Permanent Identification using Lip Tattoos in horses

Equine Lip Tattoo

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

A lip tattoo is just what its name implies–a tattoo on a horse’s lip. It is comprised of letters and numbers and is placed on the inside of the horse’s upper lip. A majority of state racing commissions have enacted rules requiring a horse to be tattoo-branded prior to entry in a race. As a service to all Thoroughbred racetracks to enable their compliance with these rules, the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau applies …

Parts of the Horse

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Horse breeders strive to breed horses with acceptable conformation because well-conformed horses are typically more athletic and apt to be superior performers. But to use the systematic process you develop, it is important to have a good working knowledge of the parts of a horse and their relative function.

Diagram of the Parts of the Horse

Relating Form to Function: Horse's Rear Legs, Rear View

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Ideally, when viewing the horse from the rear for structural correctness, an imaginary line from the point of the buttock through the gaskin, hock, and hoof should equally bisect the leg.

This straight column of bone will allow equal distribution of weight and concussion on bones, tendons, and ligaments as the hoof makes contact with the ground. In most cases, horses will naturally stand with their cannon bones parallel and their toes pointed …

Relating Form to Function: Horse's Topline

Parts of a Horse's Topline

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

The topline of the horse includes the withers, back loin (or coupling), and croup. When viewed from the side, the properly balanced horse should be higher at the withers than at the croup. When the withers are higher than the croup, the hindquarters are better positioned to move properly under the horse, which enhances the horse’s athletic ability. Strength of topline and loin muscles also influence soundness and athletic ability.

The ideal withers should …

Permanent Identification using Hot Iron Branding in horses

Equine Hot Brand


Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Hot iron branding, also called fire branding, is one of the oldest methods of identification and is still utilized in some areas of the country. Hot branding uses an iron that is heated electrically or by fire to burn a brand into the hair follicles, resulting in permanent hair loss in that area. These types of brands are harder to see when used on lightly colored horses and when hair has grown over the …

Relating Form to Function: Horse's Rear Legs, Side View

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Correct hind leg structure when viewed from the side is delineated by a line that extends from the point of the buttocks down to the point of the hock and runs parallel to the cannon bone, ending slightly behind the heel.

Horse's hindquarter viewed from the side


Sickle-hocked horses have too much angle or set to their hocks. The horse’s leg stands under the hip from the hock down due to the excessive angle of the hock. The hind leg …

Relating Form to Function: Horse's Head

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

A few breeds have certain characteristics that help define breed character and type, but for most breeds, attractive, well-conformed heads have the same characteristics.

Parts of the Horse's Head

These characteristics include:

  • short, well-set ears
  • large, bold eyes
  • short distance from eye to muzzle
  • large nostrils
  • refined muzzle with a shallow mouth
  • sex characteristics (stallion, mare)
  • breed characteristics.

In general there is no physiological benefit to horses having a pretty head. Ugly-headed horses are able to function and perform …

Relating Form to Function: Horse's Neck

Equine Neck: top to bottom is 2:1 ratio

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

The length and shape of the horse’s neck is important, because the horse uses it as a balancing arm. The throatlatch, which is the junction between head and neck from ear to ear, should be trim and refined, regardless of breed. If a horse is thick and coarse in the throatlatch, air and blood flow may be restricted when the horse is asked to flex and bend at the poll. A trim, refined throatlatch …

Relating Form to Function: Horse's Balance

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

 

Balanced horse

All horses are basically proportional but not necessarily balanced. Balance is the most important characteristic in selection, because it forms the basis for movement, length of stride, and ultimately, performance. Balance is determined by the underlying skeletal structure of the horse. It is important to develop the ability to visualize and evaluate the skeletal system of the horse underneath muscle and other tissues.

The slope of the horse’s shoulder is critical in order for …

Relating Form to Function: Horse's Muscle

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Muscle areas of the horse

Muscling is an important criteria in judging many conformation classes, especially stock horses such as Quarter Horses, Paints, and Appaloosas. Muscling is proportional.

As one muscle in the body increases, total muscle mass increases. Muscling is visually appraised in the: 

  • Forearm
  • Chest
  • Shoulder
  • Loin
  • Stifle
  • Gaskin

Heavy-muscled horses have greater circumference of forearm, gaskin, and width of hindquarter than light-muscled horses.

Today, the horse industry accepts muscling that is long, clean, …