Fit for Purpose

Having finished feeling sorry for myself for my injured hand and horse(!), I am currently putting all my focus onto my Conformation Studies – looking at both static and dynamic conformations of a variety of horses, with the aim to ‘get an eye’ for correlations between posture/build/movement/behaviours and potential soreness or difficulty that the horse may then experience. In doing so, it is obviously very important to take into account the job that the owner expects their equine partner to fulfil – and clear to see where some matches are better than others!

It got me researching what owners actually should look for when searching for their ‘perfect’ horse. There is no single correct opinion on this, and certainly temperament, attitude and of course management of the horse will play perhaps a larger part in their successes and suitability. However, taking these factors out of the equation, what conformation traits make success in a particular job more likely? Let’s take a look at showjumpers first…

This is ‘Big Star’, the Olympic Show Jumping gold medallist, so clearly a fine candidate for analysis! A Warmblood, like many top show jumpers, he does have some clear conformational advantages that make him so good at his job:

  • long limbs, with proportionally shorter cannon to forearm – for longer stride/height
  • well-developed withers – for saddle/rider placement and allowing for uphill gaits
  • deep girth – for heart/lung expansion
  • mid-sloping shoulder, long humerus – for longer stride
  • wither-croup topline shorter than underline – for stronger back and better hindleg reach
  • long, convex neck topline, short underline with high chest tie-in – for neck flexibility
  • large, sloping hip – for greater power and reach
  • low stifle – for greater jumping scope
  • proportional head – for balance

Many of these are generally beneficial conformational traits for all disciplines, as they assist in the avoidance of injury – an unsound or sore horse is not likely to be a successful horse, as he will be both physically and mentally off-kilter.

Interestingly, having a ‘jumper’s bump’ or ‘hunter’s bump’ is still considered by some to be advantageous in a jumper, though in reality, where not merely a conformational anomaly, is often due to muscle or joint damage in the sacroiliac region.

In my next blog, I’ll take a look at Valegro, the king of dressage… 🙂


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