I think it's all about movement, but I how do you check to see if a horses is built uphill or downhill? Usually, I look at the withers first, if they are blatantly downhill it's easy to see. Next I look at the center of gravity. I horse with a center of gravity toward the front is downhill and to the back would be uphill. However, is their another way to distinguish an uphill horse from a downhill one? Is there a place to draw a line?
I was told by a person who's travelled and trained with people like Klaus Balkenhol (sp?) that every horse is down hill at some point and that we have to teach them how to carry themselves and put the weight on the hind end. That's what she told me when I asked her about my horse.
Uphill, to me, is when a horse's withers are higher off the ground than the point of the hip, see:
Downhill is when a horse's wither is below the point of the hip, see:
A horse that is downhill-built will have a harder time rocking back on its hundquarters to work off of the hind end rather than the forehand. A horse naturally carries itself more on the forehand, so as riders we have to teach the horse to start carrying itself properly, on the haunches. That is a hard enough task without having conformation working against you! As a dressage rider and a jumper, I don't want to own a downhill horse, as it takes so much more to get that horse balanced on the haunches. Having said that, there are some disciplines where the aspect of being downhill is desired (not to the extreme however) like for cutting. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Uphill/downhill is very debatable. Personally, I like the neutral.
Another thing I like to look for is if the hocks are the same level as the knees. At the 'uphill' picture that was posted, I drew some lines...
So he's not too bad, but not the ideal. His legs also look a little out behind him (which makes his croup and hocks appear lower).
The line on the top is something to look for whilst training. (point of hip to the base of the neck.) Green horses should be downhill, with the nose below the line. Intermediate horse's should be level, with nose approaching the line--possibly over it. Advanced horses should be 'uphill':
Most GP dressage horses are not 'uphill'.... haha. Silly modern dressage.
I suppose it may matter to some folks and disciplines, but I think it depends a lot on the horse wrt performance. Our Paint mare Angel is fairly long backed for a stock horse, and we were told long backed horses didn't make good cutters/penners, but she wound up winning ribbons in team penning, so the horse's attitude, willingness, and 'heart' are more important to me.
we were told long backed horses didn't make good cutters/penners, .
That was always my rule of thumb when picking a stock horse but I was watching the sale on RFD from the Cutting Horse Futurity this past December and most of the yearlings and 2 year olds seemed long backed to me. These were horses from High Brow Cat breeding, and others so I'm not sure that counts anymore.
I have seen lots of uphill, downhill comments on the critiques.
Unless the horse is done growing (5-6 yrs) IMO you really can't tell if the horse is going to stay uphill or down hill. Right now my Appy is way higher in the rear and she's just coming 4 yrs old. Her butt goes up, her front catches up, then her butt comes up again! LOL
My Percheron/Morgan has been level since I got her at 3months old
I do however agree that you really don't want the hip higher in a full grown horse if they have to work off the rear collection to do their disipline.
It's not actually fully correct to look at the point of a withers on a horse to determine whether the horse is downhill. Its misleading, because you can have a horse that has very high withers and a low croup point, as you often see in TBs (shark fin withers anyone?) Instead, as mayfieldk said, you want to look at where the hocks and the knees are situated.
Now honestly? Quite a few horses are downhill or merely level, and manage to succeed quite well. Its a question of being able to MOVE uphill and getting the weight off the forehand. It's why when you can see a clyde or perch or heavy draft at a grand prix level they are amazing to see, because by defintion, most drafts are built downhill in order to better dig into pull heavy loads. So when they are able to overcome their natural build and move in an uphill fashion, its absolutely lovely to see.
I like to think I've developed an eye over the years... and personally I don't like looking at a horse just standing still to determine what kind of horse they are. Dressage judges don't care what your horse looks like standing still, and neither does a 1.50m fence. It's all about the horse in motion.
Rubinstein is not a tremendously uphill looking guy, but he is an amazing sire that has thrown countless international horses, and he himself won a Grand Prix numerous times. And you cannot do a good grand prix, or get rated as highly as his offspring were without having uphill movement. Rubinstein I
A lot of people would debate and say this stallion is downhill, but:
He goes clear doing 1.50m classes at spruce. Another thing that is impossible without the horse having uphill movement and tendency.
So like I say, conformation pictures of the horse standing still are very misleading. We need to look at the horse in motion and see how his body works together to create a picture. A horse can have "textbook perfect" limbs and conformation, but if it doesn't work together properly when the horse moves, then all you have is a "textbook perfect" pasture ornament.