I have heard it said several times that many Thoroughbreds look like they are built uphill because of their high withers but are functionally downhill. Would someone please explain and provide some pictures of downhills that look uphill as compared to true uphill built horses? I'm interested in dressage and want to be able to evaluate OTTB's.
(Don't worry, I'm not about to buy one and try to train it on my own.)
To me, this guy has high withers but is kind of built downhill:
This guy is just plain downhill:
Most OTTBs are pretty heavy on the forehand and downhill movers when they first get off the track. They also tend to have no mouths since they are taught to brace and run through the bit. Keep in mind that some breeders who are looking to race their TBs also prefer a downhill build because they believe them to be faster. Most OTTBs will go through a transformation and depending how young they are, will grow a little as well (I've seen downhill 3 year olds off the track even out by the time they are 4 or 5). Look for evenly built OTTBs that trot out nicely and evenly with good bone, good strong backs, sound leg angles with a great mind and you will have a nice horse. With proper training, a well-built TB can be quite a lovely Dressage horse.
These guys are built a little bit more evenly balanced and uphill than the other guys:
I think they mean that most people think the withers being higher than the croup = up hill, when in fact it doesnt.
Anyway This is how I learned about 'functional, up hill' balance - An indication of an uphill horse is when the line between the widest point at the base of the horses neck (where spine intersects the shoulder) & the position of the hip joint (located approx 1/2 way between the point of hip & point of buttock), runs uphill, a down hill horse runs down hill & some horses are neither up or down hill & are level in balance.
See attached image below:)
However from the conformation clinics I've been to, being built "up hill" isn't as nearly important as 4 other key structural points. Lumbosacral joint placement, Stifle placement, Quarters shape & Pillar of support up front. These 4 key points allow for utilisation/transfer of power of the quarters, length of stride & ‘sitting' power, either allow for sustainable compression/loading or immediate compression & spring & forehand lift/elevation.
So just remember to take the whole horse & not just a single aspect of it into account :)