Conformation Clinic: Choose the Passable Eventer

Put these three Canadian Sporthorses in your order of preference. To find out how your choices compare to sporthorse judge Julie Winkel's, see Conformation Clinic in the February 2009 issue of Practical Horseman.

Whether judging a model class, evaluating a prospect for a client or sizing up the yearlings at home, I first stand back and look for an overall impression of balance and symmetry. My ideal horse fits in a square box. By that, I mean he is defined by matching and equal parts, both front to back and side to side. This allows for athletic ability, soundness, trainability and longevity in the job.


A horse who “fits in a box” will have a body made up of one-third shoulder, one-third back and one-third hindquarters. I like to see the withers and hips at the same level. The horse’s stance, from the point of shoulder to the buttocks, should equal the distance from the height of the withers to the ground.

I also always look at the eyes–not as a vet, but I want to see a horse with clear, alert vision. From the head, I move down the neck to the shoulders, along the back to the hind end and leg construction.

For event horses, the emphasis is on an athletic, sturdy build, a deeper chest for ample lung capacity and substantial bone for durability.

See how I placed these yearlings in the February ’09 issue of Practical Horseman. Call 301-977-3900 to order back issues.

Conformation Clinic appears monthly in Practical Horseman. To submit a photo to be evaluated in Conformation Clinic, send us a side-view photo of your horse, posed similarly to those shown above. For digital photos: at least 3″ x 5″ at high resolution (300 dpi). Make sure your entire horse is in the photo and that he’s well groomed, wearing a bridle, looking straight ahead and standing on level ground–and try to avoid distracting backgrounds. Email or mail a print to Conformation Clinic, Practical Horseman, 656 Quince Orchard Rd., Suite 600, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. Include your contact information and your horse’s breed, age and gender and the disciplines in which you ride. If photograph is professionally taken, please include photographer’s name and contact information.

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