Understanding Horse Conformation and why it is so often overlooked. | SouthwesternEquine
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Understanding Horse Confirmation


Horse conformation is the assessment of how a horse's physical features, movement, and behavior affect its suitability for a particular job or sport. This often includes an evaluation of its structure, balance, muscling, soundness, and a range of other considerations. 

Why is understanding your horse's conformation so important?

The conformation of your horse can has more to do with your horses abilty to perform than you may realize.

Poor horse conformation is one of the biggest problems horse owners face. Conformation is the way a horse’s body is put together; and if it’s not built correctly, it can cause major health, performance, and behavioral issues.

Poor conformation can include any number of problems with a horse’s structure such as a misaligned back, bowed legs, straight shoulders, weak muscling, or an uneven stance. The most common consequences of conformation-related issues are lameness, lameness-related problems and behavior problems.

Lameness can be caused by a number of conformation-related issues and is commonly the result of poor leg placement or incorrect muscling. Horses with bowed tendons, weak legs, or incorrect angles may suffer from chronic lameness, meaning they are always uncomfortable and unable to move correctly. This can affect the horse’s performance, as they are unable to perform at their full potential or even to move correctly.

Lameness-related problems can also be caused by poor conformation. Horses with conformation issues may be more inclined to develop navicular disease, laminitis, and other musculoskeletal problems due to incorrect positioning of the legs and feet.
Finally, a horse’s behavior may be affected by its conformation. Horses with poor conformation often display erratic behavior due its inability to move comfortably and its inability to perform to its full potential 

horse with straight back conformation
Horse back pain

Poor fitting saddles are often a sign of poor horse conformation of a horse's spine and back.

Why the we look so close at the horse's back.

Good confirmation of the back is essential for the wellbeing and comfort of horses, as it is closely linked to their ability to withstand the physical demands of their activities. Poor confirmation of the back can cause a variety of issues, including: 

1. Reduced strength and power of locomotion

2. Posture issues such as swayback or hollow back

3. Musculoskeletal imbalances such as lack of engagement of the hindquarters

4. Pain and discomfort in the back area, leading to reluctance to work

5. Poor balance and coordination 

6. Difficulty with collection or when called upon to perform more advanced movements

7. Poor performance 
These issues can cause longer-term problems, including muscular weakening, arthritic changes in the joints, and risk of injury. 

As such, confirmation of the back should always be closely monitored and management should be adjusted to ensure the horse's comfort and soundness.
To correct for an improper horse confirmation when using a saddle pad, begin by assessing the horse’s confirmation in the area you wish to correct. For example, if the point of the back is raised, use material in the pad which will raise the withers. If the point of the back is low, use material which will lift the back overall. Additionally, use shimming and pad fillers to help build up the area you are trying to correct. As a last resort, consider a saddle fit consultation. 

OthroRide Saddle pads can be a great way to help use an ill-fitting saddle more comfortably on a horse's back. By using a saddle pad, the pressure from the saddle will be dispersed over a greater area, making the saddle ride more comfortably on the horse's back. A saddle pad can also help with any chafing or irritation caused by an ill-fitting saddle and help cushion your horse's back during long rides. 

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