“The greatest deterrent
to freedom are men and women of zeal, well-meaning, but
without knowledge or understanding.”
~Justice Louis Brandeis~

"People are so quick to defend their own agendas, but they so often fail to realize we must protect the rights of all if we are to continue to have any rights of our own."

Ranch meaning, in general, any real world dwelling probably not involving full care board. Kind of a rural voice of real horse owners, trainers, traders, auction owners, rodeo contractors, etc.. all of us who have taken a verbal beating and called greedy ass hats. Back at the Ranch contributors, moderators, subjects, and so on, are pro-horse, pro-owner, and pro-slaughter.
Back at the Ranch was formed by a group of like minded horse / livestock owners. It is a place for us to try to educate, a place to vent our frustrations with the current equine industry, a place to share humor and snark, and in general try to open the eyes of the public who seem to be anti-agriculture.We do have a section for comments of course, and if you would like to email us you can do so directly or through the contact us form. We like to hear from our readers. I hope you enjoy reading our blog as much as I enjoy managing it.
Ranch Manager

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Conformation 2 - Balance

Balance is a key characteristic in any breed. To check for balance, I divide a horse's body into three sections: from poll to point of withers, from point of withers to loins, and from loins to point of buttocks. If these sections are equal in length and muscling, the horse has balance and evenly distributed muscling. I also want a horse's withers to be level with--or higher than--his hips for hindquarters propulsion.
As for correct structure, I look for properly aligned front legs; well-sloped pasterns; and well-angled, lowset hocks. When a horse possesses both balance and correct leg structure, his conformation meets the form-to-function standard. That means he should be a good mover and able to withstand demanding events without developing soundness problems.

This is a quote from a conformation clinic article written by Patti Carter. This same basic statement in one form or another is echoed by each professional asked to take part in the Horse & Rider/Practical Horseman conformation clinics. I agree with them completely. Most horsemen have list of conformation shortcomings they can or can’t forgive in a horse. As we move away from the generation of horsemen who not only needed an individual to go to the track, show ring, or rodeo arena on the weekends but could work for a living at home during the week we seem to be losing site of the importance of structural balance and how it relates to long term soundness in our horses.

This pretty colored filly is bred to go low and slow. She will most likely do that. She has an in style pedigree, great color, and virtually no shoulder. It ties into her back almost directly above her foreleg. She will absorb both her own weigh and her rider’s almost directly up through her leg bones. If this filly were squared up as she should be we could see how disproportioned her rear legs are when compared to her front. She looks as though she would “drive” her forelegs into the ground with every stride. Makes ‘em low and slow but also makes them unhandy and predisposed for front end problems. This filly is young and will even up some as she matures but the length of the leg bones doesn’t change all that much. Hence the ball park accuracy of the “string test” for mature height.

This bay filly has the same basic shoulder/hip conformation as the first filly. In spite of the same straight, steep shoulder, forelegs, long back, and short hip she is better balanced. The first filly does have a better set of withers. The more even length of her front cannon bones as compared to the back places her knees and hocks roughly the same distance off the ground. The length of her forearm compared to the length of her gaskin is better also. We dealt with legs earlier but I have to come back to them here. She has upright long boned legs with the tendons tying into the knee very close to the cannon bone, this was referred to as tied in tendons and was considered a conformational fault when I was being schooled. Generally speaking, the closer to the ground a horse’s knees and hocks, the closer to the ground his center of gravity, the handier and more agile he is. She is a very fashionably bred and connected hunt seat filly.

Bob Loomis explains balance using the trapezoid. I learned this theory years ago as balance triangles. The principle is still the same. It uses the trapezoid to illustrate the importance of equal angles in the shoulder and hip connected with a short strong back.

The horse’s body is again divided into thirds. The first third is point of shoulder to elbow. Second third is point of elbow to point of stifle. Third is point of stifle to buttock. This is the bottom line. The poll to wither should be the same length, as the point of shoulder to the point of withers. The withers to the point of hip should be the same length as the neck, the shoulder to withers, and the hip to the buttock. This was explained to me as a 4-H kid (back when the wheel was square) was in the form of three equilateral triangles. There should be three equilateral triangles in a balanced horse, two upright and one inverted. The point of shoulder to the point of withers to center of the bottom line, the other upright triangle is the point of hip to the buttock to center of the bottom line. The inverted triangle’s point is formed at the center balance in the horse’s bottom line. Its two sides by the lines from point of wither to center of bottom line to the point of hip and it’s top by the length of the back from wither to hip. In my humble opinion the closer to the center of the bottom line (center of the horse) the horse carries the weight of his rider and his own center of balance the better he is going to “feel” to me.

The good legs we were looking for last time should be under this balanced body to make a horse with functionally correct conformation. The length of the total parts change from a 16.2 hand horse as opposed to a 14.2 horse but the correct proportional ratios stay the same.


  1. Another good conformation post! Keep up the good work.

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