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Conformation critique on my long yearling :)

Hey everyone! I am curious what thoughts are in my young one :slight_smile: he’s supposed to be my Eventing partner in the future. Right now he’s about 16.1-16.2 and he is 1 year and 10 months old. He is registered Westfalen NA

Sire is Valentino KWPN
Dam is Spring Silk RPSI
Including photos of parents as well!!
NOTE: photo with saddle is the most recent. The other ones of him are just a 2-3 months old.


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I think he is a cutie. I’m not super well-versed in desirable Westfalen confo, but one thing that does stand out to me is that he seems to have his dam’s straighter hock and a tendency to lower-slung hind pasterns. This may make him more prone to suspensory issues down the road, but definitely not a guarantee. However, he is quite young still.

YMMV, I’m touchy about angulation in the hind limbs since our 15 year-old arab has straighter stifles/hocks and it has given him nothing but trouble.


I agree with @ratchet! We have a 4 1/2 yr OldenburgX at our farm that has a hind end/pasterns very similar to OP’s. He got very sore when he was started, got some rest and restarted. Got lame behind and was diagnosed with a bone chip and suspensory issues. He’s been in a pasture for the past year…

Oh interesting! Is there anything you would’ve done differently in his upbringing now that you’ve gone through this? I know about conformation enough but not as in depth as it can go, especially when you’re looking for horses to be upper level prospects.

First, he is not my horse. He belongs to a boarder where I work. I noticed his hind pastern angles were low when I’d casually see him in turnout around 1-2 yrs. Even at walk/trot his pasterns flexed too much. Fronts looked fine. His owner does jumpers, but I could just tell this guy wouldn’t hold up to basic flat work, let alone jumping. As I mentioned above, he became sore and then lame just during the starting process (light work/short sessions) several days/week. He’s a pretty big guy, 16.2 WB.

The guy who started this gelding never made a comment about the pasterns, so I didn’t give my unsolicited opinion. IMO this gelding might be a trail horse if they carefully monitor his condition and he comes sound. Never say never, but this type of conformation does not bode well for moderate performance. Mechanically there’s just too much stress at the sesamoid, suspensory, fetlock juncture. If he’s to be your eventing partner, I’d have a well-regarded sporthorse vet come out and evaluate him now. See what they say. If you don’t have access to this type of specialist, contact one at Rood & Riddle, Hagyard or a university equine center and see if good video of leading and/or lungeing from various angles and maybe baseline X-rays would be enough for a cursory evaluation.

He is cute, love that he is playing with the lead rope in the first photo. :smiley:

How old is the dam? I agree with others regarding the pastern concerns, but I like his hind end just fine besides the pasterns. It may also be the photo angle of that first picture.

See if you can’t get a recent conformation photo set up exactly how Valentino’s is set up. The most recent one you have of him is at an angle. Cell phones can distort proportions with their lens which don’t have a faithful aspect ratio, so it’s best to do so with a real camera.

All in I think he is cute; I like Valentino. I’ve seen him used on a few nice TB mares and they all seem like nice, rideable event horses.

The more glaring thing I saw, was his toes are a bit too long and heels too forward for my liking. That’s a farrier specific thing, not natural conformation, and should be easy enough to fix. I like his shoulder, his neck, and his fundament; I don’t think he is functionally to straight behind from what I can tell, but if his pasterns over time drop the way his dams have, you will see his angles ‘open up’ and become straighter as time goes on.

Do come back when he is under saddle. There is a reason I don’t post my long yearling conformation shots online – or even the conformation of my projects. They are not always perfect - no horse is - and what matters most for low level disciplines is usually what’s between the ears.

None of the pictures are very good to see him as a whole, for different reasons having to do with the relationship of the camera to the horse.

I’ll try to piece things together from different pics that show different parts well enough.

The nice thing about functional conformation is that it doesn’t change, once they unfold. These things tell you the general balance of the horse, whether he is functionally heavier, or lighter, in front, how well he will be able to use his hind end, and how those things, combined with the other aspects of of his confo, suggest he will hold up to long-term athletic use.

Functional conformation is 3 parts:

  1. Pillar of support - the relationship between a vertical line through crease in the forearm muscles and withers, with that line needing to be well in front of the withers, and that crease in the forearm muscles and hoof, with that line intersecting the back of the foot

  2. Lumbosacral gap (LS gap) placement - the “gap” between the last thoracic vertebra, and the sacrum, with this needing to be directly over the point of the hip

  3. Neck emergence - at least above the point of the shoulder

Everything else is in addition to that - shoulder slope and length, shoulder angle (with the humerus), humerus length, pasterns, depth of hip, etc.

For this guy, his PoS is very good, nicely in front of his withers which helps keep his front end lighter, and right around the back of his foot which gives his legs the support they need.

His LS gap appears to be right where it should be. This will allow him the best use of being able to engage his hind end with proper flexion

His neck emergence is also where it should be - nicely above the point of shoulder, but not too much above (which starts heading into knife neck territory, not functional)

His shoulder slope is good, well in range of 45-55*. The angle (relationship to humerus) looks to be at least 90*, maybe 1-2* more, which is what you need, in order for him to be able to fold his legs well (if that angle is less than 90*, there’s less room for the angel to close). His shoulder confo lends itself to getting knees up, and legs folded, over fences.

Only the 3rd pic shows his hind legs well enough, and he’s a little straight, like his dam. Not enough to make me concerned. Some feel this gives then better ability to coil and push off over fences, and certainly there are a number of upper level Event horses with a straighter hind leg configuration. The rest of his Big 3 are good enough that this is less of a concern, than if any of those 3 were not good.

He looks to have taken after his dam in the leg department in terms of angles, as his sire is more upright in his pasterns, and with more angle to his hocks.

You can’t look at just a single body part and declare it a problem for the horse, with a few exceptions. There are some very serious faults, like a structural ewe neck, truly posty hocks, extremely sickle-hocked, which all by themselves really take the chances of sounder long-term athletic use off the table.

Straighter hocks by themselves aren’t a problem. What’s above the hind legs, and what’s in the front of the horse? These hocks (the OP) in a horse with a terrible pillar of support and neck emergence, would be a big problem adding on to those. But they do have decent angles (just not GREAT), and he’s got a functionally light front end, so no inherent concerns.

His dam is very similar in this way, so I’d look to how she’s holding up. Keep a great trimming schedule, make sure you know what feet should look like in terms of toes and heels where they belong, and I suspect he’ll be just fine.

Oh my! Thank you for such an in depth, detailed response! I know the pictures aren’t ideal, I will have to get some better ones.
His dam at a young age injured her hind legs in a fence accident so she’s only been a broodmare but from what videos I’ve seen of her trotting around next to her babies she seems to be holding up pretty well but obviously not doing much!

And he has two full older brothers 3y/o and 4y/o
I keep updated with the 4 year old and he’s looking good and holding up well so far

I know, photos are not ideal. The dam is a 2008 model. She had a fence injury with her hind legs so although breeder bred her for Eventing she remained as a brood mare and is still doing well and making babies :slight_smile:

Well, we know that the hind leg conformation in the dam isn’t the result of an injury, because your boy has the same conformation.

As horses get older, their posture behind visually changes and it is not uncommon to see the hocks be held straighter as the pastern loses elasticity. This is normal wear and tear associated with aging. You usually will see this in a horse in their 20s.

I wouldn’t go so far as to diagnose ESPA/DSLD off of photos alone in that mare, but 2008 is not aged. For a horse with no riding career to have pasterns that dropped, it’s worth keeping tabs on that mare to see how those pasterns change as she ages - because she passed on that conformation to your horse.

I like her otherwise. She is visually very attractive, with a nice neck, clean feminine features, good stifle and hock, good shoulder, and nice loin. As a breeder, I don’t like her hind pastern and as a horse owner, I don’t like how I see musculature around her stifle and hip that suggest she has been compensating for those pasterns for a while.


Besides whats been mentioned…

They go through ugly duckling growth spurt phases where they can be uphill one week, downhill the next and look like their parts don’t match, taller they will be, gawkier they will appear at times. At 22 months headed to well over 16h he looks like hes going through some of this in some pics. Thats normal, healthy too.

Many prefer not to do much evaluating until they are a bit more mature and I’d love for OP to update us with new pics every 3-4 months. We rarely get to follow them as they grow and its fun to see the changes.

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Good to know! And I will definitely try to remember to post updated photos as he gets older :slight_smile:

I understand. Someone else asked how the dam was holding up and I was just wanting to give info she hasn’t done anything other breeding. I’ll be curious to see how he looks as he gets older as well. His siblings all look similar in confo as babies so it’ll be nice to have them as well as seeing how they do

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Growth stages don’t change the Big 3 though, which are the most important.

Butt-high does straighten hind legs and shoulders to some degree, relative to how butt-high they are.

Back length and neck length relative to both each other, and body height, do change for a while, so you really need to be 3+ to get a solid idea how they will finish.

Hip depth also continues to increase for several years.

And of course, vertical body depth changes once the legs stop growing vertically, though in this case I think it’s clear, given how much he looks like his dam, he will also be a bit of a leggier horse

What you see at roughly 3 weeks-ish and 3 months-ish are usually the best indicators of final body proportions, as long as it’s at the point where they aren’t in a major rear-half growth spurt.

I wouldn’t give up on the pasterns…But would watch them closely. Horses grow from the ground up, so he may grow into his and not be like mum.

i’d want to see straight on fore and straight on rear. From one of the photos your guy seems to be close hocked. And i would really like to see his knees as well as his hocks.

One other thing i noticed is that he stands over his legs, as does his dam. This is a thing i have with horses, i want to see them stand plumb in the front. I also want to see the knees and toes on the same plane. I can handle a bit of toe out in front, and i can handle a bit of hockiness…but i would probably not purchase it for breeding purposes.

Pastern diameter will continue to increase for a couple of years, but as the horse increases his weight, they will also get a bit more sloped, and that’s the real issue

Closer hocks aren’t a big issue, and weird growth phases can make them toe out more than is appropriate. As long as the cannon bones are perpendicular to the ground (which these appear to be in all the angled pics), it’s not a concern.

A lot of horses choose to stand a bit over their front legs, which is why it’s important to set them up for a better evaluation

What is “hockiness”?