16 common conformation terms you should know, but probably don’t

  • Do you know your horse conformation phrases? Let’s find out…

    Horse conformation phrases

    1. Conformation, not confirmation
    Let’s get started with this common mistake!

    2. Back at the knee
    Also known as calf knee, a conformation fault where, when viewed from the side, the horse’s knee is behind an imaginary vertical line dropped down from the front and top of the foreleg. This fault tends to become more pronounced as the horse gets older and can lead to unsoundness through excessive strain on the tendons and ligaments.

    3. Over at the knee
    The opposite to back at the knee and not considered too bad a conformation fault — it is believed, in moderation, to be a bonus for the hunting/racing set as it reduces the strain put on the tendons. In dressage, however, it is deemed a fault.

    4. Bone
    At least “nine inches of bone” is desirable in a hunter — but many people have no idea what it means. You measure a horse’s bone around the cannon just below the knee and the bone should feel flat, not rounded.

    5. Bridle lame
    When a horse nods its head in trot, so it appears lame, but is not actually taking uneven steps with its legs. Often caused by poor riding when a jockey uses too much hand and too little leg, so the horse is not properly engaged.

    6. Butty
    A short-coupled, compact horse, often a cob type or a small hunter.

    7. Condition
    Some say synonymous with fat, but not necessarily the case! A horse in show condition will be round and well covered, but should not ripple with fat nor have bulges over its shoulders. Any judge worth his salt will be able to see through the blubber, which is often used to try to hide a multitude of sins.

    8. Curb
    A swelling at the back of the hock and just below it, often caused by a ligament strain and seen as a sign of weakness. A severe fault in showing circles.

    9. False curb
    Often mistaken for a real curb, but something else entirely. There’s no soft-tissue swelling and it should disappear when the hindleg is lifted. But it’s a conformation fault, which occurs when the head of the splint bone is enlarged.

    10. Ewe neck
    Sometimes referred to as an “upside down” neck and not, as some believe, the neck of a horse with poor condition. An animal with a true eweneck is physically incapable of working properly over its topline and will always carry his head too high and hollow his back. A dip remains in front of the withers and the muscles bulge on the underside.

    11. Swan neck
    The opposite of a ewe neck, with a pronounced curve on the topline, but still a conformation fault, as the horse will not go correctly and may hollow his back.

    12. Furnished/unfurnished
    Young horses are often said to be unfurnished because they haven’t yet filled out their frame.

    13. Lady waisted
    Although this sounds deceptively charming, it actually means that the horse is nipped in at the “waist”, or herring gutted like a greyhound!

    14. Leg at each corner
    Built solidly, like a table. Generally a good thing, but deemed “old fashioned” by some.

    15. Length of rein
    The distance between the rider’s hand and the bridle — or another way of saying long or short necked.

    16. Topline
    The horse’s topline includes the muscles over the neck, withers, back, loin and croup — from the side, his withers should be the same height or slightly higher than the croup.

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