The Conformationally Challenged Equine Athlete

No horse is perfect, and many with conformational flaws go on to compete successfully. What can you live with and how?
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the conformationally challenged equine athlete
It pays to look beyond an individual’s structural conformation and also consider the horse’s work ethic, disposition, skills, training, and fitness, as well as the conditions of the day you assess him. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

No horse is perfect, and many with conformational flaws go on to compete successfully. What can you live with and how?

Horse people put a lot of stock in a horse’s conformation, as far as predicting his athletic potential. After all, it’s common knowledge that certain conformational characteristics have the potential to be career-limiting.  

But have you ever come across the horse that never “read the book,” doesn’t know he’s not perfect, and continues to perform soundly and successfully despite his flaws? Or, maybe you’re familiar with the pristinely conformed horse that’s a less-than-stellar performer.  

So many factors determine whether an equine athlete becomes successful that it’s sometimes hard to predict which horse will go far in the competitive world. It pays to look beyond an individual’s structural conformation and also consider the horse’s work ethic, disposition, skills, training, and fitness, as well as the conditions of the day you assess him

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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