Everything Else

Conformation – understanding your horse’s weaknesses and strengths.




Arthur in his best donkey pose

This is Arthur, he is a 10 year old 17hh Danish Warmblood who has been in work for 3 years and eventing at BE for 1 year.

The main issue with Arthur is he is over at the knee. You can see how his whole body looks slightly tilted forwards. It is better to be over at the knee than behind but its still something I am very aware of so I would never run him on the hard ground and I check his tendons meticulously. He has accumulated two massive splints which I put down to his being over at the knee just because of additional concussion.

He has good even feet but to add to being over at the knee he is pigeon toed. You can see it in this photo how they point slightly inwards. He moves straight but I get him shod wide in order to try and reduce the pressure that the additional weight because of the way he will naturally put more weight on the inside of his foot. I have had one or two bruises over the years under the shoe but being shod wider has really stopped this issue.

His neck is naturally inverted. Ideally I would want more of a rounded shape with less muscle underneath the neck but part of this is the way he goes (he shortens his neck) and is an onward issue to try and keep adding muscle to the top of his neck. When I have the chiro out he normally will have tightness through his neck just because of the way he holds it and any tension comes through his neck.  He is sightly upright in his shoulder and though he moves really well its a challenge to get him to use his shoulders properly. Its the same with jumping – he could be better though his shoulders.

He is short coupled and strong through his back. Arthur is built very uphill with a large wither. This means he gives you a great feeling to ride as always in front of you.

He has a well set croup but it has taken years for him to stop looking so flat across his bum because he is so long in the thigh. The point from his hock to his croup is very long which gives him loads of power but it has taken a long time for him to learn to sit behind.

He is straight in the hind leg which is pretty common in warmbloods. If you compared him with a TB you would see a real difference. I think in the past there used to be more hang ups about it than there are now.

Ultimately conformation does matter. Just like I think breeding matters. When looking at a horse to do a job you need to know they will be able to do it but they also need to want to do the job and looking on paper at the breeding and at their conformation will not tell you what is going in inside their head.

Hopefully we will be able to develop this series and even get some photos of 4* horses!







About the author


An amateur rider who produces all her own horses. I have competed at novice level and sadly never got further due to bad luck with horses but I am still ambitious to achieve a lot more. I have a riding qualification in UKCC2 and a diploma in NLP. Sports science and particularly the mental game fascinates me. For a day job I work for a large multinational brand.


  • Please don’t overlook the issue of ‘straight hock conformation’. Horses, especially sport horses, with straight hocks are predisposed to injury such as proximal suspensory desmitis.

  • This is really interesting, I often spend ages looking at my horse stood up trying to analyse his conf’ but other than the obvious things I’m not very adept at it. Have you thought about running a series where readers could send in pics of their horses for a confo critique?… I would be keen to hear your thoughts on my horse if you do….

  • There is a greater prevalence of hock problems and PSD in a straighter legged horse but I also believe that there are so many other circumstances that can cause the issue such as the way the horse has been kept when 4 years and under and the levels of work asked for as a young horse especially if they are big. I am personally very anti barn raised youngsters which is very common on the continent because I believe it can lead to issues when older. I think its one of the reasons that Irish horses who I feel are on the whole are more traditionally raised tend to be tougher. I would never have bought this horse based on his conformation but he has surpassed my expectations because of his brain and attitude. I also think being broken later (at 7) helped in my willingness to take him on because I knew he had been given the time to grow and develop.

    I do not profess myself to be a complete expert on conformation but please feel free to send in photos of horses stood up square with no tack on and I would be happy to offer a commentary.