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The Value of Conformation in Horses

The Value of Conformation in Horses
Category: Horse Talk Knowledge Base
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Having good conformation is more important for show horses than horses involved in other fields. Good conformation is ideal for work horses and athletic horses, but it is mainly important in terms of how it influences their performance and their health as opposed to the aesthetics.

If you are a horse owner that is interested in having your horse compete, you may be wondering about horse conformation. Equine conformation could be defined as a measure of a horse's adherence to a set of standards for the typical equine body. Conformation encompasses a wide range of characteristics in horses. Every part of your horses' bodies can be evaluated according to a set of conformation standards, from their muzzles to their hooves. As a horse owner, you may feel overwhelmed when you are considering the number of traits involved with conformation. It should be noted that some of the standards of good conformation will vary according to your horse's breed. Some aspects of conformation are also more important than others.

Some of the characteristics included in horse conformation standards directly relate to your horse's physical abilities. Balance is a major component of good conformation. If your horse doesn't have good balance, his or her movements and strength will often suffer. Your horse's ability to balance is going to be strongly connected to his or her overall physical structure, as well as many other physical details that are otherwise associated with good conformation. However, some conformation characteristics are going to influence your horse's performance more than others.

Conformation in Horses
Conformation in Horses

For instance, bow-legged horses cannot thrust their bodies forward as well as horses whose legs are aligned in the standard position. If your horse is bow-legged, he or she will certainly be at a disadvantage in terms of many physical capabilities. On the other hand, if your horse's conformation flaw is that he or she has a roman nose shape, it's unlikely to make much of a difference. Horses with some structural alignment problems may end up placing too much weight on certain parts of their body, which may affect how they age or respond to injuries. However, not all horse conformation faults fall into that category.

With some specific aspects of horse conformation, it is controversial as to whether or not they have any value beyond aesthetics. For instance, horses with disproportionately small eyes may not have ideal conformation according to some standards, but having small eyes is unlikely to significantly affect a horse's performance in any field. According to some people, horses with small eyes may have smaller visual fields than horses with larger eyes, but there is some disagreement about this in the equine community.


People in the equine community tend to emphasize the necessity of good conformation in horses. However, the value of conformation often depends on your horse's specific work and activities. If you want your horse to be a successful show horse, he or she will need to have excellent overall conformation in order to be competitive along with correct Show preparation. Your horse's competitors will almost certainly have excellent conformation themselves, including conformation that is purely aesthetic. Few horses that lack excellent conformation will be able to compensate for their physical differences in the context of a horse show. However, with work horses and athletic horses, the situation can be somewhat more complicated. A horse with good conformation is still going to have significantly more options than one that differs from conformation standards, but athletic and work horses may have enough overall talent to succeed in spite of some of their conformational problems.

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