a Visual Assessment of a Horse
for Sale, How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have
by Cherry Hill © 1995
a specific system for evaluating the horses you are considering. That way, you
will have a better means of comparison. Be aware that wildly-colored horses and
those with dramatic leg markings can cause visual distortions which could result
in inaccurate conclusions. When you examine a horse, be sure it is standing on
level ground with weight on all four feet.
Begin by looking at a horse from the near side (the horse's left side) in profile
and assess overall balance by comparing the forehand to the hindquarters. When
viewing the horse in profile, pay attention to the curvature and proportions of
the topline. Let your eyes travel from poll to tail and down to the gaskin. Then
observe the manner in which the limbs attach to the body. Evaluate hip and shoulder
Step to the front of the horse
and evaluate the limbs and hooves for straightness and symmetry. Observe the depth
and length of the muscles in the forearm and chest. Evaluate the head, eyes, nostrils,
ears, and teeth. Be sure the teeth meet evenly with no undershot or overshot jaw.
Then step to the off side (the horse's right side) and confirm or modify your
evaluation of the balance, topline, and limb angles.
to the hindquarter and stand directly behind the tail. Evaluate the straightness
and symmetry of the back, croup, point of hip and buttock and the limbs. Let your
eyes run slowly from the poll to the tail as this is the best vantage point for
evaluating back muscling and (provided the horse is standing square) left-to-right
symmetry. You may need to elevate your position if you are evaluating a tall horse.
The spring of rib is also best observed from the rear view.
Now make another entire circle around the horse, this time stopping at each quadrant
to look diagonally across the center of the horse. From your position at the rear
of the horse, step to the left hind and look toward the right front. This angle
will often reveal abnormalities in the limbs and hooves that were missed during
the side, front, and rear examinations. Proceed to the left front and look back
toward the right hind. Move to the right front and look toward the left hind.
Complete the revolution at the right hind looking toward the left front.
And finally, step to the near side and take in a view of the whole horse in profile
While you are looking at
a horse, it helps if you get an overall sense of the correctness of each of the
four functional sections: the head/neck, the forehand, the barrel, and the hindquarters.
Head and neck The vital senses are located in the head so
it should be correct and functional. The neck acts as a lever to help regulate
the horse's balance while moving. Therefore it should be long and flexible with
a slight convex curve to its topline.
The front limbs support approximately 65 percent of the horse's body weight, so
must be strong and sound. The majority of lameness is associated with the front
Barrel The mid-section
houses the vital organs, therefore, the horse must be adequate in the heart girth
and have good spring to the ribs. The back should be well muscled and strong so
the horse can carry the weight of the rider and the saddle.
Hindquarters The rear hand is the source of power and propulsion.
The hindquarter muscling should be appropriate for the type, breed, and use. The
croup and points of the hip and buttock should be symmetric and the limbs should
be straight and sound.