How to Examine Horses for Conformation?

horses for hunter jumper Texas, USA

Whether it’s buying the best horses for hunter jumper or participating in a horse show jumping event, it’s important to examine horses for confirmation. If you are new to the term, here is what confirmation means.

Confirmation is the correctness of bone, musculature, and proportions. This is often referred to as “form to function.” It relates directly to the horse’s ability to perform specific tasks.

Comly Sport Horses explains confirmation criteria for choosing the best horses for hunter jumper.

I. Examine the Balance Factor

Walking, running or jumping – it’s important for the horse to maintain stability in all conditions. The balancing depends upon the physical form factors as discussed below.

#1. Shoulder-hip-back ratio (1:1:1)

Shoulder-hip-back ratio (1:1:1)

The best horses for hunter jumper have their shoulder, back, and hip of equal measures as given in the illustration above. The anatomy helps the horse to maintain a great balance, irrespective of the activities it undertakes.

#2. Neck Vs shoulder, back and hip

Neck Vs shoulder back and hip

Under a relaxed standing posture, the horse’s neck should be equal to or longer than the shoulder, back, and hip. Again, the top of the neck should ideally be twice as long as the underside of the horse’s neck, or a 2-to-1 ratio as marked in the above picture with the red lines #2 and #1 respectively.

#3. Face Vs back, hip, shoulder

Face Vs back hip shoulder

The length of the face (marked with a blue arrow) should either be equal to or shorter than the length of the horse’s back, hip, and shoulder.

#4. Back vs underlying abdomen

Back vs underlying abdomen

A shorter back than its underline helps the horse to maintain a good balance during any activities. Remember, the structure of a pyramid, with a larger base and smaller tip.

#5. Heart girth vs underline to the ground

Heart girth vs underline to the ground

Measure the heart girth and the distance between the underline to the ground. While providing horse training services over the years at Comly Sport Horses, we have found that horses having the two values equal perform better than the rest.

II. Examine the PhysiqueAnatomy

#1. The angle of the shoulder

The angle of the shoulder

A 45° angle between the neck’s upper line and shoulder is ideal anatomy that helps the horse to run fast with a longer stride and maintain a good balance. A smaller shoulder angle reduces the performance of the horse. Looking at the slope of the neck you can figure it out easily.

#2. The angle of the hoof

The angle of the hoof


Hoof angle is an important attribute to the performance of a horse as it is one of the determinants of the stride length. The best horses for hunter jumper have a hoof with long toe and short heel. Remember, a short toe, the long heel will create a short stride.

III. Examine the muscle quality and distribution

The anatomy and strength of muscles contribute to the performance of a horse significantly. Hence, it’s important you examine horses by muscles.  Take around the horse to review the muscles on the sides, front, and back. Sit down below its necks and back to see the muscles. Primary areas that you must examine to notice the distribution of muscles are as follows.

  • Chest or pectorals (the “V” that the front legs create) and the forearm.
  • Stifle and hip. The stifle should be wider than at the point of the hip.
  • Inner and outer gaskin.

IV. Choose the right breed

Different horse breeds are blessed with a unique set of characteristics and abilities. Depending upon your need and interest, get the horse of the right breed. Oldenburg, Trakehner, Dutch Warmblood, Irish Sport Horse, and Hanoverian are considered ideal hunter jumper horses. They possess a body with great stamina and symmetry to perform the activities with perfect balance. However, a lot depends upon the quality and consistency of horse training services you invest in.