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Q5)  What do I need to know about hind leg conformation?

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Click on picture to enlarge view.

The hindquarters produce the power and propulsion of the stride.  The hindquarters should have long, well-developed muscles.  The croup should be slightly rounded, neither too flat nor too sloped.  Length and width of the croup are important since the length of muscle provides speed and the width is associated with power.  The thigh and stifle should have long, well-developed muscles.  The gaskin is to be long and muscled on both the inside and outside.  A long gaskin increases the length of leg from hip to hock, allowing for maximum range of motion.  A short gaskin indicates a short strided horse.

The hock should be wide and smooth, free from puffy swelling or bony enlargements.  The angle of the hock is extremely important.  Too wide an angle leads to a hind leg too straight.  Too small of an angle results in a sickle-hocked conformation.

The cannon bone should be short, wide and flat.  Fetlocks are large and wide, free from swelling or windpuffs.  The pasterns are of moderate length with an angle of 50-55 degrees.

Look for the following conformation faults and unsoundnesses when viewing the hind legs from the side:

sickle hocks

The hocks are severely angled from the point of the hock to the fetlock. The horse appears to stand under from the hock down. Subjects horse to strain in hocks - causes curb, throughpin, and bog spavin. Sickle hocked horses tend to interfere at the trot. They are often cow-hocked, making for a severe hind leg deficit.

camped out

The hind leg is carried behind the vertical line from buttock to ground. This prevents the horse from getting its legs under itself for collection. Hunters and jumpers will have trouble pushing off over jumps.  Often associated with upright pasterns.

post legged

The hock is too straight.  Places increased stress on tendons and ligaments.  Bog spavin and patella injuries result.  The leg is easily injured by heavy work.

goose rumped

There is a lack of muscling on the croup.  Indicates lack of power and endurance.

flat croup

Associated with low striding action.  If too flat, the legs are carried too far back, limiting stride and power


This is a firm swelling abut 4" below the point of the hock at the back of the leg.  This is a strain of the ligament connecting the hind cannon to the hock.  Does not cause permanent lameness.

1.  bog spavin

This is a soft swelling located in front and to the inside of the hock.  Caused by injury to the hock or upright conformation of the hock.  Usually does not cause permanent lameness.

2.  capped hock

This is a swelling on the point of the hock caused by stall kicking or other injury.  Usually does not cause permanent lameness.

Conformation of the hind legs when viewed from the back:

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Click on the picture for a larger view.

You should be able to draw a straight line through the hocks, cannon bones and fetlocks from the point of the buttock to the ground.

Look for these conformation flaws when viewing the hind legs from the back:

base wide

This is not seen as often in the hind legs as it is the front legs.  Often associated with cow-hocked conformation.

base narrow

Most of the horse's weight is carried on the outside of the hooves.  The hocks bow outward during stride.  Horse will interfere.

bow legged

The hocks rotate outward.  Horse moves stiffly due to inflexible hock action.  Hindquarters are weak and the horse tires easily.

cow hocked

The hocks are pointed inward - feet pointed outward.  Places strain on inside of the leg and causes bone spavin.  Hind leg moves upward and outward - not straight ahead.  This is weak conformation.

hip down

This is a serious fault.  This usually indicates a fracture or other injury and will result in almost immediate lameness when the horse is put into training.

1.  throughpin

This is a soft swelling on the upper back portion of the hock at the back of the hind leg.  The ligament connecting the hind cannon to the hock is strained.  Does not usually cause permanent lameness.

2.  bone spavin


This is a bone growth on the hock and causes arthritis in the hock.  Sickle hocked horses are susceptible to bone spavin.  Horses experience pain when flexing the hock and permanent lameness usually results.

There are many excellent resources available.  In addition to the list below, visit the Conformation area of the online catalog.

Back to Conformation Index    

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