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RE: [RC] [RC] Horse conformation - Jennifer Adam

Hi! You'll probably get many different answers to this question as I think everyone has their own personal preference, but I can share what I use to select and judge my horses or potential horses. I'm just starting in endurance, but my horses get ridden all over the farm all the time, so they have to be athletic. :) I've also taught horse selection and evaluation for 4H and FFA. :)

First of all - although this doesn't have much to do with actual conformation - I look at the horse's eye. I like a bright, spirited, intelligent expression. A kind eye is always good, but I like a horse with spirit (I adopt mustangs) so I look for a horse that has a certain proud, confident expression. Not aggressive, overly fearful, or timid. Not mean or stubborn.

I like a deep chest, but not too broad. A cowboy (I mean a real cowboy - works 10,000 + head in Wyoming) once told me that a horse with "staying power" has a deep upside down V right between his front legs. If that chest is too broad, the horse is probably strong but will peter out. I also like a horse with good ribs - a horse that is "slab sided" with flat ribs doesn't have much room for those ribs to expand when breathing. But at the same time, a horse that is too barrel shaped may have troubles cooling as rapidly as a leaner shaped horse.

I like straight legs and really good feet. I like a nice, medium to long neck. I'd rather go longer than shorter in the neck, but that's my own personal opinion and experience. I like a medium back - IMHO, a back that is too short can contribute to sore loins if the saddle doesn't fit *perfectly* and I feel that it limits a horse's ability to move out really smoothly - but that's just my own experience from comparing just a few horses. I"m sure others have a different opinion. I wouldn't want a back that was too long because a long back is weaker, but I'm a featherweight and I've never had a horse with a sore back so I don't worry too much about it.

I like a sloping shoulder, good withers, a nice croup, and a good gaskin for strength. Most of all I look for balance, symmetry, and uniformity. I like the angles to match and everything to tie in nicely.

Although "perfect" conformation doesn't guarantee a horse will excell in endurance, I think it can certainly eliminate or minimize some of the risks of injury, lameness, and poor performance.

Some good books to read: The Horse Conformation Handbook by Heather Smith Thomas and Horse Conformation: Structure, Soundness, and Performance from Equine Research.

Jen Adam - hoping my careful choices lead to success on the trails! :)

What should I look for as far as conformation? I know the back is important, as well as good feet. But after that, I'm clueless.

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[RC] Horse conformation, Burnett, Elly