Hindquarter conformation

The shape of a racehorse’s hindquarters gives a clue to his potential as a stayer or a sprinter. Horses destined to excel over shorter distances need to generate explosive power from the muscles of the quarters, principally the gluteals and the hamstring group. So they build strong, rounded quarters which give them the required leverage behind the saddle.

Strong, rounded quarters

Horses that are more suited to racing over a distance of ground tend to be lighter in their quarters and often longer too, as measured from the point of hip to the hock.

Lighter, longer quarters

Differences in muscle contour between sprinters and stayers are largely due to the type of muscle fibres that predominate in the horse’s physiological make-up. Sprinters have a high proportion of ‘fast twitch’ fibres, which are physically bulkier, more rounded and shorter than ‘slow twitch’ fibres. Fast twitch fibres contract quickly and provide a short but intense burst of pre-stored energy which can’t be replenished during a race. The staying type of horse has a higher proportion of slow twitch fibres, which contract more slowly and can function for a longer time without getting fatigued.

Whether the horse has the powerful quarters of the sprinter or the more spare shape of the stayer, there should be clear evidence of muscle definition in the hamstrings (a group of three muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus). These are the muscles you can see as the horse walks away from you, down the back of the quarters, roughly from the base of the tail to a few inches above the hock. Horses that are backward or still weak will lack this definition, which derives from serious work on the home gallops or from several racecourse outings.

Well-defined hamstrings

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