Donerail Farm
Dressage and Sport Horses

From the May, 1989 Equus Magazine
"The Links of the Forelimb"
A Conformation Analysis
by Dr. Deb Bennet

This gelding is a fine individual with few flaws worth mentioning.  His pelvis (croup) could be a smidgen longer, and his withers could be better defined and could carry back a bit farther.  Everything else is on the positive side.  His back, which is no longer than necessary, is particularly pleasing.  The coupling – the lumbosacral joint between the last vertebra of the small of the back and the sacrum, the fused portion of the spine – is good. The lump that appears in the profile of the topline over the point of the hip is not a pathology, but the bulging gluteus medius muscle.  Development of this muscle indicates that the horse possesses vigorous, well-suspended gaits and jumping ability.  His muscular stifles – the joints of the upper hind leg – and gaskins – the leg muscles extending from the hocks up to the stifles – indicate strong, problem-free folding of all three hind-leg joints.  His large, well-structured hocks are “clean,” revealing that the energetic use of his “drive train” isn’t harming its structural components at all.

Correct use of the horse’s hindquarters has had its usual and predicable effect on the muscular devcelopment of the forequarter, too.  The shoulder is structurally upright and the neck is thick (from top to bottom) at the root; if this horse had been ridden badly, the lower portion of his neck would be thinner (from side to side).  There also would be a dip in the topline just in front of the withers and his neck would not look so arched.  Good riding and good movement have produced the best possible habitual posture in this gelding, and the best possible shape given the bone structure of his neck.

The fact that this gelding has an upright shoulder need not be thought of as “bad” construction, but rather one which lies at the upper end of a continuum of useful angles.  Steep shoulders, for example, contribute to a horse’s ability to lift or “snap” the knees when jumping.  The angle formed between the gelding’s shoulder blade and upper arm at the point of the shoulder is just 90 degrees.  The arm length is slightly more than half the length of the shoulder blade.  This is not the construction of an Olympic caliber open jumper or eventer, but one which nevertheless predisposes the gelding to pretty, safe performance over medium-sized obstacles.

The gelding’s single best feature is his front legs below the breast: his excellent knees, which are well-structured and placed low, lengthen the forearm and shorten the canon.  The pasterns, too, show ideal length and slope.  The hooves are the right size and correctly trimmed.

A note for the amateur photographer: this horse normally appears to be all white, but he has been photographed wringing wet, which not only makes his coat look shiny but guarantees that pigmentation contrasts in the skin show through his wet hair.  An overo paint, the horse also carries the gene for gray.