First, let’s start with the withers and what their roll is in performance. I want to see a horse have some withers. Yes, all horses have withers, but I am referring to being able to see the withers. Take into consideration that much like the crest of the neck some horses, if they are on the obese side, will carry some fat in the wither area like the crest of the neck. This is not what I am referring to. What I am referring to is the horse that has its withers buried in between its shoulder blades. One reason that I do not like this is because I will have a hard time getting my saddle to not slip or roll on the horses back. This is not a deal killer but it is definitely something to take into consideration. But, I do feel that it is very important that the horse should definitely be taller at the wither than at the croup or tall point of the hip. At the very least be level or the same height . Why? Good question, if the withers are higher it is going to be easier for the horse to be lighter on his front end, plus making it easier to stop and work off of his rear end. The key thing to look for is that the horse is taller at its withers than at the butt or hip.
Moving on to the chest, shoulders and front legs. When looking at the chest I like to see a horse that is broad in the chest. That is just a personal preference. But, I do not want to see a horse that has both of his front legs coming out of the same hole. Meaning that I do not like a horse that stands with his front legs real close together. This will result in interference later when asked to perform difficult maneuvers. I also like for the chest, or chest muscles to be out in front of the legs. Mostly because I will be asking for this horse later in training to spin which requires them to step over or cross their front legs a lot. If the chest muscles are directly between the front legs, this becomes difficult.
Now, moving on to front legs. I would have to say that the single most important thing about legs is that they are straight. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is from a breeding stand point. Conformation is hereditary and if the horse is clubby on one foot or toes in, you have a good chance of passing this on to your offspring. The second part to this is that a big flaw in this area of conformation will eventually lead to a breakdown in performance and could eventually lead to injury. But keep in mind that this is not always a kill factor when looking at a horse. Example: You have two horses and one has a lot going for him and performs all of the desired movements for the event you are going for, but is a little crooked on one leg. Horse number two legs are straight as a string and built great, but it does not have the desire to do diddle. Money is better spent on the horse that wants to perform.
Next month we will discuss the back, hip and hocks.