"with the poll even with the withers"
Only for stock/Western horses.
Each type of riding, there's a different idea about how to pose for conformation - the pose emphasizes the traits each riding sport wants.
"he is sickle hocked"
"he is cow hocked"
Many stock breeders say they want their horses to be slightly cow-hocked.
There isn't any way to tell though, from those pictures.
In fact, the best way to evaluate a horse's conformation is not from photos, but in person. Photos really can distort things, and it's awfully hard to take a good photo. A horse can be caught standing in an awkward position and you may think it's got some fault when it does not.
Too, a lot depends on the skill of the photographer. If the camera is held too high, it makes the horse's legs look shorter. If held too low, it makes the legs look longer. A slight angle can make a hind quarter look massive when it's not. A photo from the front can make the head look like it's abnormally large.
Pose affects how the photo reads too. A high head carriage can drop the back, making it look hollow. A low head carriage can make the shoulder look straighter than it really is. Awkwardly stretched out hind legs can make a horse look camped out. If the hind legs are too far forward they can make a horse look sickle hocked.
In addition, you really need to see the horse in motion. You really do. You need to see how those parts work together. How a horse stands, just isn't as important as how he puts all those parts together and makes them work.
I think the best thing you can do to learn conformation is the exact opposite most people do - stay away from details at first. Most people zoom into details so quickly that they miss the basic proportions. I constantly read on these bb's where people say a horse has this or that when they can't see the proportions at all.
Learn to see basic proportions. Squint at the photo and blur out all the details so you can see basic proportions.
Look for how the length of neck, back and leg relate to each other.
Horses don't really have a 'long neck' or 'long legs' - there is no arbitrary length that is 'long'.
They have long legs in proportion to those other lengths, or they have a long back in comparison to the legs.
Keep in mind that a horse can be a 'rectangle' - a long body compared to the length of leg. Or he can be more like a 'square' - a slightly shorter body, and longer legs.
Learn to think 'Type'. For example, are you looking at a working ranch horse? Or a show hunter? A draft horse that pulls a plough in a team, or a top level dressage horse? Those types seem very obvious, but there's still a type for an eventer, a dressage horse, and they are more subtle.
You always have to think Type. A draft horse is a heavy, solid animal, you don't expect him to look like a race horse. A stock horse just isn't going to look like a show hunter, either.
What you'd accept in a draft horse, for example a very heavy body with heavy muscle, would be a fault in a race horse.
Honestly, it's far more important to first of all, see those basic proportions, and understand the TYPE of the horse you're looking at, and its intended use.
And you might also say, not just intended use, but how intensely is this horse going to be used in that sport? Is the horse expected to do a few schooling shows at Intro level of dressage each summer, or is he expected to make the Olympic team? The type would be very different.
Think very hard about what is desirable in the halter competition of a specific breed.
For example in an Arabian halter class, we look for that lovely little head with the dished face, and shapely ears. A level croup with a high set tail.
But to be honest, how much of that really would affect how a horse is used? Will pretty, shapely ears help a horse scramble up a trail or herd a cow or perform a pirouette?
Is it an important trait? Not really - it's important only in the breed ring. Learn how to separate in your mind, the breed traits that may be so sought after in the halter ring, but really don't do anything other than mark out that horse as being in that breed.
Try to remember what traits are important for the breed halter ring and not so important when choosing a horse for all the other uses it might be put to!
Think very hard about use the horse will be put to. If a horse is going to be ridden at a walk once a month in the summer, we don't have to be nearly as fussy about his conformation as we would be for a Grand Prix show jumper. I often chuckle when people go wild, picking over the conformation of a horse intended for very casual, light use.
Think about how tradition dictates the overall type of a horse for a specific use.
We feel that a high rump, short forelegs and a low-set chest make a good Western horse.
An endurance horse should be slim and narrow like a radiator.
The more involved you get in a riding sport, the more you'll know about what type that riding sport looks for.
And the bottom line again is to think very hard about use. We just wouldn't go over a family horse with the same sort of requirements in mind as a Grand Prix show jumper.
Last edited by slc; 02-21-2011 at 10:59 PM.