|While the conformation of the forequarters of a horse will not guarantee
which gait he performs, it will determine how he does it. Reach,
high action, and "scope" of motion are determined by the length and angulation
of the shoulder and humerus, and the overall balance of the
horse is affected by the length and attachment of the neck. A "good
shoulder" for high action and short steps in a Paso Fino will not be the
same as a "good shoulder" for
long reach in a Fox Trotter or a "good shoulder" for a horse which is expected to take long steps and display the ability to "fold" the front legs at the knee.
For a horse that is expected to work in Paso Fino gaits, a rather upright but long shoulder and a short upright humerus will provide the ability to take high, short steps. For a Fox Trotter, a more laid back shoulder, approaching 50 degrees, and a more horizontal humerus, approaching 30 degrees, will provide the ability to take desirable long, low steps in front. For a pleasure type walking horse, or a Peruvian Paso, a laid back shoulder of about 50 degrees and a slightly less horizontal humerus than ideal in a Fox Trotter will provide scope of motion, allowing for a long, but higher step in front. For a racking horse, or a more animated type of Walking Horse, a long shoulder which approaches 50 degrees and a long slightly more upright humerus will allow for both a long step and high action, folding at the knees in the front.
If the humerus of a horse is conformed so that the point of the elbow lies directly below the crest of the withers, when the horse is posed with front cannons vertical, he will usually have both forward reach and the ability to fold at the knee. A humerus conformed so that the elbow lies in front of the crest of the withers inclines a horse to a shorter step, and a steep angle to the humerus, more than 30 degrees, combined with this short length will cause short, high steps. If the point of the elbow lies behind the crest of the withers, and the humerus is virtually horizontal, the horse will take very low, long steps.
The conformation of the neck also effects gait performance, but does
not determine it. A horse with a short neck set on low,
but carried high (so that there is a noticeable dip in front of the withers
and outward bulge under the neck) will be more inclined to do a high action
gait in some ventroflexion (hollow body position) than one with a
neck set on low and carried low. A horse with a long neck,
set on high, and carried high, will be more inclined to take a longer,
high action step in front than a short necked one. A horse with a
long neck, set on at a moderate height, and carried at a medium height
is more inclined to a lower action gait, and may be more inclined to a
slightly longer stride in his gait than the short necked horse. (
A relatively long neck measures the same from poll to withers as from withers
to lumbo sacral junction -- the neck being the same length as the functional
All together, the conformation of the front end of a horse should enhance the gaits he is expected to do. A low headed, long shouldered horse with a horizontal humerus will not be able to perform Paso Fino gaits well, but he might be a dynamite Fox Trotter. A horse with a straight shoulder, short vertical humerus and short high set on neck might not be able to fox trot very well, but he can probably do a very good corto or largo. And, a horse with a long, laid back shoulder, long but not horizontal humerus and high set on, long neck might not have long stride in a fox trot, but he will have motion and action in front and the ability to reach out and fold well in a rack or running walk.
Index of Conformation Analysis
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