Select Page

Horse Conformation

An illustrated guide to evaluating horse conformation

What Is Conformation?

A horse’s conformation is the way a horse is built.

Good conformation improves movement and performance, allows for smoother gaits, and makes horses and ponies less likely to go lame.

Good Conformation

  • Large kind eyes
  • Wide Jaw
  • Large nostrils
  • Medium-length neck that is slightly arched
  • Long, sloping shoulder
  • Well-muscled back
  • Pasterns a medium length and slope
  • Large, kind eyes
  • Large nostrils
  • Slightly arched, medium length neck

Conformation Faults

  • Large course head
  • Small “pig eyes”
  • Narrow jaw
  • Small nostrils
  • Short neck
  • Dips on the top & bulges on the bottom (ewe neck)
  • Short, upright shoulders
  • High withers
  • Sway back
  • Goose rump
  • Tail set too low
  • Short, upright pasterns
  • Camped under hindlegs
  • Pasterns with too much slope

Ideal Horse Conformation

Balanced Horse Conformation

Balanced

A balanced horse body can be divided into three equal sections with it’s shoulder, barrel, and hindquarters.

Symmetrical horse conformation

Symmetrical

A horse’s body should be nearly identical side to side and front to back. To determine symmetry, look at the horse from the front and rear, and both left and right.

Equidistant horse conformation

Equidistant

The distance from the point of shoulder to the point of the buttocks should be equal to the distance from the top of the withers to the ground.

Level horse conformation

Level or Slightly Uphill

The horse’s withers should be level or slightly higher than his croup.

Level horse conformation

Square

Excluding the head and neck, the horse should be a square with equal lengths wide and tall.

Horse With Poor Conformation

Conformation Areas Covered

This guide covers some well documented tips for Ideal horse conformation. Click on the sections below to go to learn more about that horse part & play learning games.

Head

Horse Pastern angle correct

Front Legs

arched neck

Neck

Horse butts

Hind Legs

horse shoulder angle illustration

Shoulder

Pastern Angle Correct

Pasterns

horse shoulder angle illustration

Back

Parts of Horse Hoof Side View

Hooves

The Horse’s Head

A pretty or refined horse head shape should never be more important than how it effects overall balance or structural correctness.

The Horse’s Head Acts Like a Pendulum

The major purpose of the horse’s head, other than breathing, seeing, eating, and hearing, to serve as a pendulum to balance the horse as it moves. It is important for balance that the horse’s head is proportionally sized to the rest his body.

 

 

Head Shape & Size

Roman Nose

A horse with a Roman nose has a rounded outwards face profile as opposed to being a flat or dished profile. This usually does not affect the horse’s abilities other than it may  be considered unattractive and can add weight to the horse’s head.

When a horse’s head is too large and heavy, it can add additional weight to its front end and therefore may lack athletic ability.

Horse dished face

Dished Face

An overly dished head can interfere with the horse’s breathing and balance.

Eyes

It is preferable for horses to have large, dark eyes set far apart and to the outside of his head to allow for good vision.

A horse’s vision a different from humans. Human’s are predators that have evolved to have eyes on the front of their heads, while horse’s eyes are on the side of their heads so they can see nearly all around them as a way to keep a lookout for predators.

Horses use their left eye to see the left side of the their body, and their right eye to view the right side which is called monocular vision. They have more limited binocular vision (seeing the same picture directly in front of you using both eyes). Because of this, horses with small eyes or eyes that are too close together are faulted because their field of vision can be more limited.

Nostrils

A horse’s nostrils should be large and round to allow maximum intake of air when the horse is working hard and breathing heavily.

horse field of vision

A Horse's Field Of Vision

Horses are prey animals that scare easily and their first instinct is to run from potential predators. A horse’s eyes are located on the sides of his head so he can see all around him, although he has blind spots right in front of his face, and directly behind him.

The Horse’s Neck

The neck should be arched with the top of the neck longer than the bottom of the neck.

horse Neck Length

Length

For balance and agility, the neck be approximately one-third of the length of the horse.

arched neck

Arched

A horse’s neck that is considered ideal should be slightly arched and a medium length.

Throatlatch neck

Defined

The head should attach to the neck in a clearly defined way at the throatlatch, which allows for greater freedom of movement of the head and neck.

horse neck connection

Connected

The neck should connect to the horse’s chest just above the point of the shoulder and blend smoothly into the withers.

horse shoulder angle illustration

The Horse’s Shoulder

The ideal shoulder angle is approximately 45 degrees.

The slope of the shoulder directly influences the horse’s stride length and smoothness. Too straight of a shoulder causes the horse to not be able to easily extend its front legs and therefore have a very short, jarring stride. Horses with a nicely sloped shoulder have a free flowing, smooth, long stride since they are able to reach farther with their front legs.

 

Horse Front Leg Conformation

When viewing a horse from the front, there should be a straight line down the forearm to the center of the hoof.

horse front leg conformation correct

Correct

Straight line from the point of the shoulder through the middle of the hoof.

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Base Narrow

Conformation Fault

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Bow Legged

Conformation Fault

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Knock Kneed

Conformation Fault

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Pigeon Toed

Conformation Fault

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Splay Footed

Conformation Fault

Horse Front Leg Conformation Side View

When viewing a horse from the side, there should be a straight line down the forearm to the center of the hoof.

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Correct

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Calf Kneed

(Back at the knee)
Conformation Fault

Horse front leg conformation base narrow

Buck Kneed

(Over at the knee)
Conformation Fault

horse front legs

The Horse’s Back

A balanced horse’s topline should be shorter than the underline.

A longer topline indicates that the horse has a long, weak back which can lead to weak muscling. Longer back length can make it difficult for horses to bring their hind legs under their body when moving. The hind legs reaching under the body are the source of power for the horse to move forward, and also make the horse more adjustable to ride.

If a horse cannot bring his hind legs very far underneath his body, more weight is carried on the front legs. This can lead to a loss of maneuverability and a more jarring ride for the rider.

horse topline conformation

Topline

The horse’s topline should be shorter than the underline.

Horse Hind Leg Conformation

When viewing a horse from behind, there should be a straight line from the point of the buttocks down to the center of the hoof.

Horse Hind Leg Conformation Correct

Correct

Horse Hind Leg Conformation Narrow

Narrow

Conformation Fault

Horse Hind Leg Conformation Wid

Wide

Conformation Fault

Horse Hind Leg Conformation Bow Legged

Bow Legged

Conformation Fault

Horse Hind Leg Conformation Cow Hocked

Cow Hocked

Conformation Fault

When viewing a horse from the side, there should be a straight line from the point of the buttocks down the back of the leg.

Horse Hind Leg Conformation Correct

Correct

horse Hind Leg Conformation skeleton Camped Out

Camped Out

Conformation Fault
Horse hind leg conformation sickle hocked

Sickle Hocked

Conformation Fault
Horse Hind Leg Conformation Skeleton Post Legged

Post-Legged

Conformation Fault

Horse Hind Leg Conformation Matching Game

Drag the name that describes the conformation illustrated in each image.

Horse Pastern Conformation & Angles

When viewing a horse from the side, there should be an approximately 45 degree straight diagonal line through the pastern to the hoof.

Horse Pastern angle correct

Correct

Sloping Pastern Angle

Broken Behind

Sloping Pastern Angle

Sloping

Too much angle.

Sloping Pastern Angle

Broken Forward

Sloping Pastern Angle

Stumpy

Not enough angle.

Horse Hooves

Did you know the names of the parts of a horse’s hoof?

parts horse hoof
Parts Horse Hoof Underside

Normal Hoof Wearing a shoe

Normal horse hoof

balanced unbalanced horse hoof
horse hoof normal contracted heel

Allpony Horsemanship Quizzes

Advertisements

Get the word out about your business and support Allpony with your ad purchase. Learn more.

Ariat ad kid pony
hunter kids boots
state line tack logo
horse lover z