Horse breeding is an important sector within the equine industry; and a knowledge of breeding horses is of great value to anyone who works with horses; not only breeders.
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
There are many different reasons to breed horses, ranging from increasing the number of animals to improving qualities of the animals we have.
Desirable qualities in an animal can be varied; from the horses vigour and strength, to conformation and temperament.
Do you Understand Good Conformation?
When preparing to assess conformation there are vast quantities of factors which need to be considered. You should also note in the following brief statements of conformation points, we only discuss factors considered for good conformation (we cannot fully incorporate every possibility of horse conformation for the purpose of this book). If a horse displays something different from what is in this information, it does not necessarily mean reduced function, performance or health. You should always have conformation checked by an experienced equine professional or veterinarian as you develop an eye for conformation.
Head: generally lean and in proportion with the entire horse. Jawbone should have space between its lower edge and the jugular allowing flexion. The set of the head on the neck affects flexion (therefore control and balance) so look for a well-set head – for this consider the shoulder angle.
Eyes: should be clear and bright, not too large or too small. Widely set eyes give a broad range of vision. It is a common belief that the expression of the eye is a sign of temperament.
Ears: should be of a good size, flexible and forward facing when pricked.
Muzzle: look for clean nostrils.
Neck: there should be a convex curve with a distinct arch from the poll to the withers; in front of the withers, the neckline should be straight. The neck muscle should disappear into the shoulder smoothly in the middle of the shoulder. Look for clean lines of the neck and a balanced length in proportion with the rest of the horse.
Withers: are the highest part of the horse and so height is determined from here. Withers are defined clearly providing a point for attachment of the shoulder and back muscles.
Shoulder: this should have a definite slope forward from the withers to its point. The top of the shoulder blades should be close together.
Chest: the chest should be of medium size and allow heart space.
Body: like the chest, the body should be deep allowing heart space, but additionally it should allow plenty of space for the lungs at full volume. Measurements from the withers to the lowest part of the girth should be the same measurement as from the girth to the ground.
Ribs: 18 ribs attached to vertebrae, interconnected by cartilage, should only by slightly curved to start with, then increasing in curvature to give a well-rounded appearance.
Back: should be almost level, length should be medium (neck length and back length are in proportion).
Loins: are located on either side of the spinal processes, they should be broad and well developed.
Quarters: shape will vary however a fit horse will have well-developed and firm muscle tone
Forelegs: should be straight from the top of the leg to the foot when viewed from the front. When viewed from the side, the straight line should continue from the top of leg to the front of the fetlock.
Hind legs: when viewing from the side, there should be a straight line from the point of the buttock through the point of the hock and fetlock.
Knees: should be broad, deep and flat.
Hocks: are large with a clean outline and a prominent point at the back. The section from hock to fetlock should seem short. The alignment and overall position of the hock is very important.
Cannon: should be short when measured from below the knee.
Fetlock: should appear flat, not rounded.
Feet: front feet and hind feet are matching pairs and forward facing. Front feet slope at 45-50o from the ground level when standing straight and square. Hind feet are slightly longer and narrower than front feet and have a higher angle of slope. Heels should be wide with well-developed frogs. Feet should not be excessively large or small. The surface should be smooth, not cracked.
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