long backs and downhill vs. uphill questions

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long backs and downhill vs. uphill questions

This is a discussion on long backs and downhill vs. uphill questions within the Horse Colors and Genetics forums, part of the Horse Breeds, Breeding, and Genetics category

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    02-03-2011, 10:00 AM
Green Broke
long backs and downhill vs. uphill questions

Sorry mods if this is the wrong place...wasn't really sure where to stick this questions.

I am just curious about how to tell if a horse has too long of a back, as well as how to tell if a horse is built downhill or is built uphill. I can usually spot the obvious ones, like this mare that I use to own:

All though I don't think she was really that bad.

So how do you tell if a horse has the less than ideal back length? And what is the ideal back length?

Also, how do you tell if a horse is built uphill or downhill? Somebody mentioned to me that Blue is built downhill:

(less than flattering parked under picture)

Which is what got me thinking about all this stuff in the first place! Once again, I don't see it. I would think if he were built downhill I would feel like I was riding downhill, but I don't.

Can somebody explain?
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    02-03-2011, 11:03 AM
Pretty sure that the 'ideal' back should only take half of the body length (not including neck). It is measured from withers to the point of the croup.

In the first pic, he looks really down hill. See where his hip is, and compare that to where the top of his shoulder blade is. Note that the shoulder blade is not his withers, but below them. In the second pic, he looks fairly level to me :)
    02-03-2011, 02:32 PM

Just wanted to clarify how the back is measured
    02-03-2011, 02:33 PM
Originally Posted by Chiilaa    
Pretty sure that the 'ideal' back should only take half of the body length (not including neck). It is measured from withers to the point of the croup.

In the first pic, he looks really down hill. See where his hip is, and compare that to where the top of his shoulder blade is. Note that the shoulder blade is not his withers, but below them. In the second pic, he looks fairly level to me :)
Normally you divide the horse into thirds... Shoulder (front) is one third, Barrel (back) is one third, and hips (rear) is one third.

I am going to dig and see if I can find my pics I have to explain it better.
    02-03-2011, 02:49 PM
I think when people speak of the back, the loins are included. I mean, I think the back is measured from the point of the withers to the point of the hip.
More specidfically, it would be the back of the withers to the sacroiliac joint , where the spine enters the pelvis.
I think downhill is when the sacroiliac is higher than point of the withers.
That horse looks downhill to me, but have to measure on level ground, squared up. Is he the only horse you've been riding lately? If you've only been riding Qh's you may be so used to the downhill feel that you consider it normal.
The Appy I ride is downhill and he was the first downhill horse I ever rode and he felt really wierd to me. It still bothers my back to ride him for long stretches on trails going downhill.
Being built downhill is advantageous for sprinting and doing quick manuevers such as cow horses do. It is not so good for working in collection or for long distance running at speed.
    02-03-2011, 09:10 PM
My pony is built uphill, his withers aren't higher than his rump, but when you look at him, he has a higher neck set and carries himself in an arched, forward motion. He's a Friesian cross and certainly acts like one :)

I often ride a down-hill, though not severely, Foxtrotter gelding when I go trail riding at a friends place. Fantastic horse, really a joy to ride, but it kills my knees and back to ride him too long. That slight extra angle does a number.
    02-03-2011, 09:55 PM
Green Broke
First picture he was standing square on even ground, second picture he's still on the same ground, but standing kind of weird. Before this I was leasing a Anglo-Arab and I don't notice a difference between the two, ah well.

Thanks for explaining the two thirds, though to me I would think the normal horse would have less than a third in his rear, and more than 2/3rds in his back, shoulders, neck, and head...
    02-03-2011, 09:59 PM
Lol I think you misunderstood. Head and neck is not included in the front 3rd. Just shoulders and forelimbs.
    02-04-2011, 09:50 AM
The way NdAppy explained how to evaluate how a horse is put together is the way I learned also. The front, middle and rump for the ideal build, confromation will be of equal measurements.

The downhill horse is rump/coup higher than the withers. Quarter Horses are usually built downhill while the Thoroughbred is built uphill in that their withers are higher then the rump/coup. I use the QH and TB only as examples.
    02-07-2011, 11:59 PM
There are many ways in which a horse can be 'downhill'.

In most riding sports, it's sufficient if the horse's back is 'level'. This means that the back does not slope downward toward the withers. Some of this depends on the shape of the withers and croup, how well conditioned the horse is, etc. People often will, instead of looking to see if the back slopes downward toward the front of the horse, just look to see if the point of croup is higher than the withers. That's not quite as good as just being able to see if the back slopes down to the front.

The most obvious 'downhilled-ness' is that the horse's hind legs are longer than its forelegs. If you look at the horse from the side, stood on a level surface, you see that the stifle is much higher than the elbow.

ALL horses have the stifle very slightly higher than the elbow. The horse that has longer hind legs than forelegs, has a stifle that is markedly higher than the elbow.

In other words, his hind legs are, literally, longer than his front legs.

A lot of people will tell you that looking at the 'top line' is deceptive, and what you need to do to really tell downhill-ed-ness, is to look at and compare heights of stifle and elbow.

Every different riding sport has an amount of 'not so uphill-ed-ness' that it can work with.

For other riding sports, the amount of 'downhill-ed-ness' described above, would not work. For example, upper level dressage, a person goes into a lot more detail to see if the horse is even some much slighter amount of 'downhill' or even, if he is 'functionally downhill'.

This is a lot more subtle. For example, if a horse has heavy, loaded shoulders and a very small narrow hindquarter, he may have serious problems working at top levels of dressage, even though he passes the 'withers are taller than croup' test, even if he passes the 'stifle not too much higher than elbow' test.

Say he has a very long, heavy, low set neck. He may be 'functionally downhill' when he's in motion. - enough that being an upper level horse would be a really serious strain for him.

So in that sport, they will look a lot more, at how the horse functions in motion, to see if there are much more subtle types of 'not quite enough uphill' or 'not working uphill enough when in motion' are going on.

What is 'acceptable' really, really depends on what sort of work the horse is going to do. I see a great many 'downhill' horses in some horse show classes, and then not in others.

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