Q4) What should I look for in
front leg conformation?
Click on the image for a larger view
Ideally, when viewed from the side, you should be able to draw a straight line through the
center of the bones of the forearm, knee, cannon and bulb of the heel.
The front legs support 60-65% of the horse's weight. They
are more prone to stress and injury than the hind legs. Therefore, it is
important to have a well-muscled forearm and a straight limb.
The elbow is where the top of the leg joins the shoulder/girth
area. A hand should be able to slide in between the elbow and the horse's
Viewed from the side, the forearm should be wide and well-muscled. It's length
will indicate length of stride.
The knee should be large, flat and straight. The cannon bones should be short,
compared to the forearm. This increases stability and the length of
The tendons should be well defined and broad from the knee to
the fetlock. Tendons that are too light for the size of the horse are
"tied in" and appear cut in at the back of the knee.
The angle of the pastern should match that of the should
angle. the angle of the front of the hoof should march the pastern angle.
There are conformation faults which can affect the soundness of
the horse. When viewed from the side, the legs can be:
The front leg, from body to the ground, is set too far
forward. May be an indication of Navicular disease or laminitis.
The front leg is angled back. The horse
carries too much weight on the forehand. Results in shorter
stride with tendency to stumble.
Over at the knee
The knee appears to be buckled
forward. Produces greater strain on tendons and suspensory ligaments.
Slightly over at knee is not as serious as back at knee.
Calf kneed (back at knee)
The knee curves backward.
Produces strain on tendons, bones and ligaments. Knee chips and bowed
tendons are the result of calf knees.
The cannon should appear to be the same width from just below
the knee to just above the pastern. The tied-in leg shows the tendon
slanting in toward the knee. The flexor tendons are too close to the
cannon just below the knee.
Abnormal bony growths on the inside of the
cannon or splint bones. Caused by stress or injury. commonly caused by
overworking young horses. Fast work, hard stops, fast turns, jumping
on hard ground. Horses with bench knees are especially prone to
A bowed tendon is a tear or rupture of the flexor
tendon. The bowed appearance is the result of the scar tissue that
forms. Caused by long, weak pasterns, long toes, fatigue,
overexertion, improper shoeing or conformation defects.
When viewed from the front, the front legs should be
straight. A vertical line drawn from the point of the shoulder should fall
in the center of the knee, cannon, pastern and hoof. The front legs are
parallel with the feet pointing straight ahead. Deviations from this
standard are faults which affect gait, soundness and performance.
Click on the image for a larger view.
Look for these conformation faults when viewing the front legs:
The distance between feet on ground is wider
than between legs at chest. Horse places more weight on inside of
foot. The inside of the leg is under more strain. Gait shows
The distance between the feet at ground is narrower
that between the legs at chest level. Horse places more weight on
outside of foot causing fetlock and pastern strain.
The hooves turn out from center line.
Fault may start at forearm, knee or fetlock.
Usually associated with base narrow, toe
in faults. Places excess strain on knees.
- toes out
Closely placed feet and winging
gait will cause interference and plaiting. Plaiting gait can cause horse to
stumble. This is weak conformation that compromises the ability for
Bench knee (offset knee)
The cannon bone is not
centered in the knee. A congenital fault.
Pigeon-toed (toes in)
The hooves point inward.
Found in base narrow horses. Horses will paddle. May cause interference
and puts strain on the fetlock joint. Base narrow-toes in conformation
can cause windpuffs, ringbone and sidebone.
A deviation of the knee caused by growth
plate abnormalities. Causes excessive knee strain. Outward
rotation of cannon bone, fetlock and foot usually are present.
There are many excellent resources available.
In addition to the list below, visit the
Conformation area of the online catalog.