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Anatomy/Physiology

Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
Conformation is the overall shape and structure of a horse evaluated by looking at the horse's bone structure, muscles, and body proportions.
Good conformation starts with the bones - 205 bones make up the equine skeleton.
The horse skeletal structure is held together with ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Check out our recent posts below throughout the season to learn more about the structure and parts of the horse (its anatomy) and the functions of those parts (its physiology). Select “Read More” below to see all our Anatomy/Physiology blog posts.

Education Blogs

Dr. Roberta Dwyer of the University of Kentucky provides an overview of the horse's skeleton in this video available from The Horse.

Thanks to Dr. Dwyer and The Horse for granting permission to share!

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In this video, the staff at Old Tavern Farm discuss conformation with the mare Comme Chez Soi.

Conformation is the shape or structure of a horse evaluated by looking at the sum of its bone structure, muscles, and body proportions and how they blend together. A Thoroughbred's conformation is often used to determine if the horse has ideal or acceptable physical traits for sales and racing. 

A few aspects of conformation include the head and eyes, hocks, and front legs. An ideal head proportionally sized to the rest of the body allows for a clear line of sight and balances the horse as it moves forward. Eye placement is also critical, as eyes set too close together may impede vision. 

The hocks are part of the back legs of a horse, similar to the ankle joint on a human skeleton. Hocks are essential for propelling a horse forward, and aligned hocks are ideal for energy conservation. A horse's front legs bear tremendous pressure as they run, and front leg alignment is critical for balanced weight distribution. 

Good overall conformation contributes to efficient performance in racing as well as other sports, minimizing strain on the musculoskeletal system. 

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