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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
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$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs5301$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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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

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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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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Lack of bone, off set knees, behind at the knees, sickle hocks , upright pasterns, lack of over all body balance, etc, ect, are conformation faults in any breed.
Only type applies to breed specific, and was just a small portion of that total score

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This. Faults are faults. Breed type is another set of issues. I could go on a little rant about that. I believe that breeds should be clearly identifiable, without becoming caricatures. It's a minority opinion, as far as I can tell. In any case, a typey but faulty individual is much less valuable than a correct but non-typey one.
Agree, and that is why in that Horse Improvement evaluation, type only played a small part of the total sccore

Hind limbs
Front limbs
Over all balance
type to breed standards

The last part, was kinda the downfall for Smilie and her full sisters, lol, although over all score still allowed them to score 'classic (75% to 84%, with 85 and above being Premium, which very,very few horses earned

Smilie, and esp her full sister Mazimized, look more like minimal Paints, due to their mighty Bright breeding
Appaloosa classes were often alternated with the Paint evaluation classes
Les Burwash, the horse industry rep, who acted as gate man,would often say to me, teasingly,'aren't you in the next class!"
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