Which conformation faults are most serious?

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I'm interested in hearing other peoples' opinions as to what the most serious conformational faults are in a horse. To keep things relatively simply, let's say that ...show more
Update : Interesting about the jowl width, Mule, can you or someone else expand on ...show more
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Anything resulting in crooked limbs.

I'm very into showing (breed/type classes) and conformation has been important to me since before I properly understood what it meant, and probably consider some things faults which other people wouldn't (eg wall eyes). Personally I wouldn't buy a horse for hacking and lessons which wasn't suitable for showing, at least in dressage if not as a jumper. Good conformation is good conformation, regardless of what discipline interests you.

The biggest problems you are likely to encounter are regarding legs - if the horse's limbs aren't good, you're scuppered. No use having a beautiful, flawless topline if the legs don't work!

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5 out of 5
This was next to impossible to choose a best answer for - everyone had great points. I think the conclusion we can come to is, start from the legs and work your way up: "No use having a beautiful, flawless topline if the legs don't work!" Well said. Thanks, everyone!
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  • Mulereiner answered 6 years ago
    Club foot

    rotation of the cannon bone from phosphorus deficency and not treated

    ewe necked

    too narrow of jowl width

    weak rump to the point that it inhibits them being able to get 'under themselves'

    base narrow

    These are just ones I have dealt with myself and would never buy something that has any one of these. I don't consider being cowhocked or pidgeon toed too terrible of a fault for a using horse, nor a long back or upright shoulder and pasterns.

    EDIT- on jowl width, they can't bend at the pole properly because they can't breathe. It causes narrowing of the trachea, if they have the wider jowl, the muscles are able to fit inbetween.
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  • ClanSinclair answered 6 years ago
    Good question!!! Here are a few for me, that I look for. Then gave my reasons why.

    Overshot jaw (parrot mouth) or undershot jaw (sow mouth)- Because both defects can affect the chewing of the horse and the horse's ability to clip grass.

    Mutton withers- Because if mutton withered, the horse has less range of motion when extending the head and back muscles, so is less able to elevate its back with its head and neck extended, which affects ability for collection.

    Narrow chest- Because a horse's ability to carry weight is dependent on the size of its chest, so a horse that doesn't do well with draft work but may be fine in harness or with light rider.

    Knock-Kneed- Because it may cause soundness problems in the carpals or supporting ligaments. Horse also tends to toe-out, causing those related problems.

    Back at the Knee- Because it places excess stress on the knee joint as it overextends at high speeds when loaded with weight. Backward angle causes compression fractures to the front surfaces of the carpals, and may cause ligament injury within knee. Worsens with muscle fatigue as the supporting muscles & ligaments loose their stabilizing function

    Toe-Out- Because causes winging motion that may lead to injury around fetlock or splint.

    Pigeon-Toed- Because pigeon-toes cause excess strain on the outside of the lower structures of the limb as the horse hits hard on the outside hoof wall. This often leads to high or low ringbone. The horse is also predisposed to sidebone and sole bruising.

    Downhill Balance- Because increases concussion on the front legs, so the horse is at greater risk of front-end lameness. Greater jar on the rider.

    Straight Shoulder- Because the horse has shorter muscular attachments that have less ability to contract and lengthen. This shortens the stride length, which requires the horse to take more steps to cover ground, and thus causes a greater risk of injury to structures of front legs and hastened muscular fatigue. An upright shoulder may cause a rough, inelastic ride due to the high knee action. It increases concussion on front limbs, possibly promoting the development of DJD or navicular disease in hard-working horses. The stress of impact tends to stiffen the muscles of the shoulder, making the horse less supple with a reduced range of motion needed for long stride reach.
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  • cnsdubie answered 6 years ago
    I agree that hoof/leg problems are significant. Since we're talking conformation (ie, they were born that way) and not soundness (which could also include injuries unrelated to conformation) I'm going to go with over or back at the knee, club feet, and pastern problems.

    The reason I say over/back at the knee are problematic actually comes from my own health...when joints don't line up the way they are supposed to, soreness and weakness can be the result.

    From personal experience, the long-as- the- Mississippi pasterns on my Peruvian means he isn't going to be a trail horse at all. (He has DSLD) Someday we may do some mild driving, but he is basically pasture art.
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  • CRStardust answered 6 years ago
    Straight shouldered, straight up fetlocks, post hocks, overbite, underbite, stifle unsoundness, sickle hocks, cow hocked, offset knees. Can't use a horse with any of these faults in the classes I show in.
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  • More Lies & More Smoke Screens answered 6 years ago
    Weak stifle
    Weak loin
    Short Croup or a steep or flat croup
    Mutton withers (too many run downhill)
    Camped out (hocks are set too far behind the horse)
    Post legged horses (little or no hock angle)
    Sickle hocked (too much hock angle)
    Long pasterns

    Keeping a horse sound relys on good confirmation in my book.
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  • Rachel answered 6 years ago
    When riding a trail horse, you want something that is sure footed. Basically, you want a sturdy animal. You want a horse that is sound, with clean legs. A think cannon bone will hold up better than a thin legged horse, like a Thoroughbred.

    A short shoulder would be bad because it puts extra concussion on the whole leg and creates a choppy, uncomfortable stride. A long cannon bone is bad because on uneven terrain (trail riding) it can lead to lameness.

    A horse who is camped out behind is prone to arthritis, which will effect performance once he gets older. You want a horse that can last a long time, so anything that causes arthritis is bad.

    A horse with a small foot is not good for train riding. On hard surfaces, it can cause bruises and laminitus. A horse with small feet may require expensive shoes. Sometimes, a horse with bigger feet may not need shoes, esp. for the kind of riding you plan to do.
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  • Tigger B answered 6 years ago
    In addition to the ones already mentioned - roach backed.
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  • Myta answered 6 years ago
    leg problems, especially with bone structure (bent legs and such). Horses are on their legs at all times and any problems there will cause serious pain and even danger for the horse. Most conformation problems like out of proporiton backs or necks and croups too steep just change the length of the stride, so for pleasure riding they make little difference.
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  • LBentforLeather!! answered 6 years ago
    No foot, No horse.
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  • ♥HardcoreEventRider♥ answered 6 years ago
    dishing, it can catch its other leg and cause serious injury.

    i would always look for a horse with as near to perfect confirmation as i can, they can cause lots of vets bills otherwise.
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  • Cowgirl answered 6 years ago
    Feet and legs. Too long of pasterns, hoof problems, toed out or pigeon toed, bad hocks, bowed tendons, etc...any of these make a horse risky for riding, period.

    Hips and shoulders and back strength would be the next thing I'd look at. A horse with a long back and poor shoulders or hips is going to have potential problems.
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  • horsybill answered 6 years ago
    I would say just problems in the feet area. The pastern angles and cow or pigeon toed.
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  • horse cutie answered 6 years ago
    Legs if the legs are cow hocked or towed out or and other thing that can be wrong with the legs it can seriously fault the horse in ability to be ridden even if its just trail riding. next is conversationally built if the horse has a u neck to sloped shoulders its not gonna be that stunning of a horse but it might be a great companion horse.


    I horse joudg competitivly.
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