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How Would You Rank Conformational Faults - Expanded Poll Question

Posted February 7, 2002
Current USA Equestrian rules state that conformation accounts for 25% of American Saddlebred judging; in-hand classes specify 50%. However, little guidance is given as tot he relative importance of various conformational faults. These defects fall mainly into two categories: functional and aesthetic. Some functional faults will affect the horse's performance, therefore are more easily judged. Aesthetics are more a matter of opinion.

Because rules state that these and any other defects attributable to heredity must be penalized, a strong message is sent to American Saddlebred breeders as to what is or is not acceptable conformation.

Please consider how you would rank these faults from most penalized (1) to least penalized (9). Please email your comments prior to February 18, as we are providing the responses to the American Saddlebred Horse Association prior to their annual convention.

- Ideal: Well-shaped with large, wide-set, expressive eyes; gracefully shaped ears set close together on top of the head and carried alertly; a straight face line with a relatively fine muzzle and large nostrils, and a clean smooth jaw line
- Penalized: Lack of Saddlebred type, coarse or plain head, Roman nose, round jaws, lop ears, wide ears, small eyes

- Ideal: Long, arched and well flexed at the poll with a fine, clean throat latch
- Penalized: Short neck, straight neck, ewe neck, thick throat latch

- Ideal: Deep and sloping
- Penalized: Hollow chest, straight shoulders

- Ideal: Well defined and prominent
- Penalized: Flat withers

- Ideal: Strong and level, with well sprung ribs
- Penalized: Sway back, roached back

- Ideal: Level with a well-carried tail set on high
- Penalized: Crooked tail, low tail, unlevel

- Ideal: The front legs should be well forward, under the shoulder. The line of the hind leg, in a natural stance, should be vertical from the point of the buttock to the back edge of the cannon bone. The forearms and the hindquarters are well-muscled to the knees and hocks. Legs are straight with broad flat bones, sharply defined tendons and sloping pasterns.
- Penalized: Crooked legs, calved knees, over at the knee, bow legs, rough joints, round bones, straight pasterns, base stance too wide or too narrow, sickle hocks, cow hocks

- Ideal: Good and sound, open at the heel, neither toed in or toed out
- Penalized: Splay feet, pigeon toes, contracted heels

- Ideal: The ASB is well proportioned and presents a beautiful overall picture. The animal should be in good flesh, with good muscle tone and a smooth, glossy coat. Masculinity in stallions and femininity in mares are important.
- Penalized: Lack of muscle tone, thinness, obesity, rough coat, overall lack of conditioning

Please email your responses to Saddle Horse Report at

Please send your email in prior to February 18, as we are providing the responses to the American Saddlebred Horse Association prior to their convention.

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