and in. If it were to be collected from down and in we may see more building of the muscles on the upper half of the neck on these horse but it would also help this horse to be in a more level balanced frame.

The left front legs on this horse also looks to be over at the knee and the hoof turned in . If this is truly the way this horse stands it will effect efficient movement from picking up and setting down forward and straight.

Front End Three
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This horse has the steepest shoulder angle of all the picture and looks to be more to 50 degrees. Also the humerus is a bit shorter than the 50%. This horse looks to have well aligned legs from a side view and set on well. The neck on this horse is set on higher but has a nice curve to the crest not showing under or over development.

This horse to me tend to be one that would go more to a ventroflexed gait naturally than the other 2. This shows that it could have the most lift and fold of the front limbs.


Overall these horse each look to have a nice balance of bone circumference for their size. They each show a good amount of heart girth as well lending to good take in and expulsion or air to the lungs. They also look individually  to be rather well balanced in the front quarters as well.

Liz Graves
2007/12/10 22:37 2007/12/10 22:37

What Makes My Walker Different?

by Rose Miller
(reprinted from August 1993)
© Copyright 1999, Voice of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Lewisburg, Tennessee

Tennessee walking horses do possess one rather unique difference from most other horses. Stated simply. . . they have longer hind limbs than most horses that trot. I say "most" because we will see that some trotters have long hind limbs, some to their disadvantage, and some to their advantage, but not with the regularity of the walking horse. First, let's look at the three different types of hind limbs found on horses.

Type 1 is considered to be the best for most uses. When the horse is posed with his hind cannon vertical, a line dropped from his buttock to the ground should graze his hock and the hind cannon bone.

Type 2 has the vertical line dropped behind the vertical cannon bone. This type is found in draft horses.

Type 3 has the vertical line falling within or in front of the cannon bone.

This is found in pacers and gaited horses and is an important point for "all breed" judges to keep in mind, as horses with Type 3 hind limbs will stand either "camped out" or sickle hocked. The horse with sickle hocks is also predisposed to unsoundness, unless the hock is well formed and strongly supported with proper muscles and ligaments. Fortunately, most walkers seem to have inherited strong hocks, but too much of a sickle hock is not desirable.

There are several ways to have a long hind limb, and there are variables on the length of limb. This should be taken into consideration when breeding or buying a horse. With proper "walking conformation" the horse should gait, but do you need a long-striding show horse or a more compact using-horse? Let's see how these differences might work.

Basically the shorter, and therefore straighter the hind limb, the more easily it can deliver the thrust of the hind muscles downward to the ground.

The horse with the longer, crooked or Z shaped limbs, can more easily bring his hocks forward and track up, or overstride.

A walker with less length to his hind legs or less angulation will have less overstride; but he will perhaps be more functional as a horse used in ranch work, jumping, or speed and action events. The walker with the longer, more angulated hind legs can excel in the show ring or on park trails. This difference is seen in trotting breeds as well. The dressage athletes have longer hind limbs so they can extend at the trot, and an overstride at the walk is of value.

The jumpers, however, have shorter hind limbs so they can dig in, thrust, and jump. If you watched the Olympics, you likely noticed that the three day event horses did not perform the dressage patterns as smoothly or as excitingly as did the dressage horses. This is because the dressage stars have conformation conducive to forward stride and fluid movements, not the power necessary for three day eventing.

Now let's look at hind limb construction (as shown in Figure #1) from the hip down to the foot, and see how it works. The horse's pelvic length is measured from the hip joint to the point of the buttock. The larger the pelvis is, the larger can be the propulsive musculature and the more power the horse can produce. An old rule of thumb in conformation judging is that you should be able to divide the horse into thirds. The front one-third is from the point of the shoulder back to the elbow and withers; the back from the withers to the point of the hip another one-third, and from the point of hip to point of buttock is the other one-third. A horse with less than one-third of his body length in the pelvic area won't have the power to push the longer lower hind limbs under the horse as far or as easily as one with greater length and musculature. We also need to look at the pelvic slope. It should be moderately sloped, not tending toward flat, or the horse will "leave his hocks behind" as he travels, again not allowing our walker to stride up under himself.

The next area to look at is the femur, or thighbone. This is an extremely important link in the hind leg assembly. Think of the hind leg as a series of rod like links. First the femur, then the gaskin bone, then the cannon bone and pasterns. If these bones were hanging by themselves and set swinging, they would behave like a chain pendulum in which whatever the uppermost governing link does the rest of the links follow in the same manner.

A long first link, or femur would therefore set the leg in the slower, longer swing. This is part of what can give the walking horse the long slow ground covering stride that we all appreciate. This does not mean that a walking horse with lesser length of the femur won't gait, but it will be a shorter more rapid stride suitable for rougher riding or ranch work. Shorter femurs are desirable in trotting horses that are used in speed events or sprint racing. In a sprinter, long hind limbs prevent the thrust generated by the rump muscles from being delivered to the ground and is a disadvantage. Having a longer femur gives the walking horse longer hamstring muscles which should tie in low to the Achilles tendon. In a profile view of the rear legs, the hamstring muscles should flow down, making that part of the leg appear long. If it appears rounded and the notch in the profile from buttocks to hocks is deeply indented, he ties on high, the femur is short and so is the hamstring muscle. This will limit the forward movement of the hind leg.

The next link on the chain is the gaskin bone and muscle. The pelvic and femur length is often hard to see because of the muscles of the rear quarters, but the gaskin length is easy to see. This is the bone from the stifle to the hock. Most walkers have longer gaskins. However, we need to remember that if the femur isn't also long, the swinging leg pendulum won't produce the long slow stride we desire. If rightly proportioned, the longer gaskin and the long femur are desirable in our walkers. A long gaskin in most trotters is a disadvantage, some exceptions being horses used for dressage requiring extension of rear legs and saddlebreds. Walkers being used as trail horses in rough terrain or working ranch horses won't find a very long gaskin of benefit. These horses will do better having a gaskin and femur more near equal in length. Ideally, in the trotting pleasure horse, the femur is longer than the gaskin in length.

Next is the cannon bone. This bone should be short, so the horse's hocks are close to the ground. High hocks predispose the horse to "travel downhill" especially if they are quite a bit higher than his knees and he will have trouble getting his hocks up under himself, a very important thing to remember with our running walk. A good way to judge the length of cannon bone length is to compare it with the front cannon length. The hock should appear only a little higher than the knee. In the front leg, the upper arm should be longer than the cannon. It is considered good conformation to have low hocks in any riding horse.

In a visit to a standardbred training facility, I noticed that the pacers had gaskins longer or equal in length to long femurs; but in all the ones I saw, the hocks were set high, with relatively long cannon bones. It makes sense when you remember that for racing the pacers need a fast swinging of the hind legs, easier when the leg below the femur is more equally divided in length. This is not the long slow sweeping stride we desire in the walking horse.

In review of the Tennessee walker's long hind limb conformation, we see that the most correct way is to have one third of the horse's body length in pelvic length for power with a moderate slope, a long femur with it's accompanying long thigh and hamstring muscles to provide the long slow swing of his leg pendulum, a moderately long gaskin to give more overreach and short cannon bones enabling him to set his hocks under himself.

The front half of a walking horse has the same problems, faults and good points as our trotting friends. Here again, the use we have planned for our horses makes a difference in what we look for in conformation.

A horse has two bones in his shoulder, as shown in Figure #2. The scapula runs from the point of the withers to point of the shoulders. The humerus or arm bone goes from the point of the shoulders to point of the elbow. How these bones relate to each other determines how a horse moves in front. In talking about how a walker "moves out of the shoulder" we are most familiar with the scapula, or shoulder blade.

However, the humerus is very important and seldom talked about. It is capable of side to side movement, and also swings from back to front, raising or lowering the elbow. It determines the way a horse will fold or unfold the elbow, knee and fetlock joints. It determines the style or way of going of the front end of the horse.
The longer the humerus the more scope the horse will have. Scope is defined as the ability to move the elbow away from the body, either toward the front or to the side. Scope is a very desirable characteristic. To be considered long, the humerus must be at least 50% of the length of the scaupla. Better motion is seen with the length closer to 75%. The shorter the humerus, the more short gaited the horse will be, moving with short, stiff, choppy strides. In our walkers we must have this length to allow the forearm to extend forward. No matter what the length or angle of the shoulder, without a long humerus the horse can't roll out of the shoulders.

The steeper the resting angle of the humerus, the higher the horse can raise his knees. This is of obvious importance to those of us who want to show our horses. The most spectacular natural action is shown by horses with a moderately upright shoulder, around 55 degrees, and a long steep humerus. Hackneys and park horses are good examples. Since we like our walkers to have reach forward as well as natural upward action, the walker's shoulders should be more sloping, between a 45 and 50 degree angle. A very sloping angle of around 45 degrees is found in racing thoroughbreds and dressage stars who need great forward extension, but little knee action. A long upright humerus with a moderately sloping shoulder is what we need if we want natural elevation with as little fuss as possible.

A horse with a more horizontal humerus will have less natural ability for high action or tight folding. He will move with little elevation of his front legs and will have difficulty in raising his forearms to level and may hang his knees.

In order to have a rolling shoulder, the angle between the scapula and the humerus must be at least 90 degrees. Less shortens the forward movement of the whole shoulder. A shoulder slope of 45 degrees needs a humerus angle of 45 degrees to keep a 90 degree angle between. A shoulder angle of 50 degrees needs a 40 degree angle of the humerus.

Many walkers seem to fall into the category of medium angle of the humerus. They may not make high stepping show horses; but their movement will be pleasant. They would probably show well in western, trail pleasure and lite shod classes and be wonderful riding horses. Their shoulder angles are probably between 51 to 55 degrees with a humerus angle of between 39 to 35 degrees. Heavy shoes and other training methods will have less of an elevating effect on these horses.

The humerus with a low angle of 30 degrees or less has several disadvantages. If the angle between humerus and scapula are to be kept at 90 degrees, the shoulder will have to be quite steep, closer to 60 degrees. The shoulder will be long in order to join with the low humerus and this will push the elbow back too far. This results in the horse being "pigeon breasted" with two much of the horses sternum being visible in a side view. This makes the horse heavy in front and he definitely will have trouble going in a balanced way. He will feel like he is traveling downhill, and no training method will be able to get him to pick up his front feet like a show horse. A horse with this conformation will have a humerus angle of around 30 degrees or less. If the shoulder is less than 60 degrees or more sloping, he is in even more trouble because his shoulder isn't open 90 degrees and his range of movement is further constricted.

By looking at the resting angle of the humerus, you can get an excellent idea of how the horse will carry his head. Low humerus, low head, high humerus, high head. By studying the angle of the shoulder or scapula, you can get an idea of how much the horse will extend his front legs. A line drawn from the point of withers through the point of shoulders and on to the ground will show the farthest a horse can extend. This is seen easily in a trotting horse at the extended trot and in a galloping stride. In a walking horse it is harder to see since he uses a more up-and-down front leg movement, but it works the same way - a steeper shoulder, the less forward movement, a more sloped shoulder the more extension.

We see that there are many variations of the shoulder construction, and the resulting movement of the horse. In order to have a very good horse, both the front and the back of the horse need to work in a balanced manner. A horse can stride in front only as far as his hindquarters are capable of pushing him, but a short reach in front will limit a powerful thrust from behind.

By applying these principles of conformation, you can choose the horse you want for the purpose you have and avoid the horse with conformation likely to be unsound and cause him to travel in an unbalanced manner.

2007/07/15 13:15 2007/07/15 13:15

Upward Pateller Fixation

Reprinted from: The Atlanta Equine Clinic

Intermittent upward patellar fixation is a condition whereby the horse�s pelvic limb temporarily "locks" in extension. As a result, there is a delay in flexion of the limb. The delay in flexion can range from milli-seconds to over several minutes. A short delay in flexion may manifest only as a subtle pelvic limb asymmetry or lameness; severely affected horses (with a long delay in flexion) may be unable to flex the affected limb without assistance.

What is the "Patella"? The horse�s stifle joint is analogous to the human knee. Just like humans, horses have a patella, or "knee cap", which slides along the distal aspect of the femur (thigh bone) during flexion of the joint. The patella slides within a groove (called the trochlear groove) and serves as a fulcrum for the extensor muscles and their tendons as they course over the front of the stifle (or knee) joint. The patella is attached proximally to the quadriceps and biceps femoris muscles and distally to the tibia. In humans, the patella is attached to the tibia by one distal patellar ligament. Horses have 3 distal patellar ligaments: the medial patellar ligament, the middle patellar ligament, and the lateral patellar ligament.

How does the horse �lock� the pelvic limb? Horses have the ability to lock (or fixate) the pelvic limb in extension. This is possible due to the unique anatomy associated with the horse�s stifle joint. The proximal aspect of the medial femoral trochlea is shaped similar to a hook or ski jump. By placing the space between the medial and middle patellar ligaments over this hook, horses can "lock" their pelvic limbs in extension. Once locked, minimal effort is required to maintain limb extension. A similar locking apparatus in the thoracic limbs allows horses to sleep while standing. Therefore, patellar fixation while standing is a normal process in the horse.


What is �intermittent upward patellar fixation�? Although patellar fixation is normal in the standing horse, it can produce pelvic limb dysfunction if it occurs during exercise. Inadvertent locking of the patella over the medial femoral trochlea prevents normal flexion of the affected limb(s). Consequently, pelvic limb asymmetry and lameness frequently become evident.

What causes upward patellar fixation? There are 3 primary causes of upward patellar fixation in the horse:

  • Lack of fitness: Lack of quadriceps and/or biceps femoris muscle tone results in an inability to quickly pull the patella up and off of the medial femoral trochlea.

  • Straight or upright pelvic limb conformation: This places the medial femoral trochlea further distad in closer proximity with the patella, facilitating patellar fixation.

  • Excessive distal patellar ligament length: This places the patella proximad in closer proximity with the medial femoral trochlea, where it can inadvertently "catch" or "lock"

It should be noted that the factors which cause upward patellar fixation are often interrelated. For example, an unfit horse will generally have increased laxity (and therefore increased length) of the distal patellar ligaments. Furthermore, if unfitness is secondary to another disease process (such as neurologic disease), intermittent upward fixation may also occur secondarily. Therefore, it is important to assess the horse as a whole prior to determining the cause for upward patellar fixation.

What are the clinical signs? Horses with intermittent upward patellar fixation will exhibit clinical signs during their attempt to flex the pelvic limb from an extended position. In acute severe cases, the pelvic limb may stay locked in extension. The horse may not be able to flex the stifle and tarsus without assistance. In some instances, the condition may temporarily resolve only to recur after taking a few steps. These signs are quite obvious and diagnosis is relatively simple if the condition is severe. Most of the time, however, there is only a "catching" of the patella as it slides up and over the hook and the limb does not truly lock in extension. In this situation, there may only be a mild pelvic limb asymmetry or lameness. This type of lameness can be easily confused with other problems and therefore may present a dilemma in regard to accurate diagnosis. Following are common clinical signs associated with mild to moderate forms of intermittent upward patellar fixation:

  • Non-weightbearing pelvic limb lameness
    • This may be distinguished from tarsal (hock) soreness which is usually weightbearing in nature
    • The horse will frequently drag the toe of the affected limb(s) during exercise
      • Visible wearing of the dorsal aspect of the toe/shoe may be apparent.
    • The foot of the affected limb(s) will have a low-arc flight pattern
    • The horse will usually exhibit a shortened cranial phase to the stride
  • Resistance in the canter
    • The horse will resist the canter, particularly if circled toward the more affected limb
    • Resistance may be most noticeable during the transition between the trot and canter, when the horse is forced to extend the pelvic limb for a prolonged period
    • Many horses will toss their head, rear, or stop when asked to canter. This may be due to their "anticipation" of impending upward patellar fixation.
    • The horse would rather trot than canter (which is harder for the normal horse)
  • Consistent lead changes or cantering on the wrong lead
    • The horse avoids prolonged pelvic limb extension with the affected limb. This is particularly apparent when cantering in a circle towards the affected limb.
  • The canter is very rough or "bouncy"
    • This occurs as a result of consistent delay in pelvic limb flexion from the extended position
  • Swelling, heat, and/or pain may be associated with one or both stifle joints
    • Upward patellar fixation causes patellar instability which in turn may result in femoropatellar synovitis
  • The horse drags his hind toes during exercise
  • Resistance and/or difficulty when walking up and down hills, or when backing up
    • These situations force the horse to extend the pelvic limb for a prolonged period
    • Rather then fully extend the pelvic limb(s), the horse may "crouch" while walking
    • Rather than flex the pelvic limb(s) normally, horses will often swing their limbs to the outside
    • This may cause the lameness to be confused with neurologic disease (such as EPM or stringhalt)
  • Lameness is most severe when the horse is first taken out of the stall
    • Many horses will improve as the workout progresses
  • Lameness becomes more obvious following an extended period of stall rest
    • Loss of muscle and patellar ligament tone exacerbate the upward patellar fixation
    • The horse does not improve (and may worsen) as a result of taking time off
  • The horse does not respond to anti-inflammatory (e.g. Phenylbutazone) therapy
    • Intermittent upward patellar fixation is a mechanical problem and is not inflammatory-mediated

As with many cases of pelvic limb lameness, secondary abnormalities such as thoracolumbar ebaxial (back) and proximal thoracic suspensory ligament soreness are also present. These are generally detected during the passive lameness evaluation and are suggestive of chronic pelvic limb asymmetry/ lameness.

How is upward patellar fixation diagnosed? Clinical signs are characteristic and, if the limb is locked in extension (i.e. the case is severe), diagnosis is simple. As previously mentioned, however, most cases are mild and diagnosis may be more difficult. A detailed history and careful clinical evaluation are essential parts of a proper workup. One helpful diagnostic aid involves placing the horse in one or more situations where prolonged pelvic limb extension is normally required. Such situations include walking up and down hills, the trot-to-canter transition, and backing up. When confronted with these situations, the affected horse will either 1) demonstrate upward patellar fixation by temporarily locking the pelvic limb, or 2) cheat by switching leads, swinging the limbs to the outside, avoiding pelvic limb extension, etc.

Many times, a slight hitch or "catch" is visible as the pelvic limb begins to flex from an extended position. This "catch" is most easily detected by visualizing the point of the hock as the horse picks the limb up to advance it cranially. Infrequently, an audible "snap" or popping sound is also evident during exercise (particularly walking).

In many instances, upward patellar fixation can be produced in affected horses by manually forcing the patella upward and outward. The examiner may actually be able to keep the pelvic limb locked in extension using minimal effort.

Since the problem is usually secondary to conformation and/or level of fitness, it is almost always bilateral. However, affected horses historically exhibit clinical signs in one pelvic limb. It is not until the more affected limb is successfully treated that a problem in the contralateral limb is manifested.

How is upward patellar fixation treated? Currently, there are 5 forms of treatment for intermittent upward patellar fixation:

  • Exercise: Lack of fitness results in decreased thigh muscle and patellar ligament tone. With decreased supporting muscle and ligament tone, it becomes easier for the patella to lock on the femur and harder for it to replace within the trochlear groove. In subtle cases of upward patellar fixation where conformation is relatively good, increased exercise alone may result in resolution of the problem.
    We frequently ask the client to grade the level of their horse�s current level of fitness on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=very unfit; 10=extremely fit). We suggest achieving a fitness level of at least 7-8 (if possible) prior to pursuing other forms of treatment. This will rule out unfitness as a major contributor to the problem as well as increase the effect of other therapy.

  • Corrective Shoeing: Since fixation of the patella occurs when the pelvic limb is extended, prolonging the extension phase of the stride can make "unlocking" more difficult. Alternatively, shortening the amount of time the pelvic limb spends in extension allows the horse to unlock his/her patella before the distal patellar ligaments become excessively tight. Since the conformation of the distal pelvic limb and/or the toe length is intimately related to pelvic limb breakover, the farrier can frequently alleviate the problem via corrective trimming/shoeing. Rolling and/or rockering the toe of the shoe, applying a full (egg-) bar shoe, and/or the use of wedged pads (when needed) are commonly used techniques. In many cases, we are able to help the pelvic limbs break over before intermittent upward patellar fixation occurs.

  • Hormonal Therapy: The administration of estrogen has shown to prove benefical for some horses exhibiting intermittent upward patellar fixation. The presence of estrogen within the body of the horse may increase tension of various supporting ligaments. These include the collateral, suspensory, cruciate, and distal patellar ligaments. Increasing distal patellar ligament tension helps to relocate the patellar further distad, thereby making upward patellar fixation more difficult. This in turn may alleviate clinical signs.
  • It should be noted that estrogen is also a powerful behavior modificator in the horse. It is often used for stallions and geldings that are excessively difficult to handle, aggressive towards people or other horses, or overly anxious at shows and other events. Estrogen is very effective at reducing anxiety and resistance as well as improving overall behavior in these horses. Treatment usually consists of 2 injections of estrogen (25mg) in the muscle twice weekly for 4 consecutive weeks, then as needed therafter.

    Administration of estrogen to mares usually causes them to exhibit clinical signs of estrus (heat). Since this change in behavior is generally undesirable, we do not recommend its use in mares.

  • Intraligamentous Infusion of Counterirritant: This form of therapy is usually referred to as "blistering". Blistering involves the inject of an irritative substance into soft tissue(s) in an attempt to create an inflammatory reaction. The irritative substance usually consists of iodine 2% in an almond oil base. This substance can elicit an inflammatory response for up to 30 days depending on the amount used and the location of injection. It is important to remember that fibrosis and scar tissue formation within normal soft tissues will occur as a result of severe inflammation. As you know, scar tissue does not function like normal soft tissue. Therefore, blistering in certain areas may inhibit proper function of associated soft tissue. It is for this reason that The Atlanta Equine Clinic typically does not institute blistering as typical form of treatment for soft tissue problems.

    However, in the case of intermittent upward patellar fixation, we gain a biomechanical advantage by replacing normal tissue with scar tissue. The infusion of counterirritant within and around the medial and middle patellar ligaments results in the elicitation of an intense inflammatory reaction by the horse�s body. With inflammation, fibrosis and scarring of the patellar ligaments occur. During the scarring process, soft tissues will contract (shorten). As the patellar ligaments shorten, the patella is pulled up and over the hook of the medial femoral trochlea and into its normal position within the trochlear groove. At this point, it becomes more difficult for the horse to lock the patella and easier to flex the pelvic limb from an extended position. In our hands, this from of treatment has been extremely effective in a vast majority of cases involving intermittent upward patellar fixation.

  • Medial Patellar Desmotomy: The medial patella ligament is one of the key structures (along with the patella and middle patellar ligament) that is required to lock the patella on the femur. Since the problem represents the horse�s inability to quickly disengage the patella from the medial femoral trochlea, surgical resection of the medial patellar ligament results in complete resolution of the problem. Once the medial patellar ligament is resected, upward patellar fixation becomes impossible and the clinical signs associated with this condition disappear. Consequently, this has become a very popular form of treatment for horses with intermittent upward patellar fixation.
    It is extremely important to note, however, that the medial patellar ligament also performs another function: stabilization of the patella within the trochlear groove of the femur. Without tension from the medial patellar ligament, the patella becomes unstable within the femoropatellar joint. Femoropatellar synovitis and frequently osteoarthritis result. Since the stifle is high-motion in nature, chronic inflammation within this joint poses a significant concern in regard to future performance soundness. Persistent femoropatellar joint inflammation typically needs to be addressed on a continual basis and often requires considerable maintenance therapy. It is for this reason that The Atlanta Equine Clinic views this form of treatment inappropriate except for the most severe of cases that have proven refractory to the other forms of therapy.
2007/06/30 15:02 2007/06/30 15:02

Common Joint Diseases of Horses
Factsheet - ISSN 1198-712X   -   Copyright Queen's Printer for Ontario
Agdex#: 460/660
Publication Date: 07/76
Order#: 76-071
Last Reviewed: 08/97
History: The Material in this Factsheet was originally prepared by Robert C. McClure, Gerald R. Kirk and Phillip D. Garrett, Department of Veterinary Anatomy, School of Veterinary Medicine, for publication in Science and Technology Guide, University of Missouri - Columbia Extension Division.
Written by: Robert C. McClure; Gerald R. Kirk; Phillip D. Garrett;

Table of Contents

  1. Overview of joints and diseases
  2. Bone Spavin
  3. Bog Spavin
  4. Ring Bone

Overview of Joints and Diseases

The junction between any two bones is known as an articulation or a joint. There are several types of joints. Some are fixed or practically immovable, such as those found between the skull bones. Others are freely movable and have articular cartilage and joint capsules.

The articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones and reduces friction between bones. The joint capsule surrounds the joint and consists of a tough, outer coat and a thin inner layer which lines it. This inner layer is termed the synovial layer and it produces a fluid known as the synovial fluid. This fluid resembles egg white in consistency and lubricates the joint when the bones move against one another.

Figure 1 is a picture of a cross section of a movable joint.Parts of the outer layer of some joint capsules are thickened to form ligaments. Ligaments connect bone to bone while tendons connect muscle to bone (Figure 1).

Arthritis is an inflammation of a joint involving the bones, the articular cartilages, ligaments and joint capsules. In an infected or irritated joint the amount of fluid increases and produces swelling. Bacteria may enter the joint through a wound of the joint capsule resulting in damage to the bones and cartilages. The joint may then become immovable. To treat this condition the affected joint is rested. Medication is used to counteract the inflammation. If the arthritis is severe, immobilization and resting of the joint is continued for 4 to 6 weeks. The outcome is usual favorable if bone damage or new bone growth has not occurred.

An injury to a ligament is defined as a sprain. Some ligaments hold bones firmly together and allow very little movement; others allow considerable movement. If an abnormal stress or movement is placed upon a joint such as overextension of a joint, the ligament may be torn. The amount of injury depends upon how much force is placed upon the ligament. If the ligament is torn completely away from its attachments to a bone, recovery is difficult. Adequate rest is necessary in hope that the torn ligament may repair itself.

Figure 2 is a picture of a joint mouse. Joint mice are pieces of bone or cartilage found within the joint cavity and may be the result of a fracture. These produce pain when lodged between the articular surfaces and may also produce arthritis. Surgical removal is usually successful (Figure 2).

A "stifled" horse results from the "locking" of the patella (knee cap of man) in the stifle joint. Normally a horse stands for hours without tiring of the hindlimb musculature. This is due to the "locking" mechanism of the hindlimb. The "locking mechanism" consists of the loop formed by the junction of two patellar ligaments with the patella and the bony projection of the lower end of the femur (thigh bone).

Figure 3 is a picture of the medial view of a stifle joint.The stifle joint is locked in an extended or straightened stiff position whenever the horse is unable to "unlock" the loop of ligaments from over the bony projection. Sometimes a slap on the croup will cause the horse to jump and "unlock" the stifle joint. Often his "locking" will reoccur. Whenever surgery is necessary to correct the condition, the medial patellar ligament is cut on the inside of the stifle joint in order to prevent further "locking" (Figure 3).

Bone Spavin

Figure 4 is a picture of the medial view of hock joint.Bone spavin is defined as an inflammation of one or more bones of the hock andmost often causes an arthritic condition of the affected bones. In bone spavin the joint between the bones on the inside of the hock become immovable. Quick stops,such as those which occur during roping and other stresses, along with mineral deficiencies, may produce bone spavin. Horses with full, well-developed hocks tend to have less incidence of bone spavin than those with narrow, thin hocks. Bone spavin occurs on the inside of the hock (jack spavin). It may occur between the bones within the hock joint and cannot be seen or palpated (blind spavin). A large percentage of horses affected with blind spavin recover completely.

Jack spavin is usually a bony growth of variable size.The bony enlargement pushes out against a tendon that lies over the inside hock area (Figure 4).The cause of bony growth cannot be fully explained. When the hock is flexed or bent, pain is produced and as a result the hindlimb is not raised very high. Therefore, the horse drags his foot (Figure 5).Figure 5 is a picture of a horse dragging his foot.

Treatment consists of alleviating as much pain as possible. By cutting the tendon veterinarians can remove one source of pain. However, the outlook for full recovery from jack spavin is usually not favorable even with surgery. The horse will probably be useable, but rest and time are needed for repair to occur.

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Bog Spavin

There is no bony enlargement; swelling, heat and pain are most evident on the front surface of the hock (Figure 6).

Figure 6 is a picture of the solf swellings on the hock of a horse.The cause may be due to nutritional deficiencies, accidental injury to the hock joint or the hocks being too straight (hereditary). If the condition is caused by conformation or too straight hocks, it cannot be treated successfully. Veterinarians have many factors to consider in order to determine the cause and to advise the best treatment. Anti-inflammatory drugs may help bog spavin caused by nutritional deficiencies or injury. The drugs decrease inflammation and prevent swelling of the joint capsule. A bandage around the hock prevents excessive build-up of fluid and swelling. The horse is rested for 4 to 6 weeks. Adding vitamins and minerals to the diet may relieve bog spavin. Horses 6 months to 2 years of age are most often affected with bog spavin.

Ring Bone

Figure 7 is a picture of the bones of the horse's hoof. This condition is characterized by new bone growth which occurs on the first, second or third phalanx (high or low ringbone). The phalanges are the three small bones extending from the fetlock to the hoof (Figure 7).Ringbone is more common on the forefeet than the hindfeet.

Ringbone is due to an inflammation of the tough fibrous layer which surrounds the bones. The inflammation may be caused by stresses which pull on ligaments attached to the bone. The new bone growth may lead to arthritis and stiffening of the joints between the fetlock and the pastern. If the tough, fibrous layer surrounding the bones is cut (such as in wire cuts), new bone growth may result. The new bone may grow into the joints between the phalanges and produce stiffening of the joints. In early ringbone, swelling and heat are present over the affected areas. To assure a complete diagnosis, it is necessary to take radiographs. Again the veterinarian has many factors to consider in advising the best treatment. If the joints are involved, chances for full recovery are poor. Immobilization of the foot and a long period of rest are often necessary. Corrective shoeing is also advisable in some cases.

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For more information:
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2007/06/30 14:56 2007/06/30 14:56

The Natural Pace of Work

Why Don't Grazing Horses Gallop?

In Idle Theory's view, living creatures attempt to minimize the duration of work. If so, why don't they perform this work as rapidly as possible? Why don't they run around when busy? And for that matter, why don't busy people, out shopping or commuting, also run around? After all, if they ran, they'd get work done quicker, wouldn't they?

The answer is that such a view does not take energy into account. Anyone who runs from place to place, from A to B, accelerates their body mass from standstill to running speed in some short interval of time. And in order to come to a halt again, they must deccelerate their body mass from full speed to standstill. Since this acceleration up to full speed requires work to be done, with more work with greater acceleration and higher top speed, it follows that the more rapidly some animal moves from A to B, the higher its energy expenditure in accelerating, deccelerating, and overcoming resistance to motion (friction) while travelling at full speed. In the case of a grazing animal, which moved from tuft to tuft of grass, with each tuft having some small energy content, the expenditure of energy in sprinting from tuft A to tuft B may exceed the gain in energy from consuming a tuft of grass. Running from one tuft of grass to another, a grazing animal may actually lose energy.

But equally, if a grazing animal moves at a snail's pace from one tuft of grass to another, barely accelerating and deccelerating at all, it may spend so long in going from A to B that it will expend more energy with its basal metabolic rate (breathing, maintaining blood circulation, etc) over the long period it takes to move from A to B than it gains once it has reached B, and eaten another tuft of grass.

If so, and there is a net loss of energy from moving from A to B too rapidly, or too slowly, then there is most likely a happy mean where it moves from A to B at some optimum speed that maximizes net energy gain. And this optimum might be called the natural speed of motion, or the natural pace of work - where the 'pace of work' translates as power output.

Other factors may also need to be taken into account. The legs of animals may be regarded as pendulums with a natural swing period, and swinging their legs faster or slower than this natural swing period will entail performing more work, either in accelerating their legs or braking them. The natural speed of motion of an animal may simply be defined by the length of its legs. However animals don't have fixed length legs, and when animals run, they raise their legs, and thereby shorten them, and shorten the swing period. So animals with variable length legs may have a variety of natural harmonious speeds.

Also, since muscular activity releases combustion products, these require to be exhausted before further work is done. In an internal combustion engine, the engine performs work when the fuel-air mix in a cylinder explodes and drives a piston. For the remainder of the cycle, the piston returns to its former position, forcing exhaust gases out of the cylinder. So an internal combustion engine isn't actually continually performing work, but only doing so about half the time it operates. It alternates between work and relaxation. A semblance of continuous work is achieved by using several cylinders in line, such that one or more are working while the others are 'relaxing'.

The longer any effort is sustained, the lower the work rate. Long distance runners don't sprint all the way: that way brings exhaustion. In general it would seem that the longer the duration of any activity, the greater the need for periods of relaxation. A sprinter's efforts are concentrated into a few seconds. Football games last 90 minutes, with a 15 minute half time. And while footballers periodically sprint, they spend the remainder of the time walking slowly or standing still. A game of cricket may last an entire day, but batsmen only swing momentarily at a ball, and fielders only intermittently run to stop flying balls. A game of golf may last for several days, but entails moving at walking pace, and periodically striking a ball.

If there is a natural pace at which any work should be performed, it will necessarily be a relatively leisurely pace, rather than with the mightiest exertion. If this natural pace is exceeded, or retarded, net work done per unit time falls.

The same applies to mental work as physical work. After all, a brain is simply another organ that performs some kind of work, and requires energy to power it, just as computers need an electricity supply. One can no more mentally work continuously than one can physically work continuously. And the greater the mental exertion required, the longer the periods of compensatory relaxation needed. It is necessary for office workers, whose work is essentially mental in nature, to have coffee breaks, cigarette breaks, lunch breaks, and to just gaze out of the window for a while now and again. If this is not permitted, exhaustion will follow, and less work will get done overall. If hard-working executives in high pressure jobs suffer 'burn-out', it is because they have been either been overworking themselves, or have been overworked.  

Idle Theory

Author: Chris Davis
First created: 29 March 2006

2007/06/25 21:37 2007/06/25 21:37

말은 원래 자유분방하고 야생성이 강하여 집단을 이루어 사는 동물이다. 말은 태어나면서부터 신속함(최고 시속60~70km/hour)과 냄새를 잘 맡는 탁월한 능력 (새끼 망아지는 어미를 냄새로 알아본다), 넓은 시야 (두눈을 통해 거의 360°를 볼수 있으며 좌우측 눈으로 각각 다른 환경을 동시에 확인할 수 있다)를 통해서 육식동물의 위험으 로부터 보호를 받으며 선천적으로 공격성이 없는 방어적인 동물이기도 하다. 말은 지능이 뛰어난 동물은 아니지만 자의나 타의에 의해서 얻어지는 교육과 체험을 통한 공포, 아픔과 칭찬받는 행위 등에 대해서 좋은 기억력을 갖는다..공포성(恐怖性) 말은 예민한 감각과 순발력 등이 잘 발달한 동물이다. 겁이 많고 쉽게 놀라며 투쟁이나 공격보다는 도피를 최대의 방어수단으로 인식한다..그래서 상황의 변화시에는 달아나려는 습성을 가진다..말은 공포심이 많아 야생에서 한가로이 풀을 뜯다가 주변 환경이 조금만 바뀌어도 도망.치므로 <공포의 동물>이라는 별명을 갖고 있다.

군집성(群集性) - 군서성(群捿性) <혼자있는 말은 쉽게 죽는다>는 격언은 말의 군집성을 잘 나타내는 표현이다. 말은 무리와 항상 같이 있어야 심리적인 안정을 가진다..말은 외로움을 쉽게 느끼는 동물로서 무리를 찾아 생활 하려는 욕구가 강하다. 따라서 여러 마리의 말이 있을 때 리더그룹의 말이 달리게 되면 다른 말들도 따라 달리는 경향을 보인다.

귀소본능(歸巢本能).비둘기와 같은 동물들이 수천 마일을 날아서 정확히 자기집을 찾아가듯이 말도 이와 비슷해 멀리 떨어진 위치에서도 자기의 보금자리를 잘 찾아오는 귀소본능을 가지고 있다..그래서 사람이 길을 잃고 헤멜 때 말이 길을 찾아낸다는 이야기가 있을 정도며 이러한 말의 귀소 본능을 <말의 6감>이라 일컫기도 한다.

사회성(社會性).말은 사람들이 인식할 수 있는 언어 전달체계를 가지고 있지는 않다..그러나 말들끼리만 통하는 특별한 정보 전달체계 등을 가지고 있어 주위에 있는 다른 말들의 가냘픈 소리나 사소한 움직임등에도 민감하게 반응한다. 그래서 자기도 거기에 응답하여 소리를 내거나 발로 구르는 등의 응답 시스템을 작동한다.

모방성(模倣性).말들은 군집성과 사회성 등을 가진 동물이기 때문에 동료 말들에게 나쁜 행동이나 습관 등을 쉽게 배워 실천에 옮기려고 하는 모방성 또한 강한 동물이다. 그래서 주위의 말이 울면 따라 울기도 하고 승마로 잘 훈련된 말을 따라하는 경우도 있다..

외형적 특징.말은 머리, 목, 다리 등의 부위가 다른 가축에 비해 긴 신체적 특징을 가진다. 초식동물로 독초를 구분하기 위하여 코를 많이 사용함으로서 코가 발달.하게 되었고, 나뭇잎을 뜯기 위해 목을 길게 뻗으면서 목이 길게 되었다. 긴다리는 자신 체중의 10배 무게를 감당할 수 있을 정도의 충격을 흡수한다.
말은 아름다운 털(毛色)을 가지고 있다. 20여 가지의 다양한 털 색깔과 무늬, 사람의 지문에 해당하는 가마를 보고 말을 외형적으로 감별하게 된다.

말은 머리가 나쁘다?.말은 체격에 비해 뇌의 무게가 630g 정도(체중의 0.12%)로 매우 작다..대부분의 초식동물이 뇌가 작아 지능이 낮은 것으로 알려져 있듯이 말도 지능이 낮은 동물로 인식되고 있다. 무게가 630g 정도(체중의 0.12%)로 매우 작다..매일 먹이를 주고 보살피는 주인도 알아보지 못하는 수준의 지능이다..그러나 말은 고통, 통증, 놀람 등 특수한 상황에 대한 기억력이 좋아 신변에 위협을 받았던 경험 등은 몇 년 동안 기억하는 경우도 있다.
또한 방향, 장소 등 지리적 공간 감각이 우수한 것으로 알려져 있다. 그래서 말의 동작에 대한 습관성을 이용해서 반복 훈련을 하면 효과가 크다.

말의 감각은?.말의 시각은 좌우측 눈의 시야가 독립적으로 형상화되는 양안시이다. 사람은 하나의 화면으로 보지만, 말은 동시에 2개의 화면을 볼수 있다. 또한 색맹으로 알려져 있으나 명도 차이에 따라 7~8가지 색상은 구분 할수 있다는 주장이 설득력을 얻고 있다.

말의 후각은 매우 발달해 있다. 어미말이 새끼말을 냄새로 분별하며 망아지 역시 냄새로 어미를 알아본다.
말은 귀에 많은 근육이 분포되어 귀를 전후좌우로 움직일수 있고, <귀로 사물을 본다>는 말 처럼 심리적 상태를 귀의 움직임으로 표현한다.

말은 단맛과 신맛을 구분하며 설탕, 당근, 사과를 좋아한다.
말과 잠 야생상태의 말은 하루종일 풀뜯기와 잠자기를 되풀이한다. 하루에 18시간 정도 풀뜯기를 하며, 배가 부르면 서서 졸게 된다..잠자는 시간은 여러 차례에 나누어 하루에 불과 3~4시간 정도이다. 따라서 <나폴레옹 수면>이라 일컬어지는 말의 수면 특징은 특유의 공포감을 가지고 있다는 반증이기도 하다.
말도 사람과 같이 매년1월 1일을 기준으로 1살씩 많아진다. 태어난 해를 이얼링(yearing)이라하고, 그 다음해 1살이 되는 것이다. 말의 자연수명은 20세, 경제수명은 15세 정도로 알려져 있다. 말 6세는 사람 20세, 말 11세는 사람 40세에 해당된다. 성장은 2세까지 끝나고 5~6세 때 원기가 왕성하다. 말의 나이는 이빨의 마모 상태로 감별할 수 있다.

말은 튼튼하다!.말의 키는 견갑(어깨꼭지)에서 전지(앞 다리) 발굽의 뒷 부위까지의 길이를 기준으로 하는데, 말의 키는 "하이트 핸즈(height hands)"라는 단위를 사용한다. 1hh는 10.16cm로, 대개 포니는 14hh, 드러브렛은 15~16hh, 승용마는 16~17hh 정도이다.
말의 체중은 포니가 300kg, 드러브렛 500kg, 승용마 600kg정도 되며, 마차를 끄는 샤이어종은 1,000kg이 넘기도 한다. 체중은 매월 측정하여 사료급여에 참고한다.
말의 최대 속력은 62km/h정도로 동물중에는 빠르기로 정평이나 있는데 이렇게 말이 잘 달릴 수 있는 이유는 강한 심장과 튼튼하고 긴 다리를 가지고 있기 때문이다.

말은 흉골이 18쌍으로 다른 동물에 비해 흉강이 월등이 크다. 따라서 흉강 안의 심장과 폐의 크기가 다른 동물보다 크다. 말이 달릴때는 폐와 심장은 정상시 보다 1.5~2배 정도 확장되어 심폐기능이 상승되는 효과가 있다.
다리는 탁월한 완충장치와 추진장치를 갖추고 있다. 앞 다리에는 2곳, 뒷 다리에는 3곳에 완충 관절이 있으며, 발굽의 수축과 이완작용으로 달릴 때 탄력을 받아 빠르게 달릴 수 있다.
말은 해부 생리적으로 잘 달릴 수 있는 조건을 갖추고 있으며 본능적으로 공포심이 많아 무작정 전력을 다해 달리는 것이다.
경제수명은 근로자가 노동시장에서 시장가치를 인정받으며 경제활동을 할 수 있는 기간을 말한다.
2007/06/25 01:51 2007/06/25 01:51

Federico Tesio

2007/06/20 20:38 / Horse Racing/Theory

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Federico Tesio

" 경주마는 폐로 달리고 심장으로 버티며 기질로 우승한다. "

" 장시간에 걸친 스피드는 지구력을 의미하지만, 단시간의 지구력은 결코 스피드를 의미하지 않는다. "

2007/06/20 20:38 2007/06/20 20:38

Conformation and Function in the Riding Horse

Use - types of horses | Where to find horses of riding type | Posture vs. structure | Straightness | Roundness and collection | Rate of skeletal maturity | Links to images | Additional references | About the Author

Take-home message

  • Conformation is the study of body proportions. Body proportions depend primarily upon the underlying skeletal structure. However, many "apparent" conformational features are actually produced by posture (the way the animal carries itself) rather than structure. It is important to differentiate the two.
  • Judgements as to what is "good" in conformation depend upon the work or use that the horse is intended to do. There is no one "good" shoulder, pastern, or pelvic structure.
  • Determining what is "good" conformation also depends upon an understanding of basic biomechanics, or how the body works. Understanding the rate of skeletal maturation is also important. There is much published misinformation in these areas.
  • Horses today may usefully be classified into five general types: riding horse, flat-racer, carriage and harness horse, draft horse, and "projects."
  • A well-conformed riding horse does not look like a well-conformed flat racer. Thus, in order to train the horse intelligently or to ride it well, it is first necessary to know the use-type to which your horse belongs. To a great degree, this will be determined by his parents and grandparents. Structure cannot be altered, but the way the animal uses himself can be modified through training.

Use - Types of Horses

Horses today may be usefully classified into five general "use types": riding horse, flat-racer, carriage and harness horse, draft horse, and "projects." The following is a summary of the three most common types and their most important conformational points. (Please refer to images 1 through 7 for explanation of terms.)

Riding Horses: The job of the riding horse is to carry weight over a distance of ground. The riding horse must go from "point A" to "point B" over and over again over a long span of years, while remaining sound.

Loins: broad from side to side, deep from loin to groin, short from hips to ribs. The ideal is to have a smooth, strong coupling. This (and not the height of the horse) is the most significant determinant of its ability to carry weight

Overall body balance: level to slightly uphill.

Neck: shaped to arch readily.

Head: must be symmetrical, not too bent or too short or fine in the muzzle.

Pelvis: 18 to 22 degrees of slope is ideal. Very shallow or very steep pelvic angles are problematic. Moderate length is sufficient.

Limbs and feet: Ideal is 8" of "bone" per 1,000 lbs. weight. The broadest possible hock, and correctly aligned hindlimbs, are a real plus.

Race Horses: The job of the flat racer is to go as fast as possible over a relatively short distance. Flat racers go from "point A" to "point B" in the shortest possible time, and in many cases need do this only one or a few times. Their careers terminate when their soundness sufficiently disintegrates.

Loins: narrow from side to side; moderately deep from loin to groin; long from ribs to pelvis. The ideal is for a smooth topline through this region, but in many cases it is not. The emphasis here is on flexibility, for coiling/uncoiling the loins is the most significant determinant of stride length and hence the ability to cover ground.

Overall body balance: downhill to the front. The shorter the distance over which the animal is to be raced, the more downhill the build must be. Sprinters are built more downhill than milers.

Neck: Thin and straight.

Head: Symmetry is good but its lack can to some extent be compensated for; head must not be too large.

Pelvis: 18 to 22 degrees of slope is ideal. Shallower angles can, however, be tolerated and may add to speed. Steep pelvic angles are undesirable. The greatest possible pelvic length is desirable.

Limbs and Feet: 7" of "bone" per 1,000 lbs. of weight is sufficient. Amounts over 8" are undesirable. Bones composing the forelimbs must have absolutely correct alignment.

Projects: We can laugh about this category a little bit together, for most of us own "projects" of one type or another. I cite two common types of "project":
1. The rescue case, and
2. The horse being used out of his type.

All "projects" are desirable insofar as they tend to foster the development of horsemanship. However, the owner must not expect the "project" to succeed as fast or perhaps ultimately not as well as the animal that has had the best of care and which is used within its type.

We can all appreciate the horsemanship that goes into some of the more "obvious" instances of use-out-of-type. For example, let us say that a man buys a small-sized Belgian mare, and then decides that he wants to train her for exhibition as a Reining horse. There is nothing wrong with this at all, the horse will be able to do it, the man will learn a lot by trying it, and if he does a good job, the animal will not only remain sound but will put on some mighty entertaining exhibitions of reining maneuvers done in its own "style". "Open" competitions are great because they permit this kind of experimentation and everybody, including the judges and spectators alike, learns something valuable.

What is less easy to smile about is to realize that MOST horse owners in North America are, in fact, riding projects - without realizing it.

A race horse is not a riding horse.

The most commonly owned breeds of horse in North America are Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and Appaloosas. Historically, all Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses were bred for one primary money-making activity, flat racing. Since the incorporation of the Appaloosa Horse Club in the 1940's, most of those horses, especially in the U.S., have also been bred for flat racing.

While it is true that the trend in all of these breeds since about 1960 has been toward finding viable, economically productive uses for individual animals that are not going to have racing careers, all of them, even when crossbred, inherit significant racing character from their ancestors.

It is certainly possible to find individual Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses that are "off type" for racing – and thus suitable as riding horses. Within Thoroubhreds, the English, Point-to-Point, or Field Hunter type or i.e. what in the U.S. is bred for the one paying race longer than 2 miles, the Maryland Hunt Cup – tends to be well suited for riding, particularly in the matter of overall body balance. Within Quarter Horses, the Doc Bar, Lena, and Poco bloodlines also tend to produce more up-fronted horses with strong, short loins, necks that tend to arch, and a more level fore-aft balance.

With the gradual expansion in the market for riding horses and an increasing need to put retired racehorses or excess production to some other use, the horse industry has developed sophisticated techniques for "converting" these animals for riding use. Over the past century and a half many of these techniques have become traditional, for example, the use of cavalletti and jump gymnastics to teach ex-racehorses how to rate distances and balance themselves over their hocks, skills which no racehorse needs. As a measure of how far we have gone in this direction, I would like to suggest considering the opposite possibility: what reason would there be not to have a match race for money over, say, a mile and a half distance, for a group of promising young Walking Horses? What specific training techniques would be required to teach these animals how to extend and flatten their gallop stride?

Where to Find Horses of Riding Type

The breeds of horse in which most individuals are conformationally suited to riding are those which are of medium to small size, and which have no racing history. These include for example Andalusians, Lusitanos, Lipizzans, Paso Finos, Peruvian Pasos, Criollos, Coralleros, Old Canadians, Mustangs, Morgans, Mangalargas, American Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walkers, and Missouri Foxtrotters. Iberian blood is a prominent feature here, as is the tendency to gaitedness. Collection at all gaits and maneuvers is remarkably easy for these animals.

The Arabian breed produces many individuals suitable for riding, while also producing a significant number suitable for flat racing. Davenport and other Old Egyptian bloodlines, as well as some of the rarer antique American bloodlines, produce short-coupled horses with round bodies, a good cut of withers and shoulder, arched necks that are not too long or fine, and good bone. The Polish and Crabbet lines also produce significant numbers of horses suitable for riding.

The "old type" Appaloosa is also a good candidate for a riding horse - if you can find one. These horses look nothing like either Arabians or Quarter Horses, but instead are tall and somewhat angular, often with a long rather boxy head. They are distinguished by outstanding bone and hoof quality, and a remarkably long, elastic stride. The majority of horses of this type are to be found in Southwestern Canada.

Modern Warmbloods are produced by crossing large amounts of Thoroughbred onto a population originally conformed as another use-type, carriage and harness horses. This use-type, though not outlined in detail here, contains many features desirable in riding horses, particularly strong, wide loins and level or uphill body balance. The purpose for crossing these horses with Thoroughbreds (or occasionally Arabians) has been to reduce the size and bulk of the animals, for being over-large is problematic in a riding horse. Horses that weigh over 1450 lbs. have proven significantly less sound and hardy for riding use than horses that weigh less. Results of crossbreeding to produce Warmbloods are variable, with some beautiful individuals being produced among a large majority of animals which do not find collection, or the maneuvers which flow from it (i.e. passage, piaffe, pirouette, half-pass) particularly easy.

The most highly under-rated and under-acknowledged crossbred in North America today is the Quarab or Quarter Horse X Arabian. These animals are bred by the thousands all across the continent, and I have rarely seen a poor one. They tend to be more levelheaded and easygoing than Arabians, while being much better balanced and having better bone and hoof quality than the Quarter Horse. They are excellent "first horses", being sound, durable, not too large, easy to train and handle, and apt for collection.

Another crossbred that is now becoming readily available in North America is the Azteca. Animals registered in the Mexican breed organization have been produced by a careful process of graded inter-crossing of Andalusian sires on Quarter Horse mares. The resulting animal is similar to the Quarab, but somewhat larger and sometimes with a heavier neck.

The retired American Standardbred trotter can also make a good riding horse, some of them being very similar to American Saddlebreds in build. These animals do require re-training, however: the pacer will have to be helped to either gait or trot (instead of hard pace), and either type needs to be shown that nobody in its new environment is going to punish it if it canters.

The odd crossbred also will make a delightful riding horse. One of the best I ever saw was a Belgian X American Saddlebred, with the sire being the latter. The traditional British product, the Irish Draft, is another good prospect, as is the French Anglo-Arab. Indeed, any horse of any breed, crossbred or purebred, if it possesses the features of Riding horse type, will make a good riding horse.

Posture VS. Structure

A general way to think of posture is "how the horse carries himself" or even "how the horse uses himself." Technically, posture relates to the vertebral column, particularly to the correct alignment of the vertebrae. Static posture is the posture the animal maintains while standing still, and dynamic posture is the oscillation of the animal's back and resultant swinging of its limbs when it is moving.

Let me repeat that last statement about dynamic posture in another form:

The oscillations of the back determine the style and range of limb movements.

Or, in short: back dynamics govern limb dynamics. What the back does predetermines what the limbs will do.

What this means in terms of riding and training is that you must "shape up" the animal's axial body before you can expect the limbs to do what you're hoping and expecting them to do.


Another way to think of "vertebral alignment" is as straightness. Straightness is absolutely vital to athletic performance, smoothness, beauty, or even the animal's ability to remain comfortable and calm while working. Since the body is a three-dimensional object, there are three senses in which the vertebral column can be shaped up:

  • Lean (side to side straightness: the master dimension)
  • Rotation (tipping head or tipping pelvis; the second dimension)
  • Roundness (coiling the loins, raising the freespan of the back, raising the base of the neck; the minor dimension).

For more information on the biomechanics of straightness, and its important (and subtle) connection to calmness and willingness in the horse, please go to and, at the home page, click on the button labeled "Food for All." From there, read all five sections under "Woody" ("Woody" is the name of the model wooden horse that I built to illustrate some of these concepts).

Roundness and Collection

Roundness is the automatic result of straightness in the two more important dimensions.

Roundness is the lowest degree of collection.

Collection is a particular posture, one which best adapts the horse for movement and continuing soundness while bearing weight on its back.

Collection starts from, and is always primarily the product of, coiling of the loins (= "engagement of the hindquarters" in the modern sense). It is continued with the raising of the freespan of the back, and it is completed with the raising of the base of the neck.

Note that head position is not mentioned in the above definitions and descriptions. Neither is "strengthening the topline." Fullness of the topline and the appropriate head position are the results of collection, not the determinants of it. The same may be said for any feature of limb movement – when horses are collected, it is true that they raise and flex their knees and hocks more than when not collected, take shorter steps, progress forward more slowly, etc. It is unwise to focus on secondary effects. Focus on the determining posture instead, and you will almost automatically have all you desire and more -- and a horse that is sound and happy into the bargain.

Rate of Skeletal Maturity

This has been a really hot item for discussion on our website at What we call "the Ranger piece" on skeletal maturation has now been requested and reprinted in over 50 different publications worldwide. To review the complete discussion, at the home page click on "Q/A Forum," and when you arrive there look for the hot button at the top called "conformation analysis." Once there, scroll to the bottom and read the discussion of the young horse named Ranger.

Just a few points from that article are summarized here:

  • No horse, of any breed or bloodline, is mature before the age of 5 ½.
  • The earliest-maturing horses are small, scrubby, range-bred mares.
    Male horses tend to lag about 6 months behind female herd members kept under the same circumstances. Good feeding tends to prolong growth and delay maturity.
  • No horse is skeletally mature at age 2.
    There are both advantages and disadvantages of starting horses at age 2 or earlier. Unless there is a compelling economic reason, I advise waiting to start young horses undersaddle until they are 4.
  • There is more than one "growth plate".
    The one growth plate that most people know about is the one "at the knee" (actually, at the bottom of the radius-ulna bone just above the knee). Every bone in the skeleton outside the skull contains at least one growth plate. Each limb bone has one at the top, one at the bottom, and may have others (on prongs or projections such as the tip of the elbow or the third trochanter of the femur).
  • Maturation follows a definite pattern.
    Individual portions of the skeleton become mature when the growth plate nearest them fuses to the bone shaft. There is a schedule for this over the horse's body: the lower down in the limbs, the earlier in life the growth plates fuse.
  • The last parts of the skeleton to become mature are the vertebrae and teeth.
    The last teeth erupt in a male horse at age 5 ½ to 6. The last vertebral growth plates also fuse at about this age, or later.
  • The slowest-maturing horses are tall, long-necked individuals.
    Largeness itself tends to delay maturity, and long-necked horses tend to have the caudal cervical plates fuse quite late, even up to age 8.
  • Early riding can damage either the young horse's limbs or its back, although gross damage is rare. Subtle damage, which may only show up on X-ray, or which may show up even years later, is very common.

    Nevertheless, the main reason to avoid riding the 2 year old or younger horse is not to preserve its bones but to preserve its posture: young horses readily learn to clamp their back muscles to "defend" against the rider's weight, whereas 4 year olds and up rarely feel an instinctive need to do this. Not having learned to clamp their backs, these horses produce roundness and collection with much greater ease.

    Owners can and should learn how to handle young horses, and can teach them many things which build skills, muscle, and postural habits good for riding. Such a program starts with the foal's first lessons in haltering, leading, and having its feet handled.

Links to Images

Link to Deb Bennett's Skeleton image. (6kb)
Link to Deb Bennett's Palpations Points image. (6kb)
Image 1 - Horse Skeleton (26kb)
Image 2 - Palpation Points for
Conformation Analysis (18kb)
Image 3: Fig. - Perfect (20kb)
Image 4 - Primitive (18kb)
Image 5 - Pathological (19kb)
Image 6 - Pathogenic (21kb)
Image 7 - Areas of
Bone Formation (36kb)

Additional References

For more information on a wide variety of horsemanship, anatomy, and biomechanics topics, as well as many useful horse-related links, please visit the Equine Studies Institute website at The Institute also carries book reviews, used horse books, a huge annotated bibliography for further reading, and new books. Dr. Bennett's three available works, which include Principles of Conformation Analysis, Conquerors: The Roots of New World Horsemanship, and The Birdie Book: An Internal Geography of Horse and Rider, are described in the Institute website with information for ordering. Some of the illustrations provided in this article appear in Principles of Conformation.

Equine Studies Institute
P.O. Box 411 Livingston, CA 95334
Phone: 1-800-952-5813 or 1-301-977-3900 .

About the Author

Author Deb Bennett, Ph.D., is Director of the Equine Studies Institute in Livingston, California. She is a frequent contributor of articles on conformation evaluation in horses in several equine magazines, and is the author of several books on conformation and horsemanship. Dr. Bennett also teaches unique equine anatomy short-courses designed primarily for owners, trainers, therapists, and breeders.

This information was presented at, and appears in the Proceedings of, the 2002 Alberta Horse Breeders and Owners Conference.

The author, Deb Bennett, retains all rights under international copyright 1999-2002 law to the text and illustrations included in this article. Reproduction of this information, in any form, without the expressed consent of the author is prohibited.Deb Bennett, Ph.D.Equine Studies InstituteLivingston, California

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2007/04/30 20:10 2007/04/30 20:10

Rear End Conformation
An Analysis by Lee Ziegler
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Rear End One
Rear End Two
Rear End Three

While front  end conformation determines more how a horse will perform a gait than which gait he will do well, rear end conformation gives a good clue as to which gait a horse will do as well as how he will do it. 
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The things to look at in rear end conformation are the placement of the lumbo sacral junction, the length of the hip, the angle of the pelvis, the placement of the hip socket on the pelvis, the relative lengths of the femur, tibia/fibula (bones from stifle to hock)  and cannon, and the angulation of the hip, stifle and hock. 
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These things will determine the ability or lack thereof of the horse to round his back (lower his hindquarters from the lumbo sacral junction).  They will also determine the type of step he takes in back —   long or, short, powerful and pushing or high and “hocky”. 

In general, horses with lumbo sacral junctions located directly over the hip bone, long hips (more than 30 % of their bodies) and pelvises that do not have a steep slope or a flat one (  approximately 20 degrees), hip sockets placed toward the center of the pelvis, femurs and tibia/fibulas at about the same length, and  are inclined to more diagonal gaits with a long, powerful pushing stride behind.  Horses with lumbo sacral junctions placed to the rear of the hip bone, short hips ( less than 1/4 of their body length), steep pelvic angles (more than 45 degrees)  or overly horizontal  ones, hip sockets placed toward the rear of the pelvis, short femurs and long tibia/fibulas are less likely to be able to round their backs and step strongly under themselves, and so are inclined to more lateral gaits, often with a shorter, higher step in back. 

Many of the traits of hind end conformation that are common in gaited horses can contribute to unsoundness if they are exaggerated or the horse is used for purposes that are not appropriate to his conformation.  For example, a horse with a long stifle to hock measurement, whose hock lies behind the point of his buttocks when the hind cannon is vertical (said to be “camped out”)  will take a long step in back with that hind leg and may have a good deal of overreach in his gait because of it.  This sort of hind leg is appropriate for long overreaching steps in a straight line on flat ground — however, it is not appropriate for quick turns, sliding stops or other maneuvers that are best done with downward flex from the lumbo sacral junction and the hock bearing weight under the mass of the body of the horse. It is also not the best construction for climbing steep hills or coming down them — again because the hock does bear weight  well under the mass of the body. 

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Rear End One
This horse is posed in a slightly sickle hocked position, although I do not believe that the horse  is actually sickle hocked.  The hip is long and deep, the lumbo sacral junction is almost over the top of the  hip bone, the pelvis has a moderate angle, the femur and tibia/fibula are approximately the same length, and the hip socket appears to be set moderately toward the rear of the pelvis.

With this conformation this horse should have good power for hill climbing, moderate reach under the body, no high hock action and the ability to cut a cow if necessary. This horse’s  gait, all other things being equal (and there are a lot of things that are not visible in this picture that will have an effect on which gait the horse does) is most likely a fox trot or trail type running walk, if this is not a hard trotting  horse.

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Rear End Two
Again, this horse is posed in a sickle hocked position and is indeed slightly sickle hocked.  His hip is relatively short compared to “ideal” trotting horse conformation and it is also steep, much steeper than that of either of the other two horses pictured.  His lumbo sacral junction lies well behind his hip bone. 

His femur is somewhat shorter than his tibia/fibula. His hock angles are quite open, his stifle angle somewhat closed.  All incline him to a lateral gait, with somewhat high “hocky”  action in his hind legs, and little or no over stride.  I would imagine that his gait is in the rack family, either corto/largo or stepped rack.  He would also be quite capable of hill climbing, and some quick or tight turns.

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Rear End Three
This horse is posed with his hind legs somewhat angled, which makes it a little hard to see the exact placement of the hock in relation to the buttock.

 However, he does appear to be a bit camped out, that is his hock lies behind a plumb line drawn from the point of his buttock.  His hip is relatively short, his lumbo sacral junction lies behind his hip bones, his pelvis is not as steep as horse #2, and may be more horizontal than horse #1 (hard to tell with this pose).  His femur is relatively short, his tibia/fibula is relatively long, and his hind cannon is quite long.  His stifle is again somewhat closed in angle, and hock very open. 

This, assuming again that the rest of his body also fits a “gaited” model,  inclines him to a gait other than a trot, most likely a running walk, or perhaps a show type fox trot, and also inclines him to take long steps with his hind legs, over striding a considerable amount in the walk or his gait, but without high hock action.  He is built to move well over flat surfaces, but is probably not best suited to quick turns or sliding stops, or really steep hill climbing. 

Index of Conformation Analysis

2007/04/30 19:50 2007/04/30 19:50

Rear End Conformation
An Analysis by Liz Graves

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Rear End One
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When evaluating a horses’ hindquarters we must first understand the importance of its function to the horses body. The hindquarters are “the power source” for forward and upward movement.  This power source is used to distribute the weight off the front quarters when the horse is in motion. 

Just as with the front quarters, the hindquarters must be evaluated for the strong and weak points in the structure. This is important to be able understand how to correctly engage the hindquarters for maximum efficiency of gaits without undue stress. 
This stress can come from:

  • Asking an individual to do more with their hindquarters than their structure will allow. 
  • Not asking a horse to use itself enough (or correctly) to maintain proper balance. 
  • Asking a horse to use itself incorrectly for it's specific structure. 
This power source of the hindquarters is transferred through the very important lumbosacral joint (where the loins meet the hip). This is the uppermost joint of the horses’ hind limbs. 
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If this joint is too far behind the point of the hip can cause a horse to go more toward a ventoflexed  (hollow) gait. When this joint is closer to aligned over the point of hip this lends the horse more to a dorsiflextion (raised back). The most ventro gait being the pace, less the stepped pace,  sobreandondo, rack,  corto/ largo. Level, the running walk, slight dorsiflextion towards a fox trot and the trot being the most dorsiflextion.

Stepped Pace,  Sobreandondo, Rack,  Corto/ Largo
Running Walk

The area from the LS joint to the last rib is the Lumbar span. This area being long can also have a horse go toward a ventro gait and short to a dorsiflex gait. To long of functioning back can tend to be vento as well. But keep in mind length of back can be compensated by length of pelvis. 

A croup set higher than the wither can also cause a horse to be more ventro in gait. A high croup adds more weight to the front quarters making it harder for a horse to come off the ground in front and increasing concussion to the front hoofs. This can make for an uncomfortable ride.

A well balanced horse from front to back (such as a good TWH) is:

  • Up hill from stifle to elbow 
  • Down hill from hock to knee
  • The cannon bone is still short but has a long gaskin and shorter femur.

Remember that too much (or too little) of any specific component in desired hind structure can throw off the balance for a specific gait.

Also in evaluation, take into consideration the hind limbs: are they straight or more angular. 

Being too straight can cause: 
  • A stressed horse to become a stifled horse. 
  • Being too straight such as a post legged horse can also make for a rougher gait. 
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Then there is sickle-hocked, which can put strain on the back of the hocks. It is not uncommon to see sickle hocks in some of our gaited breeds. The reason being to help a horse to get under it's self. A little bit of sickle hocks may be fine but I see it having (in some cases) gone far beyond the expectable limits for prolonged sound function.
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Cow hocked has been taken to the extremes in some of the gaited breeds. A horse that is cow hocked puts more stress on the inside of the hock and the stifle. This is due to the stifle being pushed out, away from the side of the horse. A true cow hocked horse will also toe out and not be an efficient stopper and can be a rather sloppy mover behind.

Being camped out behind is not uncommon in some gaited horses. A true camped out horse is one that the cannon bone is not perpendicular to the ground, but are angled behind the hock. A horse that camps out behind can have more difficulty coiling the loins to bring the hocks under the body.
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So far what I have covered is just a small start in all the factors that can effect hindquarter engagement. In looking for the easier points first, you will start to develop a good eye for the finer ones. Our gaited horses can have quite a variation and combinations of hindquarter structure! This is more evident in some of the American breeds that are made up of several other breeds.

Knowing what the gaits are and how they can be effected by a specific factor in the structure will lead to a better understanding of how to develop the natural gaits of our horses. It is also important to breed for the strong points of structure that each breed needs to support their signature gait. 

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Rear End One
This horse looks to be rather well balanced in the hindquarters but in relation to gait this horse is to long in the cannons and short in the gaskin to have overstride of the running walk. The length of the cannons making for a longer lever would cause this horse to lift the hocks higher before reaching forward.  The femur, gaskin ratio looks to be rather even and the lumbar span being short would make this horse go more to a trotting gait. This horse also looks to be short backed. So with all these combinations makes this horse more to move in dorsiflextion.
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Rear End Two
This horse shows many interesting factors that could make for a less than comfortable ride. First the length of the hindquarters looks short; it does not look like it goes with the back and barrel of the horse. This horse is high in the croup making for a down hill horse to the front. This will make this horse heavy on the front. The lumbar span is long and could make this horse go very ventro being high in the croup as well. The pelvic angle on this horse is very steep making it very hard for this horse to get it's hindquarters up under it's self this also is causing this horse to be camped out behind. # 2 horse also shows being very toed out .The gaskin is longer than the femur. #2 horse would tend to go to a ventroflexed gait that being a very uncomfortable pace if he has the genetics to gait.

사용자 삽입 이미지
Rear End Three
# 3 has a bit longer hip and flatter pelvis angle than #2 and lumbar span more over the point of hip. The femur, gaskin ratio is about even. The right leg looks to be camped out but then look at the left hind and it is more under the horse. This makes it very hard to evaluate. The left hind also looks to be toeing out where the right does not. This horse looks to also lack any conditioning. In relation to achieving gait with this structure it seems to tend more to a dorsiflexed gait possibly a fox trot. 

These three horse are very different in how they are put together. Add the factor that we do not know in looking at a still picture what their genetic tendencies to gait are but we can tell by structure where they will excel or be limited by when we put all the elements together.

2007/04/28 13:30 2007/04/28 13:30

The Problem with Stifling

A common complaint you will hear from savvy riders is that their horse is stifled. You can sympathize with them if you have had a horse with stifle problems and if not then you likely do not know what they are talking about.

A horse’s stifle can be pointed out by all horsemen, but no matter how experienced a rider is they don’t know much about the inner working of the stifle. The stifle can be difficult to evaluate due to its size and location. In combination with a lack of understanding regarding its structure and function the topic of the stifle becomes almost as much of a myth among horsemen as medicine.

The stifle joint is both very large and very complex in structure. The stifle is similar to the human knees which many say was designed by a committee due to the many

types of injuries associated with it. Confusion is often found when using the term “knee” since a horse has four legs. The stifle is the true “knee” of a horse and is found only on the hind limbs of the horse. The forelimb of the horse is comparable to the human arm so the “knee” of these limbs is structurally similar to our wrist. More properly it should be called the carpas.
사용자 삽입 이미지

Two individual joints make up the stifle and it is determined by the bones that join together there. The femoral-tibal joint is used to communicated between the large bone in the upper leg called the femur and the smaller bone below it called the tibia. Communication from the patella or kneecap is sent to the femur through the femoral-patella joint. The stifle is made up of these two joints. A thin capsule surrounds the entire stifle joint that has a specialized fluid to help with shock absorption and lubrication.

Structural stability is also provided through ligaments in this joint. The inside and outside of the stifle has specific ligaments that keep the leg from bending excessively in either direction. These ligaments are referred to as collaterals and can be either torn or damaged if a horse slips or falls.

There are two large crossing ligaments in the center of the stifle joint. They form an X inside the joint by attaching to the femur and tibia. These ligaments also prevent the leg from bending excessively and are called cruciate ligaments. Cruciate ligaments are easily damaged as anything who has played football, skied or played any other contact sport knows. The most common sports related injury today among humans is the tearing of the front or anterior ligament in the knee. This structure is the same in the horse with the same potential for injury.

In the front of the thigh the largest muscle is the quadriceps. In humans this muscle is attached to the kneecap by one thick ligament and another thick ligament attaches the kneecap to the lower leg bone or tibia.

The same job is done in horses by three patella ligaments that help to make the horses stifle stronger. While standing this allows the horse to lock their leg by shifting their weight and rotating the patella so that one of these ligaments locks over a ridge located on the femur. This is what allows the horse to sleep while standing with a minimum of energy.

However, this system is always correct in the way it works. Some horses may have stifles that once locked can’t be suddenly released if they either have very straight, upright back legs when born or have poor quadriceps muscles.

If a horse shows a slight hitch in their gait then this condition is subtle and is especially noticed when going downhill. However, the condition can also be severe when the leg is completely locked out behind the horse with the leg being unbendable.

This condition is called upward fixation of the patella. There are a number of treatment options including exercise that includes working up and down gentle slopes or lunging in sand to more serious treatment options such as injections along the patella and surgery.

Some additional means of distributing the forces placed on the stifle is necessary since it is a large joint that carries a lot of weight. Between the ends of the femur and the tibia there is two thick pieces of C-shaped fibro cartilage that help act as additional shock absorbers. These helps stabilize the joint and are known as menisci. The menisci play an important role by reducing the amount of wear and tear on the cartilage surface of the joint. Falls or other trauma can tear the menisci which can result in damage and lame horses.

Inflammation and swelling of the stifle joint is likely to result from any damage to these structures. In jumpers and event horses the most commonly seen condition is fractures of the patella which can occur after hitting an obstacle while jumping or from kicks or falls. Fractures on the femur and tibia bones are less common in horses.

Since the joint contains the majority of the stifle structure it is difficult to see, touch and evaluate. For veterinarians this presents a diagnostic issue. Because of the severity of lameness it can usually be easy to diagnose tearing of the main support ligaments, but for mild sprains and bruising of the ligaments it can be difficult for a veterinarian to diagnose.

Recently veterinarians are starting to use ultrasound evaluation more often and it is helping to provide a wealth of new information. However, the horses risk is increased since there is general anesthesia required and it is also not regularly used for diagnostic purposes since it is expensive.

Less invasive procedures such as CAT scans and MRIs may become available for horses in the future and this may allow veterinarians to get a better look at the stifle joint and unlock some of the mysteries regarding the lameness of this joint.
2007/03/01 08:49 2007/03/01 08:49

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■ Horse Story

경주마의 운동 기능을 심각하게 손상시키는 굴건 질환에 대한 이해를 위해서 굴건에 대한 생리적인, 그리고 역학적인 기능을 알아보고자 한다.
‘건(Tendon)’은 한쪽 관절이 뼈(Bone)에 부착되어 다른 관절의 뼈에 다른 한쪽이 연결되어서 근육에 의해서 생긴 힘을 수동적으로 전달함으로써 말을 움직이게 한다. 건은 기능적으로 체충을 지지하는 기능과, 관절을 구부리고 뻗고, 회전하는 기능의 두 가지로 구분될 수 있다. 관절에 위치한 건들은 말의 다리를 정확한 위치에 놓을 수 있도록 잡아주기 위하여 강직성이 좋은 반면, 체중을 지지하는 기능을 가진 말의 사지에 굴건은 관절에 위치한 건들에 비하여 탄력성이 높다.
말 머리쪽을 전, 꼬리쪽을 후라고 할 때, 앞다리의 무릎 후면에서 구절 및 발굽내에 있는 3지골 후면까지 연결되어 있는 건을 ‘굴건’이라고 하고, 반대로 전면에 있는 건을 ‘신건’이라고 한다. 굴건이 수축하면 무릎에서 발굽까지 연결된 골이 굽혀지고 연결동작으로 신건이 수축되면서 동시에 탄력성이 있는 굴건이 신장되면 무릎에서 발굽이 앞으로 쭉 뻗게 된다. 굴건에는 피부에 가까이 있는 천지굴건, 그리고 천지굴건과 3중수골(전지) 또는 3중족골(후지) 사이에 심지굴건이 존재한다.
무릎 관절(앞다리는 완관절, 뒷다리는 비절)과 발굽 사이에는 구절(중수골 또는 중족골과 제1지골 사이의 관절), 제1지골 관절(1지골과 2지골 사이의 관절), 제2지골 관절(2지골과 3지골 사이의 관절) 등이 존재한다. 경주마가 최대 속도로 운동하는 것을 습보(Gallop)라고 하는데, 습보를 할 때에 말과 기승자의 무게를 다리 하나로 지면에 닿고 있는 모습을 볼 수 있다. 이 때의 구절은 사지가 지면에 닿고 있는 정상 지세에서 보여 주는 각도에 비하여 과도하게 꺾여 있는 각도를 형성하며, 이 때의 힘의 전달 및 지지하는 일부를 신장된 굴건이 담당한다. 굴건은 이 때 발생되는 많은 에너지와 충격을 흡수한다. 이 충격과 에너지는 건에 미세한 손상을 축적시키게 되며, 과도한 충격은 굴건을 손상시킨다.
건은 기승자의 무게, 주로의 딱딱함, 그리고 주행 속도 등의 외부 인자에 영향을 받게 된다. 건에 충격을 주는 운동을 반복하게 되면, 굴건에는 에너지의 축적과 발산이 반복된다. 말의 천지 굴건에서 발생되는 열에 대한 조사에 의하면 습보시에 45℃가 기록되었다. 실험적으로 이 온도에서는 건세포(Tenocyte)가 견딜 수 있음을 보여주었지만, 종양 세포를 파괴시킬 수 있는 이 온도는 건세포의 대사과정을 방해하거나 건 세포외액 물질들에 대한 변성을 발생할 수 있다.
건을 현미경적인 구분으로 3가지 형태의 세포(Tenocyte)가 정상적인 말에게서 발견된다. TypeⅠ은 가늘고 납작한 핵을 가진 세포 형으로 독립적으로 존재하며, 이들 세포가 있는 조직은 전체적으로 잔잔하게 물결이 있는 모양을 보여준다. Type Ⅱ는 좀더 둥글고 굵은 형태로 옆 세포와 줄지어 나열되는 형태로 관찰되며, Type Ⅲ은 둥근 핵을 가지며, 연골세포 형태를 지니고 있다.
건은 주로 세포외 물질들로 이루어지며, 65%가 수분이며, 30%는 콜라겐(Collagen) 나머지 5%가 비콜라겐성 당단백질(Non-Collagenous Glycoproteins)이다. 어린 말에게서는 주로 콜라겐 사이에서 Type Ⅱ가 발견되나, 성장하면서 Type Ⅰ세포가 주로 보여지며, 콜라겐 섬유소(Collagen Fibrils)로 선형으로 관찰된다. 이런 콜라겐 섬유직들은 혈관과 신경이 존재하는 느슨한 결제 조직들에 의해서 분리된다. 압축력을 받는 구절 부위의 천지 및 심지 굴건에서는 연골과 같은 물질 및 Type Ⅲ가 많이 보인다. 대사활동은 명백히 밝혀지지 않았지만, 건의 세포외액을 유지하는 기능은 주로 Type Ⅱ와 Type Ⅲ 세포에 있다. 천지굴건 내의 세포수(數)는 말이 성장하면서 증가하나, 말의 성장이 끝나면 일정수준에서 유지된다. 대체적으로 세포가 적게 존재하는 중수골 중간부 부부의의 천기 굴건은 어린 말에 있어서도 세포수가 많지 않으며 성장에 비례하지 않는다. 이외에 건을 싸고 있는 막인 건초(Tendon Sheaths) 내에는 성장인자인 Transforming Growth Factor(TGF)-β 대사와 관련이 있는 여러 세포가 존재한다. TGF-β의 합성 및 분포는 말의 나이에 따라 달라지나, 어린 말 굴건내에서 가장 많이 관찰된다. 그러나 말의 근 골격계가 성장이 끝나면 감소되는데, 이는 건세포의 합성활동이 상대적으로 감소한 결과이다.
콜라겐은 건의 건조 무게의 80%를 차지하며, 이의 95% 이상이 콜라겐 Ⅰ형이다. Ⅱ형 콜라겐은 관절 연골 부위에 존재하며, Ⅲ형 콜라겐은 건 내부에 존재하는데, 말의 나이가 많아질수록 건의 중앙에 Ⅲ형 콜라겐 양이 증가한다. 또한 임상증상이 발현되지 않을 정도의 건 손상에서도 Ⅲ형 콜라겐이 증가한다.
비콜라겐성 당단백질에는 Cartilage Oligometric Matrix Protein(COMP)가 대부분을 차지하는데, 갓 출생된 망아지의 천지 굴건 중간부에서는 COMP가 아주 낮은 수치로 존재하지만 운동을 시킨 2세말에서 최대한 증가하며, 나이가 들수록 COMP 수치가 감소한다. COMP는 콜라겐 분자들을 결합시켜서 콜라겐 섬유소를 이루는 기능을 가지고 있는 것으로 가정되고 있다. COMP가 축적된 이후에 운동량을 줄여도 COMP 양은 큰 변화가 없다. 그러나 성장기에 운동량이 없으면 건에는 COMP 축적이 결핍된다. 골격근이 성장함에 따라, 건에 존재하는 COMP 수치와 건의 강도는 비례적인 상관관계가 있다. 성장기 말에 있어서의 건은 과도한 운동에 쉽게 손상을 입게 되며, 반면에 운동을 하지 않고 성장되는 말은 건의 발달에 제한이 있다.
콜라겐 섬유의 물결이 이는 모양에서의 파형 각이나 길이는 운동과 말의 나이와 함께 건의 중간부에서 가장 감소한다. 이는 굴건이 신장되었을 때 즉, 콜라겐 섬유가 쭉 펼쳐질 때 굴건의 중간부가 가장 파손되기 쉬운 부분이 될 수 있음을 나타낸다.
건의 혈액공급은 근육조직과 연결된 근위부와 관절내 골에 부착된 원위부, 그리고 건의 중간부에서는 건을 따라서 나란히 배열된 동맥과 정맥에서 문합으로 형성된 많은 혈관으로부터 비롯된다. 말의 천지 굴건은 허혈로 인한 병리학적 손상이 많은 것으로 보아, 천지 굴건에서는 이들 혈관이 중요하다. 과거에는 건에 대한 혈액공급은 빈약한 것으로 알고 있었으나, 1993년의 방사선 동위원소 조사에 의한 연구 결과에 의하면 천지 굴건으로의 혈액 공급은 휴식을 취하고 있는 말의 골격근에 공급되는 혈액 공급량과 비슷하다고 한다. 어린 말의 혈액공급은 성장이 끝난 말에 비하여 많으며, 3세 이후부터는 점점 감소한다. 운동을 하는 말에 있어서의 하중을 받고 있는 건은 혈량이 감소하지만, 하중을 받지 않은 상태에서는 혈액 공급은 200% 정도 증가한다. 손상을 입은 건은 다른 한 쪽 다리의 건의 손상을 입지 않아도 양쪽 건 모두 300% 이상의 혈량이 증가하게 된다. 이는 천지굴건 손상이 양축성 발생 성질이 있음을 나타내기도 한다.
굽 지세는 천지 굴건과 계인대에 미치는 하중에 대한 중요 인자이다. 뒷굽에 비하여 굽 앞을 낮추는 것, 또는 앞굽에 비하여 뒷굽을 높이는 것은 구보시에 심지 굴건에 대한 하중을 감소하고, 계인대 및 천지 굴건에 대한 부담을 증가시킬 수 있다. 더러브렛의 앞 발굽이 길고 뒷굽이 낮은 것은 천지 굴건염에 대한 방어에 도움이 된다.
경주마의 건염 발생은 말의 주행속도와 상관관계가 있다. 속도가 빠르면 천지 굴건에 대한 긴장도가 높아지게 된다. 바닥이 딱딱한 주로에서 말의 속도는 말굽이 푹푹 빠지는 주로에 비해서 빠르다. 따라서 마르고 딱딱한 주로에서 경주하는 말은 건염 발생률이 높아지게 된다.
나이가 많아지거나 천지굴건이 버틸 수 있는 한계치를 넘는 경주거리를 하는 경우에 건염 발생 가능성이 높아지게 되며, 체력이 소지된 경우에 결승선 가까이에서 천지 굴건에 전달된 최고의 하중을 견디지 못하여 천지 굴건염 발생 위험이 높게 된다. 외형적인 임상 증상이 없는 상태에서 천지굴건 내부 조직의 퇴행성 변형은 양측성으로 발전되어 천지 굴건염이 발생될 수 있으므로 예방조치를 위한 정기적인 초음파 검사가 필요하다.
2007/01/05 06:18 2007/01/05 06:18


1  Incisive bone (premaxillary) 2  Nasal bone 3  Maxillary bone 4  Mandible
5  Orbit 6  Frontal bone 7  Temporal fossa  8  Atlas
(first cervical vertebra)
9  Axis (2nd cervical vertebra 10  Cervical vertebrae
(7 inc. Atlas and Axis)
11  Scapular spine 12  Scapular cartilage
13  Scapula 14  Thoracic vertebrae
(18 of these)
15  Lumbar vertebrae
(6 of these
16  Tuber sacrale
17  Sacral vertebrae
(5 fused together - sacrum)
18  Coccygeal vertebrae 19  Shoulder joint 20  Ribs (18)
21  Costal arch 22  Tuber coxae 23  Ilium 24  Pubis
25  Hip joint 26  Femur
(greater trochanter)
27  Tuber ischii 28  Ischium
29  Femur, third trochanter 30  Femur 31  Humerla tuberosity, lateral 32  Humerus
33  Sternum 34  Olecranon 35  Costal cartilages 36  Femoral trochlea
37  Stifle joint 38  Patella 39  Elbow joint 40  Ulna
41  Radius 42  CArpus 43  Metacarpus 44  Fetlock joint
45  Coffin joint 46  Accessory carpal bone 47  Small metarcarpal bone
(splint bone)
48  Proximal sesamoid
49  First phalanx 50  Distal phalanx 51  Tibia 52  Talus
(tibial tarsas bone)
53  Small Metatarsal
(splint bone)
54  Metatarsus 55  Pastern joint 56  Fibula
57  Calcaneus
(fibular tarsal)
58  Tarsus 59  Middle Phalanx
(2nd phalanx)

1. Rectus Capitus Lateralis: allows the head to flex and incline side to side.
2. Splenius: allows the neck to bend.
3. Multifidus Cervicus (Deep): allows the neck to flex and the head to rotate to the opposite side.
4. Brachiocephalicus: permits the neck to bend, and move the shoulder forward.
5. Trapezius/Rhomboids (Deep): allows the shoulder to raise, and permits the scapula to draw upward, forward and backward.
6. Supraspinatus (Deep): permits the shoulder joint to extend.
7. Infraspinatus (Deep): allows the foreleg to rotate outward.
8. Deltoid: permits the shoulder joint to extend.
9. Tricep: permits the shoulder joint to flex.
10. Bicep and Anterior Pectoral: permits the foreleg to extend.
11. Serratus Thoracis: allows the trunk to be at the proper level when legs are planted.
12.  Posterior Pectoral: allows the foreleg to draw backward.
13.  Extensor Capri Radialis: permits the foreleg to bend and flex.
14.  Latissimus Dorsi: permits lateral bending.
15.  Longissimus Dorsi: allows the back to extend, and permits lateral bending. 
16. Intercostal: supports the ribcage and aids in respiration.
17. Oblique: allows the hind leg to draw under.
18. Rectus Abdominus: supports the back.
19. Gluteus: allows forward movement and hind end action.
20. Semimembranosus: permits the hock to extend.
21. Semitendinosus: permits the hip and the hock to extend.
22. Bicep Femoris: allows for extension of the hind leg, hip and hock, and bends the stifle.
23. Tensor Fascia Latae: allows the stifle to extend and the hip to flex.
24. & Fascia Latae: allows the stifle to extend and the hip to flex.
25. Long Digital Extensor: permits the hind leg to flex.


머이브리지의 연속사진

Distal Forelimb
Anatomical structure of the tendon system of the forelimb

From Sisson's 『Anatomy of the Domestic Animals』
From Sisson's 『Anatomy of the Domestic Animals』 Sisson's 『Anatomy of the Domestic Animals』

Skeleton of Eclipse
Skeleton of Phar Lap

Horse Conformation: Structure, Soundness, and Performance by Equine Research and Sherrie Engler : 사진도 많고 아주 설명이 잘 되어 있다. 입문서, 참고서로 쓰기에 훌륭함.

The Horse in Motion: The Anatomy and Physiology of Equine Locomotion by Sarah Pilliner, Samantha Elmhurst, and Zoe Davies : 이해하기 다소 힘들다. 마필 게이트별 운동원리가 설명되어있음.
2006/12/30 21:52 2006/12/30 21:52

Catapult Mechanism Animation
from the Royal Veterinary College.

Note: Click the titles to progress through the animation

Nature Vol. 421 (2003년 1월)자 기사를 참조할 것.

Native Dancer는 은퇴 직전 경기었던 1954년 5월 Metropolitan 경주에서 ‘LIFE’잡지 사진기자에 의해 측정된 그의 최대 보폭은 9Feet(884㎝)로, 키가 10㎝나 큰 Phar Lap이나 Man O’War보다 무려 60㎝ 이상 크고 일반 경주마의 평균치 700㎝와는 엄청난 차이를 보였다. 전문가들은 짧은 정강이뼈(Tibia)비절(Stifle)에서부터 엉덩이까지의 길이가 길어 강력한 추진력을 얻을 수 있었다고 분석했다.
2006/12/30 21:13 2006/12/30 21:13

말의 다리 : 특별한 사출 메커니즘
Horse legs : the special catapult mechanism
Jonathan Sarfati

  말의 다리는 아름다운 질주를 가능하게 하는 특별한 모습을 가지고 있다. 예를 들면, 말의 다리들은 질주 시에 에너지를 저장할 수 있도록 스카이콩콩(pogo sticks)처럼 작동되어진다. 영국 해트필드 왕립 수의과 대학의 알란 윌슨(Alan Wilson)이 이끄는 연구팀은 이전에 쓸모없다고 생각했던 모습이 중요한 기능을 가지고 있음을 보여주었다. 즉, 이전에는 진화의 쓸모없는 잔류물로 생각했던 어떤 작은 근육이 이제는 중요한 충격흡수 기능을 하는 것을 밝혀내었다.[1,2]

윌슨과 동료들의 더 깊은 연구에 의하면[3], 말의 다리는 튕겨지는 사출(catapult) 메커니즘도 가지고 있는 것으로 나타났다. 이것은 에너지가 큰 힘으로 천천히 저장되었다가 작은 질량을 가속화시키면서 빠르게 방출하는 것이다. 그러나 이 메커니즘이 스프링으로서 충분한 힘을 발휘하기 위해서, 그리고 그것을 방출시키기 위해서, 더 정교한 레버(lever), 또는 캠(cam) 시스템을 필요로 한다. 벼룩과 메뚜기도 또한 사출 시스템(catapult system)을 가지고 있다. 그러나 이것은 대형동물에서 발견되어진 첫 번째 사례이다.

말이 달릴 때, 발목뼈(carpus, 대게 무릎(knee)이라고 부르는)는 똑바로 잠겨(locks) 진다. 반면에 어깨는 앞 쪽으로 구부러진다. 이것은 매우 탄력적인 이두근(biceps muscle)을 잡아 늘인다. 결과적으로 발목뼈는 앞쪽으로 휘어졌다가 이두근을 스프링처럼 놓아준다. 이것은 다리를 앞쪽으로 튀겨내며 솟구치게 된다. 이렇게 이것은 다음 질주를 위해 땅을 딛게 되는 것이다. 이러한 근육의 사출 작용은 같은 무게의 비탄력성 근육에 비해 100 배 이상의 파워를 산출해 내는 것이다.[3]    

이 매우 효율적인 메커니즘은 잠겨짐, 시스템의 풀려짐, 완전한 스프링 근육 등이 모두 같이 동시에 존재하지 않는다면 전혀 작동되어질 수 없다. 이것은 진화론에 의하면 하나의 문제이다. 왜냐하면 작은 돌연변이들이 일어난 중간체는 전혀 유리하지 않았을 것이기 때문에, 자연선택은 그들을 선택하지 않았을 것이라는 것이다.    


1. Wilson, A.M., McGuigan, M.P., Su, A. and van den Bogert, A.J., Horses damp the spring in their step, Nature 414(6866):895~899, 20/27 December 2001; comment by Alexander, R.McN., Damper for bad vibrations, same issue, pp. 855?857.
2. Sarfati, J., Useless horse body parts? No way! Creation 24(3):24~25, 2002; after ref. 1.
3. Wilson, A.M., Watson, J.C. and Lichtwark, G.A., A catapult action for rapid limb protraction, Nature 421(6918):35~36, 2 January 2003.

*참조 :

1. 기능을 하지 못하는 중간체의 문제 : 진화론의 근본적인 결함

2. 진화가 눈을 만들 수 있을까? 절대 그럴 수 없다!

3. 눈먼 총잡이

4. 무질서와 복잡성

5. 무생물에서 생명체로의 순간적인 변화

6. 광합성의 진화에 대한 밝은 빛 1, 2

7. 바뀌고 있는 말의 진화 이야기

8. 말은 여우와 같은 작은 동물에서 진화했는가?

9. 얼룩말과 당나귀의 잡종

10. 라이거와 홀핀, 다음은 무엇?

11. 핀치새의 부리

12. 당신이 진화론에 대해 모를 수 있는 사실들

13. 진흙탕물 : 자연선택의 분명한 혼란

14. 자연선택

출처 : Creation 25(4):36, September 2003
번역자 : IT 사역위원회

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2006/12/30 20:54 2006/12/30 20:54