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Frequently Asked Questions



Q2)  Does conformation affect performance?

One of the best ways to evaluate a horse's conformation is to stand it 'squared up' that is, at rest with all four legs underneath itself.  You can then examine all of the angles and proportions relative to itself and an ideal standard.  There are certain points of conformation that all breed experts agree should be within certain specifications.

An important aspect of performance ability is how the horse moves and how it carries out the intended task.  As riders, we desire that the horse move with agility, smoothness and perhaps elegance.  For some tasks, power is the most desirable characteristic, for others, speed is the most important quality.  

For example, in racing Quarter Horses, strong hindquarters and sturdy, straight legs outweigh a less than ideal head and neck.

A horse can be a tremendous athlete despite its structural shortcomings.  A horse's standing conformation may not have much to do with it's performance ability.  There is often more to performance success than conformation.  A horse must be fit and in good condition, with a sound mind and body.  The horse's willingness and 'heart' attitude may overcome a conformation flaw.

A horse with a particular conformation flaw in one area may have another area that compensates for that area.  For example, if a horse has upright shoulders - which makes for a rough gait because an upright shoulder won't absorb much impact - might have long pasterns which will absorb more shock than shorter pasterns and give a smoother ride.

A horse that travels light on its front end and participates in sports that require more power and strength from its hindquarters may never be affected by a slightly crooked front leg.

Performance conformation has more to do with how the horse moves overall and for what task the horse will be used.  It is important to consider these factors when selecting a horse for a specific performance or use.  Generally, most horses can be trained to do anything.  However, a particular conformation predisposes a horse to be better suited for specific types of disciplines or work.  Conversely, a  horse may have a particular flaw and still be used for a certain task.  In that case, the horse may develop a lameness issue because of that flaw.

There are many excellent resources available.  Visit the Conformation area of the online catalog for more.

Back to Conformation Index    

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