Perfect exterior and possible defects
Large friezes or small ponies, long-legged Akhal-Teke or powerful draught horses? What factors influence a body shape and appearance of horses, and what is the perfect exterior? Let’s try to understand it.
It is easy to guess that a body shape, or exterior, depends on a breed and size of a horse, as well as a type of works it performs. Legs of a thoroughbred riding horse are longer and thinner than the ones of most breeds, to quickly switch to gallop. Heavy horses feature thick legs which support them reliably when moving heavy objects. The ideal horse is a proportional one with the balanced body and limbs. Such an animal is less vulnerable to diseases.
Most of the breeds have their necks starting at the withers. This is the place to measure the height of a horse. Chest and body should be broad enough but not too much so as not to impede movement. A shoulder of a horse is connected to the rest of the body with the muscles, not bone, as in humans. The dimensions of the back and body of a horse also determine what particular breed it belongs to. The length of the back is the defining factor in determining opportunities for horse riding and wearing saddles.
The muscles adjacent to the base of the tail are called the croup and may be strongly developed. If a horse can get its skin trembling at this place, it is a sign of good health.
A joint in the upper part of the back leg of a horse is called a knee joint. The knee joint connects with the bones of the tibia which, in turn, are connected to the heel tendon. Below are the pastern, fetlock joints and hooves. Forelimbs have the same structure and they bear the load of 60% of the total weight of a horse. The impact power of a horse is in its hind legs. Therefore, they should be strong and muscular.
The neck of a riding horse should be sufficiently long and curved. In the area of the throat, the neck should not be fleshy, that can interfere with the bending of the head. Too large, heavy head breaks the overall balance increasing the pressure on the front legs and a too little head affects the balance as well.
There are four main options to measure horses: first, the height at the withers is measured by a measuring stick from the base of the front feet (soles) to the highest point of the withers of the horse evenly standing on all four legs at the flat surface. Secondly, the length of the body is measured by a measuring stick from the extreme point of the humeroscapular joint to the end of the swell of the buttock; thirdly, chest girth is measured by a measuring tape around the circumference of the body behind the shoulder blades; and, finally, the cannon bone girth is measured by a measuring tape in the middle of the upper third of the pastern.
Among the most frequent defects of the exterior are the following:
- Ewe neck - concaved comb and convexed throat region of the neck.
- Narrow chest - ribs look flat as compared to a wide chest.
- Karp back - the spine curves up excessively.
- Saddle-like back - the back is too concaved.
- Hunger hallow - the belly bottom rises almost vertically to the groin.
- Turned-in stand - the wrist, when viewing it from the side, looks back.
- Calf knees - flat knees.
- Cow stand - when looking from behind, the hock joints seem concaved like a cow has.
- Buck knees - knees are put forward.
- Winging-in - hooves turned inside.
- Concaved hock joint - when looking at the side of the front line of the hock joint seems to be concave and the pastern looks tilted.
- Toes-out - valgus hooves.
- Pastern catch - the circumference of the bone just below the wrist is less than the one at bottom of the pastern.