This is the last of a series on conformation, but do not mistake this as being all that you consider in conformation. If I were to cover everything, I would have to write a book. I will be the first to admit that I do not know every single thing there is to know about confirmation. However, I am confident in what I look for from a performance perspective.
Let’s begin with conformation of the back. We have all heard that we should be looking for a short backed horse. It is not necessarily important to me that the back is short, but it is important that the back and underline match. When I refer to the back I am talking about the distance between the withers and the rear flank. The rear flank is where there belly meets the leg, it is also where the hair swirls or changes direction. When looking at how long or short the back is you need to compare with the length of the underline. I do not want to see a horse that has a short back and a long underline. Why? Because this body condition makes it very difficult to obtain collection. I will have to work against his natural body conformation to obtain collection. Likewise I do not want a horse with a long back and a short underline. It is a bit easier to obtain collection, but the horse will not be as free moving in its stride or as pretty of a mover. Although, If I had to choose on condition over the other, this is the one I prefer.
Ideally, I look for a horse that is balanced in his back in relation to the rest of his body. I like some depth to its heart girth. This is the place where your cinch goes around the chest when your horse is saddled.
As for the hip and hock, I am looking for a sloping hip and a low hock. In common terms, I want the hip to be round and the ham muscle to tie into the leg low. I do not want to see a horse that has a bubble butt and look like his legs are just sticks coming out of the bottom. I also like to see the tail head sets down inside the muscle, not protruding out. This is mainly because it is distracting to the look of the horse and takes away from the appearance.
When it comes to the hock, I of course like a horse that is low hocked. To identify what is low hocked you have to look at the hock in relation to the rest of the body. An easier way to identify low hocked is to look at the angle of the leg. I like to see a horse that naturally stands with its legs underneath its self. Preferably his back feet are standing just underneath his rear flank. This creates a natural angle to the leg that allows for easier stopping and creates less stress on the hock joint when performing more difficult maneuvers. Which hopefully will cause less chance for injury and more longevity in the performance pen.
To wrap this all up in a nut shell. I am looking for a very balanced horse. You have to keep in mind that this is just one part of looking for a great horse. You also have to have a good mind and a want to perform and learn. These things are just as important and once again that is where the balance comes in. I will forgo a short back for great athletic ability and a strong desire to learn. Remember, there is no perfect person and likewise there is no perfect horse. Essentially, I as a trainer, am looking for the best employee. I want the horse that likes his job, has a desire to learn, the ability to perform, and has a good work ethic.