Conformation's Influence on Motion

Understanding the subtle details of a horse’s conformation will best prepare you for effective trimming and shoeing

How a horse is put together — body proportions and angles, leg angles, straightness or imbalance in limbs — influences how that horse moves, how its feet push off and strike the ground and how its hooves wear and grow. Assessing the horse’s action and conformation after observing it stand and in motion is essential to determining how its feet should be trimmed and shod.

You can tell a lot about how the horse handles its feet by reading its feet and shoes (where the wear points are), however some clues about how the horse moves and handles its feet become more obvious when you can observe his leg and body angles and also watch its limbs in motion.

Structures And Age

Recognize the state of the horse’s legs as you begin your analysis. Steve Norman, a farrier who works with racehorses, says there are basically three main types of leg structure: toed-out, toed-in and “normal” (with the horse moving its feet in relatively straight lines).

“Any time you see a horse with less than straight legs and feet, the foot flight will be altered,” says the Georgetown, Ky., shoer. “The two basic toe-out structures are deviational and rotational. In the second instance, the horse’s elbows are turned inward and the whole leg is turned outward.”

If the toes are turned outward due to a deviational conformation, the foot flight will curve inward and there will also be distortions in the hoof capsule due to the uneven weight bearing.



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Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho. She has been writing books and articles for nearly 50 years.

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