Horse Conformation Analysis


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Brief overview of conformation analysis in the horse, courtesy of Washington State College of Veterinary Medicine.

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Horse Conformation Analysis

  2. 2. Figure 1. Anatomy of a horse. Forehead Face Bridge of nose Nostril Muzzle Upper lip Lower lip Under lip Throat latch Rump or croup Buttock Flank Stifle Gaskin Hock Fetlock Point of shoulder Chest Arm Elbow Forearm Knee Hoof Poll Crest Neck Shoulder Heart-girth Barrel Thigh Underline Cannon Fetlock joint Pastern Coronet Withers Back Loin Topline Point of hip
  3. 3. Conform ation analysis is the system atic com parison of one horse to another, and all horses to an ideal type for the breed or athletic pu rpose. One confor - m ation analysis system is known as BSMQTT: balance, stru ctu re, m u scling, qu ality, type, and travel. Start you r conform ation analysis by becom - ing fam iliar with the parts of the horse (Figu re 1). BALANCE The ideal light horse will be balanced, as determ ined by dividing it into three sections. Draw im aginary lin es separatin g the shou lder area, body, and hindqu arters. A horse can be divided equ ally only if it h as a lon g, sloping shou lder; short back with a corresponding long u nderline; and a long hip (Figu re 1). The head and neck shou ld not look excessively large or sm all when com pared with the rest of th e body. Th e legs sh ou ld be abou t th e sam e len gth as th e h eart girth. STRUCTURE HEAD & NECK The head and neck are im portant in determ ining the athletic ability of the horse. A su pple horse u ses its head and neck as a ru dder and stabilizer. Free head and neck m ovem ent has a profou nd influ ence on th e horse’s way of going. For a horse to be well balanced, the neck shou ld be long and lean with the head size in proportion to the rest of the body. Hea d Th e h ead sh ou ld follow th e type of th e breed, an d be fin ely ch iseled with good defin ition of th e bon y fram ework. The head should be triangular when viewed from the side; shou ld have large powerful jaws, and taper to the mu zzle. The profile should be a straight or slightly dished face as opposed to an arched or Roman nose. As viewed from the front, the forehead should be wide between the eyes, tapering to the muzzle. Neck The head shou ld attach to the neck in a m anner th at provides am ple m ovem ent and flexion withou t im pairin g of th e air passages. The throatlatch shou ld be clean, trim , well defined and capable of Horse Conformation Analysis L.A. Lawrence former Extension Equine Specialist Washington State University great flexion. A short, thick neck is often correlated with a thick, u nyielding throatlatch, incapable of flexion. In som e breeds, a slight arch or crest on top of the neck is desirable, bu t an excessive crest, th ick u pper neck, or broken crest (lop neck) are u ndesir - able becau se they can interfere with flexibility. A stallion shou ld carry m ore crest than a m are. A thick “stu ddy” neck on a m are is u su ally associated with a lack of fem inine appearance. The u n derlin e of the neck shou ld be straight and attach high on th e shou lder giving the appearance of a vertical chest. A con cave n eck, accom pan ied by a depression in fron t of th e with ers, is often accom pan ied by a th icken ed, rou n ded u n derlin e an d th is is term ed ewe n eck. Su ch n ecks u su ally resu lt in h igh - h eaded h orses th at h ave m in im al flexion at th e poll an d are lim ited ath letically. FOREQUARTERS Len gth of stride, sm ooth n ess of gait, sou n dn ess of legs, an d power of propu lsion depen d on th e stru ctu re of th e forequ arters. Th e fron t legs carry m ost of a h orse’s weigh t (60–65%). As a resu lt, m ost u n sou n dn esses from con cu ssion an d trau m a occu r in th e fron t legs (Figu re 2). 1 Figure 2. Skeletal front leg. COMMON TERMINOLOGY Shoulder blade Point of shoulder Arm Elbow Forearm Knee Cannon Fetlock joint Pastern Hoof ANATOMICAL NAMES Scapula Humerus Olecrannon Radius and ulna Carpus Metacarpal bones Sesamoid bones First and second phalanx Coffin or pedal bone (Third phalanx)
  4. 4. Th e two m ost critical aspects of forelim b con form a- tion are (1) th e slopes an d an gles of th e bon es wh ich absorb con cu ssion , an d (2) th e straigh tn ess an d tru en ess of lim bs, so th at n o on e segm en t receives u n u su al wear. Forequ arters con cu ssion is absorbed by: • th e u n iqu e m u scu lar attach m en t of th e forelim b to th e body; • th e slopin g sh ou lder blade (scapu la) an d, con se- qu en tly, th e an gle form ed between th e sh ou lder blade an d h u m eru s (arm ); • th e an gle between th e h u m eru s an d forearm ; • th e sm all bon es an d ten don s su rrou n din g th e carpu s; • th e slopin g sprin gy pastern ; • th e expan sion an d absorption m ech an ism of th e hoof. Should er The shou lder shou ld be long, sloping, and mu scu lar. It shou ld extend well into the back. The longer the shou lder the greater the area for attachment of the mu scles that tie the forelimb to the vertebral colu mn. The shou lder shou ld slope well into the back. This decreases the angle between the scapu la and hu m eru s and redu ces concu ssion. A sloping shou l- der also provides for free forward m otion of the lim b by allowing m axim u m length of stride. A short straight shou lder redu ces stride and increases im pact with th e grou nd. A straight shou lder is often associated with a short, straight pastern that fu rther shortens the stride and increases concu ssion. Ar m Th e h u m eru s or arm exten ds from poin t of sh ou l- der to th e elbow join t an d sh ou ld be m oderately lon g. Hu m eru s len gth is in tegral to th e len gth of th e stride. An excessively sh ort arm , with its accom pan yin g sh ort m u scles, will n ot advan ce th e forearm en ou gh an d th e stride will be sh orten ed. On th e oth er h an d, a lon g arm cau ses excessive wear to th e sh ou lder m u scles. Th e len gth of arm sh ou ld be in proportion to th e len gth of th e sh ou lder an d forearm . Th e len gth of th e arm determ in es wh eth er legs are set forward or back u n der th e body. Th e legs sh ou ld be set well forward. A lon g sh ou lder, sh ort arm , plu s lon g forearm an d sh ort can n on allows m axim u m stride exten sion . Forea rm Forelegs shou ld be straight and perpendicu lar when viewed from all directions. The forearm is form ed by th e fu sion of two bones, the radiu s and the u lna, and extends from the elbow to the knee (Figu re 2). It shou ld be long and well m u scled. Forearm length is im portant in determ ining stride length. Ca nnon Th e can n on sh ou ld be sh ort an d flat wh en viewed from th e side. It sh ou ld h ave tigh t, well defin ed ten don s set well back to give th e appearan ce of abu n dan t su pport below th e kn ees. Wh en viewed from th e fron t, th e can n on sh ou ld be cen tered in a straigh t, wide, clean kn ee. Rou n d appearin g can n on s an d ten don s tied in beh in d th e kn ee are u n desirable becau se th ey in dicate sm all ten don s an d lack of su pport. Knee or Ca rp us There are eight carpal bones arranged in two rows. Their fu nction is to bear weight and su pport the body. Kn ee sh ou ld be straigh t from both fron t an d side views—wide, deep, an d squ arely placed on th e leg (Figu res 3a & 4a). Devia tions of Knee Conform a tion (Figures 3 & 4 ) Bu ck-kn eed (3 b) ...................... over at kn ee Calf-kn eed (3 c) ........................ back at kn ee Knock-kneed (4 f) ..................... kn ee ben ds in Bow-kneed (bandy legged) (4c) ... knees bend out Ben ch -kn eed (4 e)..................... offset kn ee, can n on bon e n ot cen tered Fet lock Th e fetlock sh ou ld be set well back on pastern s of m ediu m len gth th at are stron g an d slopin g. Fetlock an d pastern togeth er provide sprin gin ess to th e gait an d also disperse con cu ssion . Rou gh en ed h air, 2 Figure 3. The front legs, side view. a. Ideal b. Buck-kneed c. Calf-kneed
  5. 5. n icks, an d scars on fetlock are eviden ce th at a h orse h its itself wh en in m otion . Th e join t sh ou ld be stron g, clean an d free from stiffn ess. Pa s t ern Both slope and length of pastern help determine smoothness, spring, and stride length. A pastern which is too long and sloping (coon footed) cau ses weakness becau se it pu ts u ndu e strain on the tendons, sesamoid bones, and su spensory ligament. On the other hand, a short u pright pastern increases concu ssion and trau ma to foot and fetlock (Figu re 5). Devia t ions of Pa s t er n a nd Foot Conform a t ion (Figures 4 & 6 ) Base-wide (6 ) ................ stan ds wide at th e grou n d Base-n arrow (6 ) ............ stan ds close at th e grou n d Toe in (4 g & 6 ).............. toes pointed inward (pigeon- toed); cau ses hooves to “paddle” to ou tside of midline when tracking Toe ou t (4 b, d & 6 )........ toes poin ted ou tward (splay-footed); cau ses hooves to “wing in” to inside of m idlin e; m ay resu lt in h orse h ittin g itself Hoof Th e h oof sh ou ld be in proportion to size of th e h orse; deep, wide an d open at th e h eel; an d free from cracks an d rin gs (Figu re 7). Th e h oof an gle sh ou ld be th e sam e as for th e pastern . Th e h oof an d pastern an gle sh ou ld n ot be broken (Figu re 5). Review Front Leg Th e forearm ties righ t in to cen ter of kn ee. Th e kn ee sh ou ld be flat an d facin g straigh t ah ead. Th e sh ort Figure 4. The front legs, front view. a. Ideal b. Splay-footed (chest wide) c. Bow-kneed d. Splay-footed (chest narrow) e. Bench-kneed f. Knock-kneed g. Pigeon-toed can n on bon e com es from cen ter of kn ee an d exten ds to cen ter of fetlock. Th e pastern sh ou ld com e from cen ter of fetlock an d drive in to cen ter of h oof. An y deviation m ay lead to lam en ess prob- lem s. A lin e dropped from sh ou lder sh ou ld bisect foreleg (forearm ), kn ee, can n on bon e, fetlock, an d drop 2 in ch es beh in d h eel (Figu re 3a). 3 a. Broken foot in which the foot axis (a) is less upright than the pastern axis (b) b. Broken foot in which the foot axis (a) is more upright than the pastern axis (b) (“coon foot”) A B A B Figure 5. Examples of abnormal conformation of pastern and hoof. c. Club foot d. Sloping foot
  6. 6. BODY Th e body is com posed of th e with ers, th orax, an d back. Its con form ation affects balan ce, capacity an d ath letic poten tial. Wit hers Th e with ers is th e h igh poin t of th e h orse’s back an d is located at th e base of th e n eck between th e sh ou lder blades (Figu re 1). Withers shou ld be prom inent and capable of holding a saddle. It sh ou ld be m u scu lar an d well defin ed at th e top an d exten d well in to th e back. Th e with ers serves as a fu lcru m over wh ich a ligam en t attach ed to th e vertebrae in th e back an d n eck acts to h elp raise an d lower th e h ead an d n eck. Horses with low, rou n d, th ick with ers often h ave rollin g gaits an d h eavy fron t en ds. A flat, m u tton with ers will n ot h old th e saddle in place. Wh en th e withers is prominent, the ligaments and mu scles that attach the neck to the thorax move freely and the horse exhibits greater flexibility, coordination, and energy in its movement. High, sloping withers with long sloping shou lders increases the length of mu scles in the front end and resu lts in freer action. It sh ou ld be em ph asized th at a prom in en t with ers sh ou ld be accom pan ied by m u sclin g becau se a th in , over -prom in en t with ers is often ru bbed by th e saddle an d resu lts in stiffn ess an d soren ess. Thora x Wh en viewed from th e fron t, th e ch est sh ou ld be wide an d deep. A n arrow ch est in dicates lack of m u sclin g an d area for th e h eart an d lu n gs. How- ever, an excessively wide ch est forces th e legs ou t, so th e gait m ay be rollin g an d labored. From th e side, th e th orax sh ou ld be deep. Th is region con tain s lu n gs an d h eart an d m u st sh ow capacity. Th e rib cage provides a base for attach in g forelim b m u scles as well as protectin g th e vital organ s. Wh en th e ribs are arch ed an d project backward, it is possible for th e h orse to h ave a lon g, deep ch est an d u n derlin e an d still h ave a sh ort straigh t, stron g back (Figu re 1). Sh ort, flat, straigh t ribs decrease th e lu n g area of th e h orse an d redu ce ath letic poten tial. Th ese h orses are term ed slab-sided. Ba ck Th e back exten ds from with ers to loin or last rib (Figu re 1). It sh ou ld be sh ort, straigh t, stron g an d m u scu lar. Avoid a saggin g or swaybacked h orse. Man y lon g-backed h orses becom e swayback with age if n ot properly con dition ed. 4 Figure 6. Path of feet as seen from above. Normal feet move forward in a straight line Base-wide feet move forward in inward arcs—”winging” Splayed feet move forward in larger inward arcs— ”winging” Base-narrow feet move forward in outward arcs— ”paddling” “Pigeon-toed” feet move forward in wider outward arcs—”paddling”
  7. 7. HINDQUARTERS The conform ation of the hindqu arters (Figu re 8) will have a dram atic effect on athletic ability becau se of th eir im portance in propelling the horse forward. Croup Th e slope of th e crou p h as a stron g correlation with th e h orse’s fu n ction . Lon g distan ce or en du r - an ce h orses h ave a level crou p. Sh ort distan ce, speed h orses h ave a sligh tly slopin g crou p. A very sh ort, steep crou p is associated with straigh t h in d legs (post-legged; Figu re 9g) an d predisposes th e h orse to con cu ssion in ju ry in th e h ock. Fem ur Th e fem u r sh ou ld be sh ort with th e stifle poin ted sligh tly ou tward so th ere will be a fu ll ran ge of m ovem en t for th e h in d legs. If the femur is carried too far to the rear, the legs are carried too far backward. This is called “camped out” (Figure 9f). If it is carried too far forward, the legs are brought under the body. This is called “camped under” or “sickle-hocked” (Figure 9e). When a horse is camped-under the angle of the hocks place undue strain on the hind legs (particularly the planter liga- ments), and can lead to unsoundness called “curb.” Tibia Th e ideal h orse h as a lon g tibia (gaskin ) an d sh ort can n on with low-set h ocks. Th is allows th e h orse to work off of its h ocks an d provides th e m axim u m stride exten sion . Hock If the hock is raised and the tibia shortened, cu sh- ion is redu ced and perform ance can be lim ited. Th e h ock sh ou ld be clean , h avin g n o soft tissu e swellin g or bon y projection s. It sh ou ld be well- defin ed an d powerfu l. Th e an gle of th is join t sh ou ld allow th e h in d leg to exten d an d flex du rin g m otion an d offer th e least am ou n t of stress to th is colu m n of bon es. Devia t ions of Hind -Leg Conform a t ion (Figure 9 ) Bandy -legged (9 b) • Wide at h ocks • Bowlegged • Rotates h ocks in a grin din g m otion 5 a. b. Figure 7. Appearance of a normal foot (a) compared to one with contracted heels (b). Quarter Bulbs of the heels Bars Frog Sole White line Hoof wall Toe Contracted heel Heel Figure 8. Skeletal hind leg. COMMON TERMINOLOGY Hip Hip joint Thigh Stifle Gaskin Hock joint Cannon Fetlock Pastern Hoof ANATOMICAL NAMES Femur Fibula Tibia Tarsus Metatarsals Sesamoid bones First and second phalanx Navicular or shuttle bone Coffin or pedal bone (Third phalanx)
  8. 8. Cow -hock ed (9 c) • Close at h ocks • Toes poin t ou t excessively • Stress on ou tside of h ocks Sick le-hock ed (9 e) • Wears join t ou t from fatigu e • Redu ced stride • Places stress on plan tar ligam en ts in rear of h ock Pos t-legged (9 g) • Cau ses con cu ssion in h ock, predisposin g h orse to stifle problem s an d bon e spavin s • Pou n din g breaks down lu bricatin g flu id in h ock Pa s t ern Th e pastern of th e h in d legs m ay be sligh tly lon ger th an th e fron t pastern an d will slope at a greater an gle. Hoof Th e h oof of th e h in d legs is sloped, sligh tly m ore th an th e forefoot. Th e an gle of th e h oof an d pastern sh ou ld be equ al. Review Hind Leg A plu m lin e dropped from poin t of bu ttocks sh ou ld tou ch rear border of th e h ock, ru n parallel to can n on an d strike th e grou n d 3–4 in ch es beh in d th e h eel (Figu re 9d). From th e rear, th e lin e sh ou ld bisect h ock, can n on , pastern an d h eel (Figu re 9a). MUSCLING Mu scle is th e powerh ou se of a h orse. It also adds su pport to h orse’s skeleton an d stren gth to its join ts. J u dge m u scling by length, thickness, and distribu - tion. Look for long, sm ooth, well-defined m u sclin g. Everything abou t the m u scle stru ctu re shou ld reflect speed, power, en du ran ce, an d ath letic ability. Neck Mu sclin g in th e n eck sh ou ld be lon g an d lean . Ches t Mu sclin g in th e ch est sh ou ld be prom in en t an d h ave a well “V”ed-u p appearan ce, particu larly in stock-type h orses. Ar m Th e arm sh ou ld be h eavily m u scled for stren gth an d su pport. Forea rm Th e forearm sh ou ld sh ow prom in en t m u sclin g th at ties in low an d flat on th e kn ees. Ba ck Th e back carries th e weigh t of rider. It m u st be m oderate, stron g, straigh t, an d m u scu lar. Back len gth m u st be m oderate; if too lon g, th e back will be weak; if too sh ort th ere m ay be overridin g or in terferen ce of th e vertebrae of th e back. Loin Th e loin , or cou plin g, con n ects th e th ora x with th e power fu l propu ls ion m u s cles of th e h in d lim bs . Th e loin tra n s m its power to th e forequ a r - ters a n d s o it m u s t be s h ort, wide, s tron g, a n d h ea vily m u s cled. A h orse th at is weak in cou plin g an d sh allow in th e flan k is term ed h ou n d-gu tted, or wasp-waisted, an d lacks drive. Do n ot be m isled by a h igh ly con dition ed h orse th at is well tu cked u p. 6 a. Ideal b. Bandy-legged c. Cow-hocked d. Ideal e. Sickle-hocked f. Camped-out g. Post-legged (camped-under) Figure 9. The rear legs, rear and side views.
  9. 9. 7 Hind qua rt ers Th e h in dqu arters are th e en gin e of th e h orse. Th e m ain role of th e h in dqu arters is to provide th e force for propu lsion . Look for th e th ree dim en sion s. 1. Len gth of crou p (loin to tail) 2. Width from stifle to stifle 3. Depth from top of th e crou p down th rou gh h ock Crou p sh ou ld be lon g, u n iform in width , m u scu lar, an d even ly tu rn ed over th e top. Mu scle len gth is associated with speed an d en du ran ce; width is associated with stren gth or power. Measu re len gth of crou p from th e poin t of th e h ip to th e poin t of th e bu ttocks (Figu re 1). Hind Leg Th e ideal h orse h as lon g sm ooth prom in en t m u s- clin g th rou gh th e th igh , stifle, an d gaskin . Th igh m u scles are th e m ost m assive an d powerfu l in th e h orse’s body. Th e stifle sh ou ld be m u scled so it is th e widest poin t in th e h in dqu arters. Th e gaskin sh ou ld be lon g an d well-m u scled. Th e distan ce from th e crou p to th e h ock is associated with speed an d desirability in form . A lon g gaskin en su res a m axim u m ran ge of action an d provides m axim u m area for attach in g th e h in dqu arters drive m u scles. A sh ort gaskin decreases len gth of stride. Gaskin m u sclin g sh ou ld be well-defin ed, broad, wide, deep, an d tie in low an d flat on th e h ock. QUALITY Qu ality is th e degree of refin em en t of h air, skin , bon es, an d join ts. Th e m an e an d tail sh ou ld be fu ll an d th e h air sh ou ld n ot be coarse or rou gh . Excess h air at th e ch in , th roat, ears, an d legs in dicates a lack of qu ality. Refin em en t of th e skin resu lts in a th in , pliable skin u n der wh ich ten don s an d blood vessels can easily be observed. A th icken ed, pu ffy appearan ce in th e h ead an d soft rou n d can n on bon es m ay in dicate coarsen ess in th e h orse. TYPE The “type” refers to a set of characteristics for a breed or particu lar athletic pu rpose of a horse. Some breed and athletic characteristics are listed below: Ara bia n • Beau tifu l h eads • Large rou n d eyes • Broad foreh ead • Dish ed face • Fin e m u zzles • Head set neatly on a well-arched neck (swan shaped) • Flat crou p • Legs refin ed, s h owin g qu a lity, a ppea rin g fla t with ten don defin ition • Pa s ter n m ore s loped, providin g a s prin gy stride • Moves with an im ation , presen ce, an d th e tail is carried in th e air—straigh t Hunt er • Deep ch est an d sprin g of rib, in dicatin g capacity • Lon g, sm ooth , powerfu l m u scles th rou gh ou t body • Head relatively sh ort an d straigh t • Clean in th e th roatlatch an d lon g slen der n eck • Qu ality an d sou n dn ess of u n derpin n in g is a m u st for th e h u n ter • An exception al m over with lon g, grou n d-coverin g strides St ock Hors e • Head reflects alert in telligen ce • Sh ort h ead, broad between th e eyes an d sm all alert ears • J a ws m a s s ive—s prea d wide a pa rt givin g th e im pression of great stren gth • Back sh ort, close cou pled • Sm ooth , prom in en t m u s clin g in ch es t, fore- a r m s , back, loin , an d h in dqu arters • Mu sclin g is distin ctive an d easily recogn ized • Moves ou t freely with grou n d coverin g strides TRAVEL Th e h orse sh ou ld travel balan ced with in its fram e an d m ove with lon g grou n d-coverin g strides. Th e followin g term s refer to travel ch aracteristics: Rhy thm—regu larity of foot fall or period of foot fall Tem po—speed m easu red in m eters per m in u te Cadence—rh yth m an d im pu lsion in th e gait Im puls ion—closin g h ip join t en gagin g h ocks u n der m ass of h orse, allows h orse to cover grou n d ac- cordin g to th e en ergy of lim b exten sion Collection—on th e bit, h ocks u n der h orse, h ead flexed, fu ll con trol over lim bs, jaws relaxed, respon - sive to rider, collection n ot ten se, im posed position , relaxed an d elastic Free w alk—relaxed pace; lower h ead; relaxed, stretch ed n eck
  10. 10. Collected w alk —on th e bit, m oves forward, n eck raised an d arch ed, h ead approach es vertical, ligh t con tact, sh orter steps Extended w alk—h in d feet tou ch grou n d clearly in fron t of fron t feet, stretch es h ead an d n eck Work ing trot—between collected an d exten ded, n ot ready for collected m ovem en ts, on bit, even an d elastic steps, good h ock action Collected trot—on th e bit, n eck raised an d arch ed, h ocks well en gaged, m ain tain s en ergetic im pu lsion , sh ou lders m ove with ease, sh orten ed steps Extended trot—covers as m u ch grou n d as possible, m ain tain s rh yth m , len gth en s steps becau se of im pu lsion from th e h in dqu arters 8
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  12. 12. Issu ed by Wash in gton State Un iversity Exten sion an d th e U.S. Departm en t of Agricu ltu re in fu rth er - an ce of th e Acts of May 8 an d J u n e 30, 1914. Exten sion program s an d policies are con sisten t with federal an d state laws an d regu lation s on n on discrim in ation regardin g race, sex, religion , age, color, creed, n ation al or eth n ic origin ; ph ysical, m en tal or sen sory disability; m arital statu s; sexu al orien ta- tion ; an d statu s as a Vietn am -era or disabled veteran . Eviden ce of n on com plian ce m ay be reported th rou gh you r local Exten sion office. Reprin ted May 2006. Su bject Code 160. EB1 6 1 3