Conformation of a Racehorse

Prospective horse owners need to look at characteristics and conformation so as to determine if a horse has the potential to become a spectacular athlete. Differences between individual racehorses can be very subtle, as most thoroughbred horses are bred for running. Thus, it takes an experienced eye to notice the small details that could make huge impacts on the racecourse.

For owners just getting their feet wet in the horse racing industry, there are a few guidelines they can follow when looking at buying a racehorse. When talking about the conformation of a racehorse, we are referring to the makeup of various features, such as the legs, head, muscles and other qualities, together. The average racehorse stands at a height of sixteen hands, measured from its feet to its withers. As thoroughbred horses are bred to be racing machines, their hearts are large and heavy, weighing an average of ten pounds. The structure of the heart allows for approximately seventy-five gallons of blood to pump through the horse’s body each minute. The legendary Secretariat was not only said to have the most perfect conformation ever seen, but had a heart that weighed a staggering twenty two pounds.

When walking up to a horse, there are a few points potential owners should take note of. Owners should firstly determine if the horse is well balanced and in proportion. If the frame of a horse is too light to carry its muscle weight, it could lead to severe injuries. Therefore, balance, bone structure and athleticism are essential. Also take note of the head, checking if the horse is alert, bright eyed and has its ears forward, showing awareness.

Other detailed characteristics to be on the lookout for includes the structure of the feet, as they have to withstand the pressure of the horse running, pastern angles and lengths, and the joint sizes of the ankles. Cannon bones should ideally be short, straight and strong, and knees should be in balance with the bones of the legs. The shoulders of a racehorse should slope slightly and have a good muscle structure. Necks should also be muscular with adequate room for breathing, which goes hand in hand with the head that should have large nostrils, bold eyes, well set ears and a shallow mouth. As all the power of a racehorse comes from his back legs, owners are advised to take note of the back, hips and buttocks of a horse.

Prospective buyers also look at the hocks, stance, rear view, side view, front view, chest and how the horse walks, to check for a smooth stride. It is important to remember that no horse has a perfect conformation. The art in choosing a winner is determining which flaw will cause the least damage to a horse’s performance on the racetrack.