Posts Tagged ‘conformation’

Hi Cherry,

I’m a veterinarian, but not a horseman.  So I have been around horses, have treated them, but I can’t say that I know them well.  I recently will retire and want to spend time with my other animals as well as buy two horses.  Given my partner and I are beginners, do you ever help with finding two experienced and gentle horses for pleasure riding and for pets?  The farm I’m buying has 40 acres of pasture in vermont as well as excellent equestrian facilities.  If you don’t do this, do you know someone who does?  Thanks for any help.  Doug

Hi Doug,

Being in Colorado and you in Vermont………that would be tough.

BUT maybe if you took some lessons from an ARIA (American Riding Instructors Association) instructor in your area,


that would get you started……and then the instructor might be able to recommend some horses or other people to help you find horses.

Click on Find an ARIA instructor in the left column to get started………

It will take you to a list of Vermont instructors


Perhaps one is near you………best of luck.

And please let me know how this works for you……..

and if you haven’t read Horse For Sale, How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have, you should. It is filled with valuable information for you as a potential buyer. Here’s the expanded table of contents.

Chapter 1 – Getting Ready to Buy a Horse 

The Benefits and Responsibilities of Horse Ownership
Sample Budget
Choosing a Horse
Choosing a Mentor

Chapter 2 – Factors in Selection 

Estimated Price Ranges
Selecting a Horse for an Event
Movement and Way of Going
Breed or type
Predicting Adult Weight and Height
Color and Markings

Chapter 3 – Methods of Buying  

Private Treaty
Breeding Farm or Production Sale
Terms and Conditions
Using an Agent
Finder s Fee
Where to Look
Buying Protocol
Buying Procedure

Chapter 4 – Buyer Exam  

Evaluating Conformation and Movement
Making a Visual Assessment
Conformation Components
Proportions and Curvature of Topline
Correctness of angles and Structures
Evaluating Potential of Young Horses
Attitude, Temperament, and Mental Powers
Conformation and Athletic Ability
Evaluating Movement
Movement Evaluation Process
The Natural Gaits
The Phases of a Stride
Terms Associated with Movement
Factors that Affect Movement
Lameness at the Trot
Level of Fitness
Stage of Development
Recognizing Defects
What is Ideal Movement?
Gait Defects
Defects in Travel

Chapter 5 – Evaluating Temperament, Behavior, and Training  

Signs of Vices and Bad Habits
Wood Chewing
Stall Kicking
Tail Rubbing
Dental Problems
Digestive Problems
Relationship with other horses
Attitude toward people
Vices, Description, Causes, Treatment
Bad Habits, Description, Causes, Treatment
Evaluating Ground Training
Evaluating a Horse s Riding Training
On the Bit?
The Test Ride
Summary of Buyer Exam
Horse Information Checklist

Chapter 6 – The Pre-Purchase Contract and Veterinary Exam   

The Pre-Purchase Contract
Notes about Items Covered in Contract
The Veterinary Exam
Pass or Fail?
Excepted Conditions
Be on the Lookout for These Conditions
Tests and Examinations
General Clinical Exam
Examination of the Limbs
Hoof Exam
Hoof Tester
Flexion Tests
Nerve Blocks
Neurological Exam
Laboratory Tests
Blood Chemistry Panel
Chemical Test
Endoscopic Exam
Reproductive Exam
Rectal Palpation
Approximate Charges
Trial Period

Chapter 7 – Paperwork and Legalities for the Buyer

Types of Insurance
What Type Do you Need?
Registration Papers
Brand Inspection

Chapter 8 – Alternatives to Buying  

International Buying
Shares, Syndication
Adopt a Wild Horse
Working Student

Chapter 9 – Getting Ready to Sell a Horse  

Finding a Niche for Your Horse
Identify the Buyer
International Sales
Establishing the Value and Price for Your Horse

Chapter 10 – Marketing a Horse 

Selling Through an Agent or Auction
Terms and Conditions When Consigning to Auction
Bulletin Boards
Farm Sign
Classified Ads
Direct Mail Flyer
Word of Mouth
Public Appearances
Display Ads
Advertising Terminology
Response to your Ads
Video as a Marketing Tool
Use of Videos in Selling Horses
Making a Video
Sample Shooting Plan
Include in Video Action Script
Video No-Nos

Chapter 11 – Presentation of a Horse for Sale 

The Horse s Appearance
The Handler s Appearance
The Facilities
Get a Fix on Buyer s Wants and Needs
Customer Selection
Showing a Horse to a Buyer
Liability During a Test Ride
Things that Kill a Sale
Things that Make a Sale

Chapter 12 – Paperwork and Legalities for the Seller  

Information Sheet
Transfer of Ownership
Registration Papers
Bill of Sale
Installment Sales
Purchase and Installment Agreement

Chapter 13 – Alternatives to Selling


Cherry Hill


Excellent suggestion!  Thank you so much.  In fact, one of the ARIA instructors, is in the same town as the farm I am purchasing. 

Thanks again!  I will send pics of my new friends once I get them, but I want to take my time to find the right pair.

Have a great rest of week.


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My mare, who is 30 years old, but acts like she’s about 20 years younger, loves to be ridden and loves to run up the hills. She has so much energy that she’s hard to keep at a walk especially out on trails, and in the field. She wants to be in the lead and doesn’t like being in the rear or even in the middle of the group. She’s also forgotten how to WHOA when told. So I’m constantly pulling on her to stop (never used to have to do that). I can deal with all that, after all she’s 30! Do horses after a certain age forget things? But, my problem is keeping the saddle and pads in place. They’re always slipping no matter how much I tighten the girth. I also use a breast collar on her. I thought that would help keep the saddle in place. Any suggestion?  Mary

Hi Mary,

Your question reads like a story about aging horses and saddle fit.

When a horse’s back begins to drop (sway) it is almost impossible to keep the saddle up near the vicinity of the withers. Instead, gravity and the rider’s weight cause the saddle to slip down the slope created by the prominent withers (the peak) and the now lower back.

Even if you tighten and re-tighten the cinch, the tendency will be for the saddle and you to slip rearward and settle down in the valley of the horse’s sagging topline.

You’ve tried the logical solution – use a breast collar to HOLD the saddle forward. But alas that just causes extreme pressure on the horse’s chest and shoulders as the weight of the saddle and rider pull against them as the saddle tries to slip back.

Which brings me to the change in behavior in your horse. You say you always have to keep pulling on her to stop her or slow her down now – you didn’t have to do that in the past. That’s because when a horse has back pain from pressure and/or an ill-fitting saddle and when a horse is thrown off balance because of tight tack and pressure, the horse might instinctively do one of several things.

Buck like heck to get rid of the saddle and pain, rub or roll to get the saddle off, or as many trained horses will do, move fast and tense. Part of your mare’s exuberance might be due to her being full of energy, but in so many cases, quick, tense movement is associated with pain and imbalance.

So the solution to everything is finding a saddle that fits. This is something you will need to do locally so that the expert saddle fitter can see your horse in person. Once you get a saddle to fit your mare, you might be surprised to see how you will be able to ride with a looser cinch, how much more comfortable your mare will be and how she will resume her normal gaits.

If you care to reply with the state or area you live in, perhaps someone will write in suggesting a saddle fit expert in your area.

Read more articles on tack and riding here on my Horse Information Roundup.

Best of luck,


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Where do I begin? How do I judge my horse’s conformation.


Hi Jolene,

Here are some basics.

Develop a specific system for evaluating the horses you are considering. That way, you will have a better means of comparison. Be aware that wildly-colored horses and those with dramatic leg markings can cause visual distortions which could result in inaccurate conclusions. When you examine a horse, be sure it is standing on level ground with weight on all four feet.

Begin by looking at a horse from the near side (the horse’s left side) in profile and assess overall balance by comparing the forehand to the hindquarters. When viewing the horse in profile, pay attention to the curvature and proportions of the topline. Let your eyes travel from poll to tail and down to the gaskin. Then observe the manner in which the limbs attach to the body. Evaluate hip and shoulder angles.

Step to the front of the horse and evaluate the limbs and hooves for straightness and symmetry. Observe the depth and length of the muscles in the forearm and chest. Evaluate the head, eyes, nostrils, ears, and teeth. Be sure the teeth meet evenly with no undershot or overshot jaw.

Making a Visual Assessment of a Horse

Excerpt from
Horse for Sale, How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have
by Cherry Hill © 1995 © Copyright Information

Then step to the off side (the horse’s right side) and confirm or modify your evaluation of the balance, topline, and limb angles.

Horse For Sale by Cherry HillMove to the hindquarter and stand directly behind the tail. Evaluate the straightness and symmetry of the back, croup, point of hip and buttock and the limbs. Let your eyes run slowly from the poll to the tail as this is the best vantage point for evaluating back muscling and (provided the horse is standing square) left-to-right symmetry. You may need to elevate your position if you are evaluating a tall horse. The spring of rib is also best observed from the rear view.

Now make another entire circle around the horse, this time stopping at each quadrant to look diagonally across the center of the horse. From your position at the rear of the horse, step to the left hind and look toward the right front. This angle will often reveal abnormalities in the limbs and hooves that were missed during the side, front, and rear examinations. Proceed to the left front and look back toward the right hind. Move to the right front and look toward the left hind. Complete the revolution at the right hind looking toward the left front.

And finally, step to the near side and take in a view of the whole horse in profile once again.

While you are looking at a horse, it helps if you get an overall sense of the correctness of each of the four functional sections: the head/neck, the forehand, the barrel, and the hindquarters.

Head and neck The vital senses are located in the head so it should be correct and functional. The neck acts as a lever to help regulate the horse’s balance while moving. Therefore it should be long and flexible with a slight convex curve to its topline.

Forehand The front limbs support approximately 65 percent of the horse’s body weight, so must be strong and sound. The majority of lameness is associated with the front limbs.

Barrel The mid-section houses the vital organs, therefore, the horse must be adequate in the heart girth and have good spring to the ribs. The back should be well muscled and strong so the horse can carry the weight of the rider and the saddle.

Hindquarters The rear hand is the source of power and propulsion. The hindquarter muscling should be appropriate for the type, breed, and use. The croup and points of the hip and buttock should be symmetric and the limbs should be straight and sound.

Cherry Hill


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