Claremont Riding Academy: Barn Management Series
Parts of the Horse
The following are conformational traits that are considered favourable when looking at the parts of the horse. Of prime importance is that all the parts balance well as a whole. Many horses, however, like people, can overcome comformational faults in order to perform well due to a kind and willing nature. In showing, faults are considered to be things that could effect the performance of the horse, such as an inadequately sloped shoulder which could throw the gait off. Things like scars on the skin are considered to be merely blemishes.
Points of the head HEAD:
The head should be proportionate with the neck and body. Some refinement is desirable, but depends on the breed and build of the horse.

The eyes and facial expression can tell you a lot about the horse's temperment and personality. The eyes should be large and clear and in proportion with the head. Some people think that white showing around the edges of the eye can indicate a skittish horse, while eyes that are wider set indicate a more intelligent animal.

The ears should be set high and forward on the head, and somewhat refined. Watching the ears can tell you a lot about where the horse's attention is - if they're tilted back to you when you're mounted, the horse is paying attenion to you, while if they're pointed straight forward he's more interested in what's going on ahead. If the ears lie flat back and close to the head, the horse may be excited or frightened and you need to get his attention back on you.

Neck and nose Nose:
The nose bone should be straight (in profile). A slight inward dish is desirable for some breeds. The nostrils should be large and oval. Larger nostrils are thought to indicate a horse with more stamina.

The jaw should be formed so that the teeth align properly, with the top teeth slightly forward. The throat or jowl should be refined, but solid.

The neck should be in proportion with the head and body. Too long or too short is undesirable. The neck should be well set on the shoulder, not too high or too low. Different disciplines favour different sets to the neck; for example a jumper should have a neck on a higher angle to help the rider feel more secure. The crest of the mane should be curved slightly up, so that you can see the muscle. It is commonly believed that there are no nerve endings in the mane area, although some horses will react to the feeling of the skin being pulled. Most horses, however, are willing to allow their manes to be pulled, which is far healthier and easier to braid than cutting.

Shoulder and foreleg SHOULDER:
The shoulder should have a good 45 degree angle slope to allow for the greatest range of motion.

The front legs should be evenly set under the body. The horse should naturally stand straight and square on all four feet. The legs should be long and well proportioned. They should be straight through the forelimb, knee, cannon bone and fetlock (ankle). The pastern should be medium length with a 45 degree angle. Of equal importance, the angle of the hip, hoof and shoulders should match the pastern. Too long of a pastern could be indicative of horse that will easily injure itself. The majority of injuries occur to the legs of the horse.

There are two places on each leg that may be the remains of multi-toed hooves. The first is the chestnut, a small lump on the inside of the forelimb which appears to be made of rough skin. The patterns on the chestnut are unique to each horse, much as a human fingerprint is. The second place is behind the fetlock, the longer hair or feathering that grows down, called the ergot. Although some people believe that thouroughbreds do not have ergots, and that this can be used as an identifying mark, the truth is all horses have ergots, although a thoroughbred's may be so small as to seem more like a small chestnut. The ergot occurs on the palmar aspect or the fetlock.

The coronary (or coronet) band merges into the hoof. The hoof angle should match the shoulder and pastern angle. The foot should be well balanced and sit flat on the ground.

Foot and lower leg The coronary (or coronet) band merges into the hoof. The hoof angle should match the shoulder and pastern angle. The foot should be well balanced and sit flat on the ground.
The back of the horse should be neither too prominent nor undefined. They should tie in well to the back, which should be neither too long nor too short. The back should be straight and well muscled and flow smoothly into the loins and croup. As horses age, they often lose muscle tone in the back, which can result in a seriously curved or sway-backed appearance.
Hindquarters of the horse

The hindquarters should be powerful and well muscles, especially over the croup and hip area. They should tie into the kind legs well. The quarters should be level with the height of the withers.

The lowest part of the back should be just in front of the 1/2 way point b/t withers and croup, which should slope slightlyl; too flat a croup makes it more difficult for the horse to get his hind quarters underneath him and engaged. too much slope could create straight hocks, also undesirable.

Hind Legs:
The rear legs should be set well underneath the body. The quarters should tie into the stifle (knee) joint and a well muscled gaskin, which connects to the hock joint. On the rear legs, the upper joint is referred to as the knee, while the more obvious joint in the middle of the leg is called the hock. Below the hock, the anatomy of the hind limb is the same as that of the front limb.

The tail bone is an extension of the horse's spine. It extends down from the dock (base) of the tail to hang even with the stifle. Hair grows from the skin around the tail bone to form a natural fly swatter. A long, full tail is favourable, though it may be braided for show. Cutting the tail short simply deprives the horse of one of its natural defenses.