The Evaluation Overview


Good conformation is based on the physical appearance in which includes proper balance, mass (degree of muscling), structural correctness, and desirable breed for its purpose.  Horses with imperfect confirmation may experience a variety of health problems as they age or by injury from repeated physical stresses.



Balance is the single most important trait; which is the even, smooth aesthetic blending of all muscles and parts. It is determined by length of the neck (pole to withers) and underside (throat latch to neck/shoulder junction), back (withers to croup) and along the underline (elbow to stifle).  The back should be ˝ of the underline. The underside should be ˝ the neck.  The angle of the shoulder determines agility and defines the length of the neck; it should be 45-50 degrees.

Structure and Muscling

·        A horse with a long, moderately sloping shoulder will typically have a long neck, a short back and a smooth stride. The length of the neck determines the stride and flexibility. The back should be short and strong with a long underline.  A long croup accommodates more muscle mass, which should be even and smooth. The ideal withers are slightly higher than the croup appearing sharp and prominent.


·        The head gives a window into disposition and entire confirmation.  The set of the ears, size of nostril, shape and size of the eyes and depth of mouth are factors.  Soft, quiet, larges eyes usually indicate a docile disposition.  Ears should appear alert, sitting proportionate and squarely on top of the head.  Large nostrils and a defined muzzle are associated with “pretty Headed” horses.


·        The barrel is an indicator for performance, power and stamina. The barrel is basically, room available for lung and heart functions. The greater lung capacity means more air can be taken in with each stride.


·        Muscle mass can be seen in front of or behind the horse.  In front look for major width from shoulder to shoulder, a large circumference to the forearm, and an obvious "v" in the front muscling.  The rear should be wide from stifle to stifle, and the quarter should tie in deep to strong gaskins. The side should reveal strong forearms, a deep quarter, strong gaskins, and a long croup.


Structural Correctness:  Ideal Views


















Soundness and Structure

Unsoundness is any deviation in structure in which it interferes with usefulness.  Blemish and abnormalities may detract from appearance, but the horse may still be sound.



How does the horse behave to being groomed, saddled, trailered and ridden?

Faults in disposition will be indicated by the horse’s responses such as fidgeting, nervousness, pawing, nipping or biting, buckling or refusal to follow commands. A champion horse will exhibit superior conformation whether it is a halter horse, pleasure horse or performance horse. A horse's form is related directly to function. When certain qualities of conformation are limited, then a limitation in ability will occur.


Riding and Movement - Balance is the single most important trait; which is the even, smooth aesthetic blending of all muscles and parts. The stride should have a free flow and cover ground easily with a free flowing motion


Ride-ability for Purpose  - A horse should walk, trot, lope and accept leads. The horse should be easily guided with mild or no resistance while responding to the riders commands from a beginner to an advanced rider. The horse should demonstrate quick response, smoothness, cooperative attitude to authority during maneuvers.


Disposition - A good disposition is one in which the horse remains tranquil under circumstances which conflict with its own desires when ridden by a rider it trusts. The horse understands that it must conserve his energy for tasks and does not waste it by jigging, head tossing, and fighting with the rider.


Temperament- is the horses “frame of mind”.  Temperament can be observed by horses body language.  Ideally a horse with a gentle nature and willingness to cooperate has a good temperament.  A poor temperament can be observed during normally interactions of feeding, grooming, saddling; such as signs of nervousness, anxiety, agitation, jumpiness, bucking, pawing, biting, kicking or refusal to cooperate.

Intelligence - The intelligence of a horse is its trainability, ability to apply knowledge and use its own natural instincts to reason.

Vice or Bad Habit - A vice is usually an abnormal behavior that usually shows up in the barn or stable environment that results from confinement, improper management, or lack of exercise.  A vice can affect a horse's usefulness, dependability, and health. A bad habit is considered to be an undesirable behavior that occurs during training or handling. Examples are cribbing, weaving, and self-mutilation.   Examples are rearing, halter pulling, striking and kicking.

Health - State of complete physical, mental and well-being of a horse. Eating well and exercising to attain physical fitness and meet the tasks required.  A healthy horse should be able to pass a vet exam.

Training - There are many interpretations of levels of a broke horse. Here are some levels of broke horse as defined by some trainers. Please use your skills in assessing where your horse fits.

Unbroken – A horse not comfortable around humans

Started- An uneducated horse learning about working with humans in a gentle manner. 

Green Broke- a horse that has some of the basics and understands all of what is expected of the horse but has more riding experience in more situations  

Finished- anything presented to the horse can be addressed mentally and emotionally in a quite manner so that the rider can work the horse and think his way through the situations in order to get to the desired result.