It is possible to make an evaluation of the conformation of the horse by profiling the individual with various measurements. When then examining and comparing these measurements (as illustrated below) it becomes evident if your horse ‘fits’ the necessary criteria for the chosen discipline. It is important to use this only as a guide as other important aspects of the horse have to be met to be right for each individual, such as age, sex and temperament, the latter of which is vital as this often facilitates the training (another crucial point to consider).
What is the ideal equine?
To decide if your horse conforms to the ideal image, a profile is needed which consists of photographs from all angles, past history and an accurate description plus the tables of the measurements.
- The tasks that you need to do:
- 1 – general description
- 2 – observation of conformation
- 3 – assessment
- Skeletal measurements
- The developed shape of the horse
- The feet
- Movement and action
- Mouth assessment
- Now the detailed measurements of the horse’s skeletal frame can be ascertained.
- Do not follow the contours of the body go from point to point. Use a stick to make right angles and measure in a straight line and enter your results in the table. Make sure your horse is on a flat surface and is standing squarely on all four legs.
- The measurements in the table should be equal in proportion (however some variations for different activities should be expected).
- The head is normally used as the standard, however one of the other measurements can be used if the head is larger than the others.
- The back measurement (C-D) is taken from the posterior angle of the scapula to the haunch and should be the same or similar to the ‘standard’ measurement. This tells us the weight bearing capacity of the horse. If the measurement C-D is longer than the standard the back may be weak.
- The measurement E-F is the depth of the body from the bottom of the wither to the bottom edge of the abdomen – remember to keep the line straight! This should also be the same as the ‘standard’ measurement.
- The stifle to hock (M-K) should also match the ‘standard’ measurement. Very long would show speed potential and shorter could help with greater elevation in the movements.
- The shoulder or scapula measurement (H-G) should match the ‘standard’ measurement
- Elbow to just above the fetlock (I-J) also needs to be in proportion to the ‘standard’.
- Hocks to the ground (K-L) should also be the same as the ‘standard’ if longer or shorter there is some weakness evident.
- The height (G-L) and length (N-O) should be equal to each other and should be two and a half times the standard.
Lines for profiling the horse
It is fun applying these rules to your own horse but also important to remember that if your horse does not quite match these criteria not to worry, especially if he/she does the work that you require with no ill effects. Also, when using the profiling for your horse, look also at the job that the horse was originally bred to do. If the horse is a thoroughbred then it was born to race and the conformation will be for that purpose even though there may have been adaptations in the workload and training for the new discipline.
|Height of horse|
|Stifle to hock M-K|
|Elbow to fetlock I-J|
|Hock to ground K-L|
|Croup height P-L|
|Thickness of head Q-U|
|Attachment of head|
|Front of wither to bottom of neck X-Y|
|Bottom of neck to throat Y-U|
|Haunch to point of buttock D-O|
|Point of buttock to stifle O-M|
How will the skeletal measurements affect the horse?
- If your horse lacks length in the hindquarters there will be a lack of power, however, the placement of the bones in relation to the rest of the body will influence the joints and can, therefore, compensate for this.
- The shoulder measurement (G-H) must be in proportion to the rest of the body so that the actions of front and back of the horse match.
- If the head (A-B) is out of proportion the rest of the ‘standards’ then the horse will compensate by having a strong and / or a short neck. This will help to carry the additional weight, especially in the slower paces.
- A horizontal neck placement will aid in speed but would not be easy to build the muscle needed for the more elevated paces.
- If the head is heavy and the neck long and thin (and low set) the horse will naturally work on the forehand.
- If your horse shows that he has a stifle to hock (M-K) measurement longer than the standard this will show that your horse will be good at galloping and jumping at speed (steeplechasers). With proportionally long hind limbs the horse may appear to be uneven or un-level in walk and trot and flexion and engagement can prove difficult.
- Be aware of the conformational limitations of your horse as the horse can become physically stressed when expectations of greatness in a discipline are near impossible because of his make and shape.
by Brenda Smith from https://www.agaso.co.uk/ (Equestrian Apparel)