Powerful, sprinter’s quarters
Conformation is the technical term for the way a horse is put together. Racehorses come in many
shapes and sizes, and these differences in conformation can have a strong influence on a horse’s
racing ability. An appreciation of what a well-proportioned horse looks like is of immense benefit
when deciding what or what not to bet on.
The factors that have a bearing on physical appearance include breeding, age, gender, and the
amount and type of work that the horse has done on the home gallops. Although basic conformation –
the shape of the head, the angle of the shoulder, the length of the back, the straightness of the
limbs – doesn’t change, maturity and training can significantly alter a horse’s appearance.
This chapter focuses on the elements of conformation that predispose racehorses to run fast, as
well as the negative aspects that might slow them down. It also looks at differences in conformation
between sprinters and stayers.
On the Flat, paddock appraisal of a horse’s conformation is especially useful when assessing
two year olds, either early in the season when there’s little public form to go on, or later on,
when they’re trying a longer trip. Likewise, large fields of three year old maidens can be a nightmare
to assess on the form book alone. But if you can recognise which horses are too backward to do
themselves justice, or are likely to be unsuited by the prevailing ground conditions or the distance
of the race, you can often put a line through half of the runners.