Farriery Related Conformation-Macro, Micro, Dynamic
A horses conformation is the way it is made up, its structure, how its body parts relate to each other and how it is proportioned. Historically its assessment has been a largely subjective practice with the formation of anecdotal relationships between certain characteristics and certain abilities. There is emerging a new way of assessing conformation in the dynamic realm, until now conformation has largely been assessed statically, assessing the angles and proportions of the horse stood still, but new research has questioned the accuracy of static assessments correlation with injury and attributes the predispositions rather to dynamic conformational markers, however this study expressed the continued importance of static conformation. Conformation influences how the forces of locomotion are distributed through the horses structures, their musculoskeletal system has to cope with as much as 2.5x their body weight going through their limb at a gallop! And they need to cope with this, cycle after cycle, which becomes cumulative, leading to cyclic overloading as the structures become progressively weaker (Weller 2019). Taking this into consideration we can see how all three of the conformational parameters need to be ideal to effectively dissipate those kind of forces, and the links between certain conformations and their predispositions are widespread. Conformation can be put into three different sets of parameters,
Macro conformation – The widely recognised recognition of the angles created by the horses limbs, the relationship between joints, essentially looking at the horse as a series of levers and pullies.
Micro Conformation – This is looking at the make up of the internal structures, their thicknesses and elastic modulus as different characteristics will cope with biomechanical forces better or worse.
Dynamic Conformation- These are individual locomotive characteristics of the horse, stride length and leg stiffness for instance, these parameters influence the amount of force exerted on the musculoskeletal system.
More information on dynamic conformation can be seen at this link, this is also a reference for some points made earlier.. https://youtu.be/W115iyCT_ck
A study that helps explain the implications of dynamic conformation is that of Hobbs et al (2018)
This image created by the author expresses the findings of Hobbs et al (2018). The high low hoof conformation results in asymmetrical propulsive forces, due to both the macro and micro conformational differences between a pair of fore feet, this also effects the entire musculoskeletal system. Read more at
Conformation is not a fixed entity, it changes with age, work load, pathology, stance or posture and other congenital factors, and can of course be influenced by human intervention. This is not truer anywhere than in the h