Monday, August 23, 2010

shoulder conformation

At the inspections this past weekend, the judge made an interesting comment. She was pointing out the strengths of one filly's conformation, and mentioned her lovely sloping shoulder. The filly's shoulder was at the ideal 45 degree slope and the judge said, "if this were a racehorse, this shoulder would be considered not ideal." She then went on to explain that a shoulder such as the one on the filly promoted lofty movement such as the type desirable in hunters and dressage, where the horse is expected to have as much "up" in their step as they do "forward", but in racing any time spent going up is wasted effort that could be put to good use as forward.

Up doesn't win the race, but forward sure does.

So then I got to wondering what the shoulders on some of the most famous and successful racehorses looked like, and the same for dressage horses.

Let's start with Lucy, who was neither a famous nor successful racehorse:

She has a fairly average shoulder, but seemingly no difficulty being light in the front end:

And then we have Secretariat, one of the greatest racehorses ever:

I would say his shoulder is fairly upright.

And lastly, we have Totilas, arguably one of the hottest young dressage stallions out there:

He really has the ideal slope in his shoulder and you can clearly see that he has no issues with "up"!

Now I know that the slope of the shoulder is only a small piece to a very large puzzle that makes up an equine athlete. What parts of the conformation of a horse do you think are most important? Do you think they vary by discipline? Is your horse conformed well for the discipline you ride?


  1. My horse is amazing. ;-)

    It really does vary by discipline. While I don't really understand the niceties of conformation within disciplines, I'm forever stunned by the difference between a 'nice' western horse and a 'nice' jumper. Really, then have almost nothing in common.

    Thanks for this. I like learning about conformation in a more detailed way.

  2. Izzy IS amazing! I think she has lovely conformation.

    The judge really knew her stuff (which I guess should be expected, but I was impressed!). She talked about how the elbow tied in on some of the horses and how one of the foals had a "tight" elbow that might not allow it to get its front end up over a big jump, no matter what the shoulder situation is.

    Of course there are exceptions to every rule, such as Seabiscuit, who had crooked legs and a small stature and he still beat the pants off of everyone else :D.


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