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Is your horse physically capable? by Craig Cameron



Craig Cameron

Craig Cameron

The mechanics of the horse revolve around how the horse is built and how his body works, just as the nature of the horse pertains to the horse’s psyche and how the horse’s mind works. Equine mechanics deal with the way in which the horse moves across the earth.
A horse drives from behind, turns on his center and pulls with his front. The better you understand how a horse moves, the better you’ll be able to understand how to control his feet. Riding is communicating with the horse’s mind to control the horse’s feet. When you want a horse to go to the right, you must have his feet go to the right. When you want a horse to back, you have to get his feet to move backward. When you want a horse to load into a trailer, you must first get his feet into the trailer. When you understand where your horse’s feet are at all times, you better understand your horse and, therefore, become a better horseman.
Breeding and Conformation
When looking at a prospect for the kind of riding you want to do, ask yourself if the horse is bred to perform the tasks he needs to do and if he’s physically capable of doing them. For example, if you want to ride in endurance races, get a horse that’s bred for long-distance work, such as the Arabian. If you’re looking for a smooth-riding trail horse, check into the gaited breeds, such as Missouri Fox Trotters or Paso Finos. If competing in speed events is your game, a good bet would be a race-bred Quarter Horse. And if you want to work cattle, it makes sense to consider a Quarter Horse with cutting-horse bloodlines.
Through selective breeding, horsemen have carefully and purposefully bred certain physical and mental characteristics into the gene pools of today’s modern equine breeds, giving riders the best chance of success in whatever sport they choose.
Conformation becomes really important in any type of performance. The better a horse is put together, the easier it is for him to do what’s required. Take reining as an example. It’s hard for a horse that’s heavy on the front end, thick-necked or slight in the hindquarters to perform the spectacular sliding stops reining horses are known for. Those stops require horses that are refined and balanced in their necks, light in their front ends (so they can lift them in the classic reiner’s pedaling motion) and heavily muscled in the hindquarters to hold the ground and slide “” over and over again.
In general, however, a good horse is a good horse, and good conformation is good conformation. Here are some conformational points common to all good horses:
– A pretty, refined head with big soft eyes, large nostrils and an alert look. A soft, “gentle” eye can say a lot about a horse’s character.
– A refined neck in proportion to the horse’s body, one that comes out of the shoulders level, neither too high nor too low. A clean throatlatch makes it easy for the horse to break at the poll and therefore give to the bit.
– A balanced body in the shape of a trapezoid, meaning the back is short, the underline long; slanting shoulder and hip angles should match. A well-balanced body is an athletic one.
– Good height to the withers, to hold a saddle in place.
– A big heart girth for heart and lung capacity.
– Strong loins and hindquarters for maximum power and stability.
– Straight legs, with good bone, a short cannon bone.
– Good oval-shaped hooves, large enough to support the horse’s weight.


Excerpt with permission out of Craig’s book, Ride Smart, by Craig Cameron with Kathy Swan. Photos by John Brasseaux.


You can order Craig’s book and DVD’s at


[This article was published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 4, Issue 11.]

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