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Hi everyone,

I really want to learn how to critique a horses confo, what are vital 'must haves/not haves', what flaws are more 'okay' than others.
I've been reading and following a lot of you to try pick up a few things, but there is obviously a lot to learn.
I wanted to start, with just a basic side profile and learn what to look for and it's important.
If anyone possibly has enough time, could you help me not only critique, but explain a bit more about why it's an issue, and also any good critique and why.
Also, what are flaws you would/wouldn't consider when buying?

I'll attach a photo, (I know this isn't perfect due to background and possibly it's not possible to use) but if it's usable, even for basic critique information that would be great.
So far, what I think I see, obviously, poor condition (which is being worked on) what number would you rate this current condition and why?
I see possibly 'camped under' / he is long in both the back and neck (is this bad?)
I've realized his back hooves are covered in a bit of sand. So I apologize again.

Any help at all, even 1-2 pointers would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks again, I know I've asked a lot, so I understand if you don't want to answer it all!
 

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Horses stance is perfect, your angle not so....try to get a little straighter to the horses barrel.
If the horse turns the head and neck to you it throws off the camera perception and makes the animal go out of proportion.

So, yes underweight but is pretty shiny which is indicative of healthy although lacking in groceries.
I see a clean throatlatch and nice shaped jowl. Wide flat forehead with a nice shaped & placed eye, nice ears and intelligent expression.
Hard to see his neck tie-in but think it is not to high or to low.
Sloping shoulder that will meld nicely into his wither/neck area once he is fully weighted out.
He is long backed but nice and straight, not dipping. In fact, if that is level ground he is built uphill not butt high which can make elevating the forehand harder to do and carry for the horse.
I can't see enough of his hind leg placement but looks pretty good what is visible at this angle.
He does appear slightly unbalanced when you place him in thirds of front, middle, hind for balancing his body image. That may be a weight thing though as he is lighter and underweight more in his butt to my eye...
He has a short somewhat steeper croup but that again may change with proper weight appearance and again be somewhat based on whether the ground is flat or sloped.
He is under-muscled but that goes with underweight too.
Horses lacking in groceries not always have good muscle mass as you need good nutrition to build balanced muscle tone.

Critiquing of horses is a opinion.
Everyone has pet peeves they like, dislike and can't stand opinion.
Some things you know you should avoid and some things can be dealt with if other parts of the horse complement a deficit.
You also must take into consideration the job the horse is being used for as some issues are a "no-go" for a jumper but more than OK for a trail horse...
A hard one for many to get past is color and pattern.
Some people will do anything and ignore everything for a color or pattern if they can't look past it...it takes a very trained eye to see a shape through some "busyness" of coat.
Recently there was a "curly" horse presented here for critique...I looked at that horse and could see some things but fairly could not get past the coat look in other areas to see good or bad...so shut my mouth and read not offered anything. He was really cute though!
So, critiquing is honestly a opinion of what you yourself like, what over years of seeing move, see standing and seeing under saddle doing a job successfully you absorb and can then pick apart as I put it a horse placed in front of you.
No horse is perfect, none that I've seen and been told that by very educated and learned professionals of horse-flesh.
You must pick and choose what you like, what you don't, what you can ignore and what you can enhance and work to correct and what you as a rider can cover and hide in flaw in the horse you present astride.
That is my take on critiquing...my opinion and some basics of what I see in the horse you presented from this one picture.
I would also guess based on the horse I see that this horse has some Thoroughbred blood in him...all assumptions.
{you know what they say about assuming and assumptions right?:icon_rolleyes:}
Can't wait to read how others approach a critique and their opinions of rating importance of body parts = the total horse.
:runninghorse2:.....

jmo...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@horselovinguy
Thank you so much for your detailed response and opinions!
Really was GREAT to read, and you're so right. Everyone has different ideas/preferences and of course 'flaws' will vary per discipline as well!
Thanks for all the critique you were able to attempt, I know it's really not the ideal photo. The ground isn't perfectly level, I would say it ever so slightly is uphill (not a huge amount) but probably makes him more uphill. (I will definitely get better photos in the future)
It will also be great to compare when he's in good condition, to see any changes.

He is actually an Australian stock horse! But I mean they originated from... bits of everything! So nothing wrong with the guess! :D

Thank you again! I really appreciate you taking the time to break it all down!
 

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that was such a lovely critique by @horselovingguy. hard for me to add much.

yes, better photos will help show the overall 'balance' of the horse. that means, the length of back in relation to the neck, the angle of the hocks, whether or not the knees are straight, and if the neck is tied in high or normal

I rather like this horse . . . a lot. with a few more groceries and correct riding, he/she will be stunning. I have long admired the Australian Stock horse. I think they are one of the nicest 'all around' breeds out there. you could make money selling them in the US.

I like the generous amount of bone this horse has, . . see the large hocks? knees are also big. great shoulder, soft eye.

it's really hard to explain why, but this horse has a lot to offer, only lacking in condition and muscling. if he/she is yours, you are sooooo lucky!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
@tinyliny
Wow thank you so much! For your incredibly kind words and also your tips and explanations!

He's a 6 year old gelding, I to really love this breed, all the stock horses I've met have the most wonderful temperaments as well, which make them so nice to be around on the ground and hang out with.
I WISH he was mine, I'm currently full time leasing him, trying to fatten him up with a bit of light riding.
I've 'jokingly' mentioned to the owner about buying him eventually, what a dream it would be!

Thank you again!
 

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Conformation is not just an opinion, but an educated opinion, able to judge ahorse 'form to function, able to recognize both minor and major faults, degrees of any fault, where they start to affect athletic movement and long time soundness
Conformation is also evaluated by correctness and athletic movemnet.
Conformation evaluation is not th esame as halter, which has strayed to where it no longer really reflects future athletic ability and where fads have come in (ie, small feet on heavy muscled horses, too level croup and tea cup muzzzle in Arabians
I was involved with the Alberta Horse Improvement program,where conformation was judged by three judges, one being an equine vet
Horses were not placed, but scored. Hind limbs, front limb were scored as to minor or major faults Overall balance was judged.
Movement was judged by trotting the horse out on a large triangle, Athletic movement has several components
Lightness
rhythm
impulsion
correctness
It was great to be given written evaluations by all three judges.
I will see if the link is still there, as the program is no longer running.
The info there might help you understand at least, how conformation is judged, what faults are minor and which are major
 

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Here you go

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs5301


http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs5301

I guess the link won't paste correctly, so you will need to google Alberta Horse Improvement Program + conformation scoring system.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
@tinyliny
He's a dream, he's been trained very well, his owner is a really great horseman.
Super responsive to all cues, don't really need to ever use rein, very very quiet, for only a 6 yo, I've taken him on bustling beaches/roads/trails with children all around/flags/noise just a lot of background commotion going on and he just does his own thing so nicely, nothing seems to bother or phase him. (I'm waay to attached already, I know.)

He's definitely a horse I see as being a lot better than I am, he really has all the 'buttons' and if I ask correctly he gives. I want to better myself as he just feels like he has unlimited potential!
 

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If he's that good, don't let him get away from you!!!
finding a horse that good is really tough,.

best of luck to you becoming his owner. I've leased a lot of horses, and some of them I wished I had tried harder to become their owners. but, as a person learns, life is full of regrets.
 

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Nothing to add really, that between HLG & Smilie hasn't been said. Unless it wasn't said that it's best to have the horse on a firm, flattish surface. And that a lot of what people think of as 'conformation' is due to injury or such, and may be correctable.

I just wanted to comment that it's really not fair to see pics of your lovely Darwin 'winter' when I'm down in Vic! Especially as Facebook keeps rubbing my nose in it with 'memories' of me being up Nth a year ago...
 

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As "new to horses" myself, I have the same problem. I started with the online resources already cited, but I also got "Principles of Conformation Analysis" by Deb Bennett. The photographs therein suck big time (grainy black-and-white), but you can get something from the text, I'm sure. ISBN: 9781929164608

I am also painfully aware of the saying, "Of 1,000 people who can pick out a flaw, only one can pick a horse."
 

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From the AHIP link that would not paste:


Over the past 20 plus years the Horse Industry Section of Alberta Agriculture has been involved in the development of a horse evaluation system. The system evaluates horses based on the premise of "form to function", a concept Dr. Marvin Beeman pioneered.
The Alberta evaluation system utilizes five main categories in assessing a horse:

front limbs
hind limbs
head, neck, body and balance
athletic movement, and
type.

Within each category horses are scored out of 20 points relative to the breed ideal. This allows horse people to assess horses and keep each characteristic in perspective:
Scores of 18, 19 or 20 are considered excellent and reflect correctness or excellence. These scores tell the breeder he is approaching the ideal.
Scores of 15, 16 or 17 are considered good and reflect that little is wrong but there is considerable room for improvement.
Scores of 12, 13 or 14 are considered fair and reflect the faults that at present do not greatly affect usefulness but will greatly reduce value.
Scores of 9, 10 or 11 are considered poor and reflect serious faults that affect the horse's usefulness, soundness and marketability.
Evaluators are able to give credit where it is due and be critical when warranted. For example, if a horse has exceptional type, but offset knees, the horse may be scored 19 or 20 for type and 9 or 10 for front limbs. If a horse scores less than 10 in any category, the scores are not totalled and the horse is not class



Front Limbs (20 points)

Evaluators appraise the front feet, front legs, knees and shoulder from the front and side at the walk, trot and standing.

Horses score 18, 19 or 20 for moving and standing particularly straight, for having exceptional bone, short cannon bones, long forearm, long sloping shoulder, etc.
Horses score 15, 16 or 17 for minor conformation faults which do not normally lead to unsoundness.
Horses would score 12, 13 or 14 where faults exist that may not greatly affect soundness but may limit performance.
Horses would score 9, 10 or 11 for major conformation faults which affect soundness and performance (evaluator's opinion).
Minor Faults Major Faults
toe in or out contracted heels
winging or paddling excessively upright pastern
upright pastern excessively fine bone
straight shoulder calf knees
base narrow offset knees
base wide excessively tied-in behind
small feet base narrow, toe out
slightly calf kneed excessively small feet
slightly offset knees club foot
Hind Limbs


Evaluators appraise the hind feet, hind legs, hocks, gaskin and hip from the side and back at the walk, trot and standing.

Horses may score 18, 19 or 20 for moving or standing particularly straight or for having exceptional bone, muscle or form to function.
Horses score 15, 16 or 17 for minor conformation faults which would not normally lead to unsoundness or limit performance.
Horses score 12, 13 or 14 for conformation faults that may not affect soundness but may limit performance.
Horses score 9, 10 or 11 for major conformation faults that affect soundness and performance (evaluator's opinion).
Minor Faults Major Faults
slightly ****-footed ****-footed
camped behind sickle-hocked
cow hocks post-legged
bandy-legged cow hocks
slightly sickle-hocked
slightly post-legged
lack of muscle
toe out or in
rope walking
small feet


Head, Neck, Body and Balance (20 points)

Evaluators appraise head, neck, body and balance during movement and while standing. Balance is relative to body proportions.

Horses score 18, 19 or 20 for exceptional characteristics and balance.
Horses score 15, 16 or 17 for minor conformation faults or unsightliness (e.g. long head, roman nose, pig eyes, ewe neck, thick throatlatch, cresty, thick neck, short neck, improper angulation, long back, shallow girth, goose rump, high tail-set).
Horses score 12, 13 or 14 when conformation faults become more exaggerated thus limiting performance.
Horses score 9, 10 or 11 if, in the opinion of the evaluators, the horse has a combination of faults that would make the horse potentially unusable, being excessively out of proportion, downhill or over-reaching.
Athletic Movement (20 points)
Evaluators will appraise athletic movement at the trot. Athletic movement will be assessed using four components; length of stride, rhythm, lightness, and impulsion. Length of stride is the distance the horse moves while one foot (any foot) is off the ground. Rhythm refers to how well the movement of each foot is in balance and in time with each other foot. Lightness is a coordination of stride and rhythm so that movement appears to take minimum effort. Impulsion is the use of the hind quarters to provide momentum to the movement.

Horses scoring 18, 19, 20 would be noted as having a long stride with excellent rhythm, lightness, and impulsion.
Horses scoring 15, 16, 17 maybe slightly deficient in one or two categories but overall movement is good.
Horses scoring 12, 13, 14 would have at least one undesirable movement trait or be somewhat deficient in all categories.
Horses scoring 9, 10, 11 would have an excessively short, choppy stride lacking rhythm, be heavy movers with no impulsion.
Type (20 points)
Evaluators appraise type on the basis of overall eye appeal characteristics and breed standards while standing.

Horses score 18, 19 or 20 for refinement, presence, fitness, ideal size and athletic appearance.
Horses score 15, 16 or 17 for lack of refinement, fitness and type.
Horses score 12, 13 or 14 for coarseness, a poor eye or poor turnout or for being too large or too small and off type, etc.
Evaluators may score type at 9, 10 or 11 if, in their opinion, it has no useful athletic function.
The assessment of athletic movement gives horse people an opportunity to predict the potential of the athletic ability of the horse. It is best to assess athletic movement at a strong trot, with the horse being allowed to carry his head in a natural position. The trot is used because it is the only even two beat gait. Athletic movement can be assessed using four components: length of stride, lightness, rhythm and impulsion.
Length of Stride - The length of stride is defined as the distance the horse will travel from the time one foot hits the ground (any foot) until that same foot hits the ground again. The longer the stride the better, because it reduces the number of times a foot must contact the ground in any given distance.

Lightness - Lightness refers to the ease and efficiency with which the horse moves. It is also the degree of impact with the ground the horse has each time a foot contacts the ground. The lighter the contact with the ground, the more efficiently the horse moves. Horses that are light movers generally stay sound longer because of the reduced concussion and stress on the limbs.

Rhythm - Rhythm refers to the coordination and rhythmic movement of the limbs as the horse covers the ground. Horses that have rhythm are capable of adjusting their stride, completing changes in direction and athletic feats more efficiently.

Impulsion - Impulsion is the force contributing to the length of stride, lightness, and rhythm which propels the horse forward. This force originates in the hind quarters and moves forward through the body. Horses with good impulsion drive off their hocks and move forward with their front end elevated. The greater the impulsion, the longer the stride due to a longer suspension phase of the stride.

When beginning to assess each of the four categories, horse people may find it easiest to use a plus/minus system. Horses that have a long stride are given a plus, a short stride a minus, and if it is neither long or short a zero score is given. Once all four categories are scored, the plus and minus scores are added. If one assumes an average score of 15, and for each plus score one point is added, and for each minus score one point is subtracted. For example, a horse with one plus, one minus and two zeros would score 15. A horse with four pluses would receive a score of 19. For an animal assessed with four minuses, a score of 11 would be given. The final score could be adjusted up or down by a half to one point if the evaluator felt that the combined score was not equal to the sum of the parts. To put it in general terms, horses scoring 18, 19, 20 would have a long stride with excellent rhythm, lightness, and impulsion. Horses scoring 15, 16, 17 maybe slightly deficient in one or two categories but overall movement is good. Horses scoring 12, 13, 14 would have at least one undesirable movement trait or be somewhat deficient in the other categories. Horses scoring 9, 10, 11 would have an excessively short, choppy stride lacking rhythm, be heavy movers with no impulsion.

Horse people will find assessing athletic movement gives them a better idea of which horses are athletic and which are not. It will also indicate which horses have the ability to be versatile, and allow them to identify the animals that possess the qualities they require early in the selection process. The athletic horse will move effortlessly because of the combination of length of stride, rhythm, lightness and impulsion. Lightness is a coordination of stride and rhythm so that movement appears effortless.

Mr. John Miller, a Quarter Horse breeder and an experienced horseman, is respected worldwide for his ability to assess horses and match horses to buyers.

Mr. Albert Kley is the riding master at Spruce Meadows. Mr. Kley is one of the most respected horsemen in the world. Albert has evaluated horses for inclusion in many sport horse registries.

Mr. Les Burwash, Manager of Horse Programs for Alberta Agriculture, has been involved with the development of a horse evaluation system with the Horse Industry Section.





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This information published to the web on May 8, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 9, 2016.

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That was a well known program, we heard about it here in BC, sorry to hear it's gone. Les Burwash is very well known here for his horse improvement contributions and quoted in our provincial horse council newsletters and releases.
 
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I had this wonderful book on horse conformation, that came from England. lovely photos and explanations.

However, the horses they cite as 'good', won't do well for any sort of cattle or range work. so, to a certain extent, some parts of conformation are dependent on the horse's use. long rear canons, or downhill-ness might be good for one thing, yet bad for another.

take it all with some understanding as to what you want your horse to be built to do, and what is fair of you to ask of him.

things I look for are:

over at the knees?? not so good for jumping
upright shoulder? may have a real jack hammer trot
really horizontal humerus (youll have to look that bone up) - could make it hard to lift the front legs up . may not be a tidy jumper
long back? (look at the top line from the back edge of the wither bone to the obvious sacro-illiac joint. is it longer than the distance from the back of the front leg to the front of the rear? a long back makes for a comfy ride for the human, but may be hard on horse for a heavy rider, over many miles.
look at pasterns. . . . are they long? or upright? or too horizontal? this is important.

look at the throatlatch. is it thick, or is there room for the hrose to tuck?
look at the angle of the hip. is it really flat (parallel to ground) or verttical? too mucyh either way is not good. part way in between is best.
 

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The way I evaluate a horse is based on the training I received in 4-H, which places a lot of emphasis on judging livestock (and judging in general). It's just the way I do it, nothing that special about it but it might help you.

First I look at the side view of the horse standing on even ground. I get back far enough to be able to have a general impression, an overall outline. I'm looking mainly at balance front and rear, angles (shoulder and croup especially), smoothness or lack of it, length of back to length of underline (the latter should be long, the former, short), strength of coupling, length of croup. Is the horse uphill, downhill, or square. Then I look specifically at leg angles, bone, hoofs and all the faults you can see from that viewpoint. Then I look at the head. I look again at the overall outline, and then I move to front and rear views, where I am mostly looking for straightness or lack thereof.

I do this with all livestock. In fact, after all this time I can't stop myself!

I have to say, I always learn something from other people's conformation critiques on this board.
 

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I had this wonderful book on horse conformation, that came from England. lovely photos and explanations.

However, the horses they cite as 'good', won't do well for any sort of cattle or range work. so, to a certain extent, some parts of conformation are dependent on the horse's use. long rear canons, or downhill-ness might be good for one thing, yet bad for another.

take it all with some understanding as to what you want your horse to be built to do, and what is fair of you to ask of him.

things I look for are:

over at the knees?? not so good for jumping
upright shoulder? may have a real jack hammer trot
really horizontal humerus (youll have to look that bone up) - could make it hard to lift the front legs up . may not be a tidy jumper
long back? (look at the top line from the back edge of the wither bone to the obvious sacro-illiac joint. is it longer than the distance from the back of the front leg to the front of the rear? a long back makes for a comfy ride for the human, but may be hard on horse for a heavy rider, over many miles.
look at pasterns. . . . are they long? or upright? or too horizontal? this is important.

look at the throatlatch. is it thick, or is there room for the hrose to tuck?
look at the angle of the hip. is it really flat (parallel to ground) or verttical? too mucyh either way is not good. part way in between is best.

I have to disagree with you that while type applies to various disciplines, correct conformation is universal,as is athletic movement, and that is the problem with people not really understanding a program where a horse is scored on faults, where the patterns used to evaluate future athletic ability, are ones that apply to any young horse, and are not discipline specific.
That same evaluation scoring was used for all breeds, including warmbloods, Arabians, Morgans, TBs, and in fact any breed that wished to be represented or evaluated
In fact, Appaloosas were evaluated on the same day as Morgans, Arabians AQHA and TBs
The only part of that scoring system that was breed specific was type
 
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