Monday, April 16, 2012

Caladhin Conformation Clinic

Ok, so I'm going to do things a bit differently than I originally planned.

It's taking me a while to get through each horse, and what with homework and job applications, it's rather daunting to have all three horses prepared at once. So I'll do longer, more in-depth conformation assessments on each horse using Conformation and Performance by Nancy S. Loving, DVM, then line them up from one to three, based on which horse is best suited to his job. I also took Julie Winkel's Conformation Clinics in Practical Horseman as a guide, but since she mostly judges lighter hunter horses, not all of her preferences are going to be relevant for my purposes. However, I think her general guideline is universal:

"A horse who "fits in a box" will have a body made up of one-third shoulder, one-third back and one-third hindquarters. I like to see the withers and point of croup at the same level. The horse's stance, from the point of shoulder to the buttocks, should equal the distance from the height of the withers to the ground."

First up is Caladhin, a school/trail horse (for no particular reason--I have not judged all three yet).

The good news is that he is very suited to his job as a putzing-around kind of horse. The bad news is that he does have some faults and he is not likely to be a dressage champion. Sorry, buddy. (I think he prefers it this way anyhow.)

Here's a horse anatomy chart for reference (I admit, I had to figure out exactly where the croup was):
Trakehner gelding via Wikimedia Commons
  • Head and Neck: Cal has a wide throatlatch, which was once thought to impede flexibility, but that turns out to not be true. He also has a long neck (it is about as long as his body, though of course since it's slightly curved I had to approximate), which makes him a bit front-heavy. Since horses use their head to counterbalance their bodies, it would be very difficult for him to compete in a sport like jumping or cutting that requires quick changes in direction. He's best suited to sports that require a lot of straight lines, like trail or pleasure riding.
  • Body: He is "square" according to Jane Winkel's definition. His body is about as tall as it is long, and he divides up approximately into thirds though his hind end is a bit shorter, most likely because he has a short croup. For comparison, see how much of a gentle slope the Trakehner's croup has, above. Caladhin's, like many drafts, has much more of a slant, and thus he is not naturally good at collection--but as a beginner/intermediate school horse, this isn't really an issue. One big thing I saw with Caladhin's general body type is that it is very important for him to have a well-fitted saddle. Because he has a hollow behind his withers (lack of muscling) and his withers are higher than his croup, the saddle may slide back, making his lower back and loins sore. It's best to limit his riding to flat ground for this reason as well.
  • Shoulder and Front Legs: The red line from the withers to the point of the shoulder shows that Caladhin has a nice, sloping shoulder which allows for efficient strides. Unfortunately...from personal experience, I know he is pretty short-strided (and his lazy-daisy ways don't help with that either). So why is that? He has a short humerus (that's the second, shorter red line making an angle of slightly less than 90 degrees). A short humerus makes a short strided, forehand-heavy horse that experiences increased concussion on the front legs and increased possibility for injury. His big, heavy head and neck only exacerbate the on-the-forehand-ness, but I don't think he's ever really had lameness problems--his heavy draft legs protect him. As for the green line that is supposed to go through his knee and elbow but doesn't...I think I'm going to ignore it because it looks like he's just standing with that leg a little too far back.
  • Motor (AKA his big behind):  Caladhin has short hindquarters, and thus, a smaller engine--you can see that from the red diagonal line going from the croup to the buttock. Hindquarters are considered short if they are less than 30% of the horse's body length, and I'd estimate that his are only about 20%. Again, this would be more of an issue for a performance horse that would need to really engage the hindquarters, but some exercises to improve the strength of these muscles include hill climbing (if he has a saddle that won't slip) and lateral exercises like leg yield and half-pass.
I hope that was enjoyable and educational! More to come.

PS-Thank you Gentle Giants for access to so many Percherons! Sorry for the delay in posting.


  1. Did you ever do one of these for chase?

  2. I did take his picture but I don't think I ever got around to actually doing the analysis. Here's the pic if you want it: