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Does your horse have good conformation? Is he toed out? Cow hocked? Are his knees over or under? Knowing your horse's faults can help you determine his structural weaknesses and figure out which events he is best suited for.
"Being structurally incorrect does not guarantee a horse won't be sound; but the vast majority of unsound horses are structurally incorrect," AQHA Judge Jim Heird, Ph.D. points out.
"It's as if the horse is unemployed, and you need to find him a job. A good conformation evaluation takes an honest look at a horse's physical attributes and how they could affect his ability to do a certain jobs. Then you add that evaluation to what you know about the horse's temperament and training before you make the hire."
AQHA's Form to Function e-book will give you clear instruction on how to evaluate a horse's conformation. Expertly narrated by Heird, using illustrations and photographs of real horses, Form to Function helps you to develop an eye for balance, structure and eye appeal. Learn important ratios for:
" Slope of the shoulder
" Heart girth
" Withers
" Hips
" Pasterns
" Cannon bones
The ability to accurately evaluate a horse's conformation is one of the most important skills that an expert horseman can have, so make sure you know what to look for.
Ultimately, Form to Function teaches the importance of seeing a horse as the sum of all its parts instead of picking out each individual fault.
"Anybody can find faults. One of the biggest problems we have in training people is getting them to add up the good in a horse, rather than just looking for faults," Heird said.
"When most people set out to evaluate a horse, they hunt for what they don't like. Instead, get into the habit of first looking for what's good about the horse."
"If people start from the negative, then all they see is what's wrong, and they will never find a horse they like. Train yourself to see what's good about the animal you're looking at first, and then you can look for any conformational issues that you can't live with in that horse," Heird advises.