Ask the Vet – Conformation issues in horses and if they really matter
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Ask the Vet – Conformation issues in horses and if they really matter

August 29, 2019

DAN: “If you have
a beginner’s eye and need to look
at conformation, what’s the first thing a vet
will look at for soundness?” DR LYDIA GRAY: This sounds
like an easy question. It is not. Because there’s
no place there is more jargon than conformation. I mean, right now
you and I could do a speed round
of conformation, like sickle hocked, and
cow hocked, calf kneed, and this and that. And I remember years
and years ago going to the AAEP annual convention. And there was a
talk on conformation and its effect on soundness. And it was specifically,
what things do you see, angles,
length, slopes, and that that are actually real. And it kind of shot holes
in everything I believed in. DAN: So what do you mean when
you say what’s actually real? DR LYDIA GRAY: Well,
so we hear things like horses with long,
sloping pasterns, maybe not a good thing. It actually turns out
ideal would be medium length, medium slope. Long, sloping
pasterns are not bad. I know. Hold on to your stool. You’d rather have a
long, sloping pastern than a short, upright pastern. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: Everyone
that I could see agreed. Short, upright
pasterns are not good, both for the soundness
and the longevity. So the concussive
forces that your horse is undergoing in a
short, upright pastern tends to concentrate in that
pastern area, in the fetlock, and even in the foot. And they set the horse
up for a ringbone. Arthritis all down that
short bone through the leg. And the thinking was a
long, sloping pastern set your horse up for bowed
tendon or a pulled suspensory. It doesn’t. It’s actually protective. DAN: Blew my mind first
thing this morning. DR LYDIA GRAY: I know. But if you start at
the bottom, everyone agreed the foot’s
the foundation. And there was a lot of research
in evidence based medicine on the foot. And it turns out that the long
toe, low heel is the worst foot conformation. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: And the
one that you should avoid. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY:
Cause it said there are a multitude of problems
associated with that. Not just one. DAN: Yep. DR LYDIA GRAY: It sets the
horse up for lots of things to go wrong. But navicular or caudal heel
syndrome was one of them. Because when you have a
long toe way out in front, and a low heel, and you use
a plum line from the horse– because we know most of their
weight goes in their forehand– it puts 75% of the horse’s
weight on the heel. And those structures just
cannot tolerate that. DAN: Well, so I ride
stock horses, which navicular is very common in. And so that is something
we usually look at is how is their toe? Do they have a long
toe, low heel situation? Because we know that
that is something stock horses
unfortunately can be. DR LYDIA GRAY: Well, and
quarter horses specifically, and possibly stock
horses, not that they’re bred for small
feet, but they tend to have, in proportion of their
size and weight, small feet. And small feet also not good. DAN: OK. We want dinner plates. DR LYDIA GRAY: Well, no. Flat feet, not good. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. You know, clubfoot
came up in the paper. And as long as it’s
not a severe clubfoot, then it wasn’t that
bad of a problem. And I had kind of always
stayed away from a clubfoot. In fact, I’m horse shopping
now, and I saw a clubfoot. I saw a clubfoot
and I walked away. And I saw a long toe, low
heel and I walked away. DAN: Yep. Smart. DR LYDIA GRAY: So I’m glad you– DAN: This is actually
a perfect topic for you since you are horse shopping. DR LYDIA GRAY: I know. I know. Let me see what else I found. We talked about the feet,
the pasterns, and the foot. Oh, there’s this myth out
there about you’re supposed to have a short cannon bone? DAN: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: Have
you heard that? DAN: I have heard that. DR LYDIA GRAY: And
that’s not true. DAN: That has no
impact whatsoever? DR LYDIA GRAY: No. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: So
in the hock, when you look at the
horse from the side, a sickle hock means
they come down. And the back of the pastern,
instead of being horizontal, is sloping this way. Like that’s the
front of the horse. Sorry. We need a horse here. And sickle hocks do make horses
a little bit prone to a curb. But if it’s not a
bad sickle hock, it’s not something
to walk away from. So note to self. DAN: OK. So sickle hock you
can still explore. DR LYDIA GRAY: You can live
with it if it’s not terrible. And the horse that
is post-legged. So do you know that? So much jargon. When a horse doesn’t have
much bend in the hindquarters, that the leg is fairly straight. DAN: It’s almost
like a straight line. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. There isn’t much
bend in the hock. Those horses are set up for
a hind suspensory issue. So if it’s a severe
post-legged horse, then that might not
be a good choice. DAN: Maybe you walk away. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. Oh, one more. You’ve seen or heard
of a hunter’s bump? DAN: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK. So it’s a bump in the
croup of the horse, right where the top
of the pelvis is. DAN: I was going to try to
help you out and explain it. DR LYDIA GRAY: Can you? DAN: Well, so if you look
towards the back of the horse, you do see this
little extra bump. DR LYDIA GRAY: Sometimes. DAN: Yeah. Sometimes. DR LYDIA GRAY: And it can
be on one side or both. DAN: Yep. DR LYDIA GRAY: And
I always thought, I was told it was an injury,
between the ligaments of that part of the pelvis, the
tuber sacrale, and the spine itself where it
attaches, the sacrum. It’s not. One of the people said– DAN: We’re just debunking
myths all over the place here. DR LYDIA GRAY: I know. And not helping her at all. But one of the people said it’s
actually a beauty mark, not a defect. DAN: Really? Well, look at that. You were walking away
from all these horses. And it’s just a
beauty mark all along. DR LYDIA GRAY: I know. I know. So talk to your vet. But I would also do some
reading at a reputable source. Because you’re going to have to
count on yourself to be like, what’s good conformation? What’s OK? It doesn’t matter. And what is
legitimately a problem? DAN: And also
probably manage what your goals are with the horse. DR LYDIA GRAY: Oh,
that’s the other thing. Thank you so much. DAN: You’re welcome. DR LYDIA GRAY: A
horse’s conformation, what might be bad in one
discipline, say, racing, is OK, or, in fact,
good another discipline. DAN: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: So even if
you stick with English, what jumpers like, and
what a dressage horse, how he’s going to look to excel,
can be quite different. And then your
Western disciplines, what a reiner might do OK with
or need to function at his peak is not what a western
pleasure horse needs. So it is absolutely
discipline specific. Thank you. DAN: Absolutely. So basically we’ll look at
feet, see how that’s setup. DR LYDIA GRAY: Yeah. DAN: The hocks after that. DR LYDIA GRAY: Well,
just work up the limbs. DAN: OK. DR LYDIA GRAY: Cause it’s feet. And then it’s limbs. There was a little discussion
about sloping shoulder. And the thing with that
was, because you’ve heard, oh, sloping shoulder. DAN: Yes. DR LYDIA GRAY: Well,
when they looked at it, everybody measures it
from a different place. And so there’s no agreed upon
definition of sloping shoulder.

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  1. I’ve always been told a hunters bump is a bad riding bump it’s when a horse never get collected properly over time it accumulates.

  2. What up to date books, resources with illustrations, can show give the best information? I have Anatomy of the Horse, and a few, but they are older. There are "perfect" illustrations. However, like all anatomy illustrations, they don't give the many variations of a living thing. Some gave a few
    "bad" examples.
    Small imperfections could be fine, but others?
    Ideas about everything have changed quite a bit over the years.
    Thanks for the video.

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