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