The Modern Thoroughbred Horse …
The average height of today’s Thoroughbred is a little over 16 hands, as opposed to the 14-hand average height of the horses from which the thoroughbred breed originated.
But the key word is average, because, for every rule as to what the perfect Thoroughbred should look like, there is a champion whose performance disproves it.
The best guidelines for good conformation come from appreciation of what the body is required to do.
- Four slender legs must carry more than 1,000 pounds of body weight over extended distances, traveling at speeds of 35-40 miles per hour,
- Yet still have the strength and suppleness to respond to changes of pace or direction as dictated by racing conditions.
But, although mechanical and engineering formulae can be used to measure the most desirable dimensions and angles of the body’s components, there is no way to measure the most important qualities of a Thoroughbred horse — its courage, determination and will to win.
If there is one place where these attributes are reflected in the thoroughbred horse, it is the shape and carriage of the head and the look in the eye.
- The head should be correctly proportioned to the rest of the body, displaying a good flat forehead and wide-set intelligent eyes. Carried relatively low, the head should sit well on a neck which is somewhat longer and lighter than in other breeds.
- The withers should be high and well-defined, leading to an evenly curved back.
- The shoulder should be deep, well-muscled and sloped along the same parallel as that on which the head is carried.
- From the point of the shoulder, the forearm should show adequate muscling which tapers towards a clean-looking knee which in turn tapers into the full width of the cannon. This in turn should be short and comparatively flat, with the tendons distinctly set out and clean.
- The pastern should be neither too long nor too short and set at an angle a little less than 45 degrees to the vertical.
- When viewed from behind or in front, the legs should be straight and move smoothly in unison through one plane.
Power comes from the hindquarters and all-important is that the bone structure of the upper hind leg is such that it can make room for long, strong muscling. These driving muscles act between the hip bone and the thigh bone which should be long and the angle it makes with the hip bone wide.
This powerful muscling of the hip and thigh should continue down through the gaskin. And, finally, the trailing edge of the hind cannon should follow a natural perpendicular line to the point of the buttock.