“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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Form Dictates Function - Equine conFORMation

Form dictates function, like begets like, or my personal favorite from an old "Dad always said" ad in the Quarter Horse Journal, “the best way to keep the dinks out of your colt herd is to keep their mothers away from your stud”. All references to the quality and conformation of horses.

This horse was used as an example of horses with nothing wrong but still sent to slaughter. He is not the type of horse I want to address in this blog. This type of horse obviously should never have been born. Another popular blog will expand about what is wrong with this horse. Belittle its breeders, owners, and anyone else who happened to come in contact with it, that would be pointing out the obvious as far I am concerned. It’s also pointless. This horse and his backyard owners are not going to impact future generations of horses and horsemen.
We read about descendants of one great sire or another yanked from the pens moments before loading on the slaughter truck. Those good names in a pedigree should guarantee the offspring will be quality horses with a bright future.
Most successful breeding programs are built around promotion within their specific breed and event. Racing, showing, and other events should sort out the best of the best. Only offspring of extremely talented, superbly bred, quality individuals should be used for breeding. The tricky part of this statement is quality individuals. Buyers, producers, breeders, judges, trainers, and promoters, seem to have developed the ability to look past some pretty obvious conformation faults if the right point earnings, pedigree, and promotion/owner are attached to a horse. The availability of genetic testing has even made it possible to pick a color.
There’s an old saying to the effect of no feet, no legs, no horse. It is true and it won’t be rewritten no matter how many points a horse earns in the show pen. A horse by very nature of physiology must remain ambulatory to be healthy and comfortable existing as a horse. That’s how important his legs and feet are to him.

This Halter colt has a lot of eye appeal and some pretty impressive parents.

Small boned, extremely upright forelegs ending in a teacup size hoof. It almost makes me hurt to think about the force this colts skeletal structure will endure as these upright bones deal with the shock from his hoof contacting the ground. His hind legs, while they will bear less stress through his lifetime, are really no better structurally. His hind leg is almost perfectly straight from stifle to hock and hock to the ground, causing his rear stride to be very short and abrupt. The combination of extremely straight legs and delicate bone will more than likely compromise this colt’s soundness at a much earlier age than normal.

This filly has better bone in relation to her size.
She is the foreleg other extreme of the first colt. She has too much angle in her pasterns. This will stress the joints, tendons, and ligaments. In the performance aspect she will more than likely have more knee and lower leg action than a more correctly conformed horse. She will have a better chance of remaining sound over the course of her life than the first young horse. This filly’s sire is an Equistat leading sire of pleasure horses.

The expensive show tack will not make this young horse any less sickle hocked. She is the rear leg opposit extreme.
The sickle hock occurs when the cannon bone comes out of the hock joint behind center and too great an angle. Both will compromise the future soundness and movement of the horses. This young filly is royally bred. She is slightly calf kneed but not to the extent it’s worth mentioning at this point. She is otherwise a fit, pretty, and well presented filly. She is also offered for sale by well promoted program.

Notice the difference in height of this bay gelding's elbow in relation to his stifle,
his hock height compared to his knee, and the length of his rear cannon compared to the fronts. The point of his shoulder is very low in his chest. While the combination of all of the above make this horse stay low in front which is very important in the rail disciplines, it also shifts his center of a balance. This shift forward in balance severely compromises this horse’s handiness. Again he is offered by a world class pleasure horse program.

I also came across this interesting bit of misinformation in an article about conformation faults.

This horse is sickle-hocked, where the hind legs are carried too far in underneath the body.
This conformation is actually desirable in reining horses, who have to almost sit down in their reining patterns and also in Tennessee Walkers, who take such large strides with their hind legs in the show ring.

Seen from the back, this horse is cow-hocked, where the hocks are close together.
Generally speaking, this is considered a fault, although in draft horses cow hocks are a desirable trait as it is thought this helps them pull loads.

*These faults may be considered desireable by a person who doesn't know the consequences of such faults or a person who doesn't care about the consequences but generally speaking a good horseman does not desire faults. Especially those that can and often do lead to future unsoundness.

http://equisearch.com/ Has a series of interesting articles as well as several of the Horse & Rider conformation clinic article series.

The industry professionals all seemed to agree on structural correctness as the most important factor in selecting horses. Well aligned joints, correct angles, short cannon bones attached to strong squarely made hocks and knees of equal distance from the ground. So with all this information how did we come up with the not so correct but well promoted horses above? Or the “desirable” faults mentioned in the clip taken from the same site as the opinions of correctness repeatedly voiced by industry professionals?
Form and structure are directly responsible for function and performance. We’ll work our way up from the legs but the legs are the foundation. We can go nowhere without them.

R.H 1


  1. very informative. the more correct information we have about conformation, the more informed decisions people can make when evaluating horses.

  2. Awesome blog you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I'd really like to be a part of group where I can get responses from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thank you!

    Review my site: coffee makers reviews

  3. It's an awesome piece of writing in favor of all the web people; they will obtain benefit from it I am sure.

    Here is my site: Www.40sl733g.de