Conformation – Part 5

horse-rear-leg

The final part of my Conformation Blog is about the equine engine; the hindquarters. The shape of the quarters and the angle of the joints are good indicators of the horse`s potential for speed and jumping. It can be difficult to assess the skeletal conformation, however, as there is a lot of muscles to disguise this.

The hindquarters should be in proportion to the rest of the body, see Part 1 for a recap, and the hip, stifle and hock should articulate well. The rump should be rounded, with a good length from the point of hip to the point of buttock; with the tail neither set on too high or too low. Common problems with the back and hindquarter area, are goose rump, which is a steep croup, leading to a shorter stride; and jumpers bump, which is an enlargement or misalignment of the lumbar and pelvis vertebrae. This is associated with horses who have jumped incorrectly, have long or weak loins.

The hock is one of the hardest working joints in the body, and it is essential that it is correctly formed in order to ensure its strength and longevity. A well formed hind leg has a vertical line from the point of buttock, the back of the hock and the lower leg and fetlock. “Well let down hocks” are when there is plenty of length from the point of hip to the hock. When looking from the side, if the hind leg is too straight chronic problems can occur due to increased concussion, but also the patella is prone to locking; so called “locking stifle”. If the hind leg stands under the horse, with an overly bent, weak hock, known as sickle hocks, there is a higher risk of developing arthritis or spavins in the hock, due to the increased strain on the back of the hock. A horse who has camped out hind legs also has the increased risk of developing hock problems as they can`t support the horse`s weight correctly. A horse with camped out hindquarters tends to develop a sway back and find it harder to engage the hindquarters.

When looking from behind the legs should be vertical; if there is a variation from this, such as in the case of cow hocks, then excess strain is put on the inside of the legs and joints. Alongside cow hocks there is usually a twisting of the hocks, which has a knock on effect of stressing the rest of the joints in the hindquarters.
The horse`s legs should not be too close together, for there is then a risk of brushing or speedicutting, thus risking injury to the legs. Horses which are wide behind usually have a rolling, stable and slow gait.

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