Conformation (4): More About Backs

Last month, when discussing the racehorse’s back, I pointed out that many two year olds are ‘croup high’ due to immaturity. Here’s another example:

A croup high filly by Exceed and Excel

By the age of three things have generally evened themselves out, and the back will have a more level look to it, though some horses will always be a bit higher behind than in front. A level back is an indication that the horse’s front and back ends are nicely balanced, with its strength evenly dispersed.

This lengthy colt by Fast Company has a level back

Occasionally you’ll see a racehorse with a slightly ‘dipped’ back; that is, when the back looks slightly concave when viewed from the side. This can be a fault of conformation, but also an indication that the horse is a bit backward in condition, and that his spinal and abdominal muscles are not sufficiently toned to support the topline of the back. A dipped back is also associated with advancing age, as the muscles gradually weaken, so it may sometimes be seen in a veteran hurdler or chaser.

A slightly dipped back

Take a look at the overall length of a horse’s back as it walks past on the far side of the paddock. Is it short backed (often referred to as ‘close coupled’), or of medium length, or relatively long from the withers to the croup (the highest part of the pelvis)?

An athletic, close-coupled colt by Red Ransom

The tendency is for sprinters to be close-coupled and for stayers to be comparatively long in the back. Trainers may describe a lengthy, staying type of horse as ‘standing over a lot of ground’.

A lengthy colt by Royal Applause

More on sprinters and stayers next month.

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Picking Winners On Looks - Conformation (4): More About Backs