Reining Horse Conformation AnalysisBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 2, 2010
Photo and Analysis Courtesy Lisa Coulter
This perspective is based on what I look for in a reining horse. I am focusing on a few key conformation points; there are many to consider, but a couple points truly make a difference in the form to function of our reining horses. I cannot discuss some points as the view of the horse does not show angles that may be important in assessing leg structure (needless to say, straight legs are important to reining horses and on a front view of legs we like to see them coming true and straight out of the joints). The following example is a high-level reining show horse.
This is a nicely balanced horse. Balance to me comes from looking at the horse in three sections: the front end including head and neck, the midsection, and the hind end. There should be a balance in the slope to the shoulder to the slope of the hip and to the slopes of the pasterns. If the neck is long then I like to see the hip have a long slope. This creates balance, and a balanced horse travels more correctly, generally stays sounder, and maneuvers are handled easier as the horse is not fighting a balance issue.
This horse has a long, good-sloping hip that is proportional to his neck. His good hip allows for natural stopping ability. His neck ties in well to his chest and allows for a low head carriage, which is desirable in reining horses. This horse will naturally carry his head level to his wither or below.
This horse is strong-boned with short, well-sloped pasterns. Reining horses should not have long bone length in their legs, as they need to be compact and strong. The spinning and stopping these horses endure makes strong bones and joints important. This horse has great joint size also.
He is slightly cow-hocked, which is desirable in reiners. With a slight angle to the leg and hock tipping in, these horses are born in the stopping position. Hocks turned slightly in also allow for clearance in the sliding stops with their hooves. We don't want them so cow-hocked that the joints splay out, but you will commonly see cow-hocked reining horses, and it is something I find acceptable.
This horse also has a strong hind leg (gaskin muscle), which is a good start to sliding.
He has a pretty head, but perhaps his ears are a little long.
I don't like that his wither is below his hip. This tends to set horses on their front end. Reining horses need to carry themselves with as little weight on their front end as possible. All the power needs to come from behind. If they naturally sit on their front ends, then they have to work that much harder to adjust the power back. This horse is also a bit long in the back for me, as power is critical and a longer back makes a horse weaker behind.
Lisa Coulter is working to develop the sport of reining within Canada. She bases her training at a ranch in Pilot Point, Texas, as she travels back and forth between British Columbia and Texas doing business and competing. Look for future conformation analyses from Lisa and other Elite Riders sponsored by Kentucky Equine Research.