Conformation (3): Back, flanks and loins

The horse’s back may be defined as the region of the body from the withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades formed by the spines of the thoracic vertebrae) to the pelvis. Taking a broader view, we can also include the middle section of a horse’s body, taking in the flanks and the loins (the area on either side of the spine between the last rib and the pelvis).

Viewing a racehorse from the side, its back should look reasonably horizontal. That is not always the case with two year olds whose skeletal immaturity can result in them looking ‘croup high’; in other words, the horse’s back is higher behind the saddle, at the highest point of the quarters, than it is in front of the saddle, at the shoulder. That’s because a young horse doesn't always grow evenly; the front end can get left behind, and has to catch up. Trainers sometimes describe a croup-high youngster as ‘up behind’.

A croup-high two year old by the sire Kheleyf

Ideally a racehorse should be deep through the girth – the area from the base of the withers to the belly, just behind the horse’s elbow. A deep girth allows plenty of room for heart and lungs to function effectively.

A strong, deep-girthed colt by Shamardal

By no means all racehorses will have a good depth of girth. Many, especially fillies, are light framed and may resemble a greyhound in so far as they ‘run up light’, especially in their back ribs. This can change, though, as they strengthen and mature.

A light-framed colt by Shirocco

It’s through the loins that the tremendous power generated by the hindquarters is transferred forward to the shoulders and forelegs. So look for strong, well-developed musculature here.

This colt by Stimulation has strong, well-defined loins

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Picking Winners On Looks - Conformation (3): Back, flanks and loins