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Foreleg Side Profile
          Foreleg Front View           
Foreleg Overview
The horse's front legs have bones, joints, tendons and muscles
but there are no muscles below the knees only tendons.
The ideal foreleg should be straight legs with healthy and
sturdy bone density, large flat knees and well sloped fetlock
joints all of which support and propell the horse in useable
action.   A line dropped from the front of the wither
should go down the center of the front leg and align with the
bulb of the heel or end up just right behind it.

Scapula or Shoulder Blade
The leg actually starts with the scapula bone or shoulder
blade.   It is a large flat triangle shaped bone that
attaches the front leg to the body and lays over the first
6 ribs.   The muscles lay on either side.   The front
leg does not connect to the spine.   Ligaments, muscles
and tendons hold it in place.

Humerus or Arm Bone
The only joint capable of moving side to side in the front leg
is the humerus or arm bone.  It affixes to the shoulder
blade at the lowest end by a ball and socket joint.   The
of the arm bone attaches to the elbow.   The length of the
arm bone determines the stride of the foreleg.   The more
length of the arm bone the more leverage and angle of motion.
The increase in motion the more further the stride.   The desired
humerus is 50 to 60 percent of the length of the shoulder blade.
This would bring the elbow in the position beneath the front of
the withers.   If it is too short the ride will be choppy and
the horse will tire easily.

Viewing the Shoulder on a Side Profile
Look for the angle between the shoulder blade and the upper
arm to be between 100 and 120 degrees.   To measure this
correctly find the center of the shoulder blade and then use
the center of the upper arm as a second angle.  Then
imagine a third point as the top of the wither.  This
should form an 85 degree obtuse triangle.

The highest joint in the leg not covered by muscle is the elbow.
The elbow should sit well on top of the forearm and not deviate.
When viewed from the side the point of the elbow should be in line
with the front of the wither or may be slightly ahead of the peak
of the wither.   The muscles of the forearm should blend
well with the elbow.

The muscles of the forearm should be well defined and display
on both the inner and outer leg.   The muscles at the top
should form an inverted "V" between the front legs.  The
muscling on the inner forearm will determine the horse's abilities
to perform certain manuevers and tasks. The better the inner
forearm developement the better the side to side action the horse
can make.

The knee has six small bones balanced in two rows of called the
carpal bones and three major joints.   A larger bone called an
accessory carpal bone or the "pisiform" projects backwards from
the inner knee. There are lubricating sacs for the joints even
the little joints between the six small bones.  All of these are
encased in large joint capsule that covers up the entire knee.
These small bones lay on the side and are surrounded by cartilage
and actually "float" in lubicating fluid within the cartilage casing.
They have a limited amount of movement but because they can
slide over each other they act as a shock absorber for the other
leg bones. The knee has no lateral ability to move so it must
synchronize with the elbow.   Both joints are suppose to move
straight ahead and when they don't it is due to a defect in one or
both of the these joints.  They should be well defined on all four
corners and should be flat at the front.   Knees should face
directly forward and not angle toward or away from each other.
The outer knee should look square.   The back of the knees
should be wide enough to allow the flexor tendons to pass down
the back of the cannon.

Cannon Bone
The cannon bone is built for support.   It is found between
the knee and the fetlock joint.   There are two splint bones
on either side closer to the back than the front.  These small
little bones end partway down the cannon bone and become small
knob shaped.   In the front they are called metatarsals and
in the back legs they are called metacarpals.   When you look
at the front legs from the side profile they should appear to be in
an imaginary straight line from the back of the elbow to the fetlock
except for the little bulge of trapezium (carpal wrist like bone)
at the back of knees.   The cannon bone should be perfectly
straight and should align squarely under the knee.   Any other
position away from this is considered a fault.   Any type of
bony spur, bump or thick area are clues to injury such as
interferring or blows to the area involved.   The flexor tendons
should lay somewhat away and in the back of the cannon bone
rather than right next to them or beside them.   If they do, there is
a big chance of friction and and lameness.   If they are too
close to the cannon bone, all the way down, it is referred to as
"round bone" and is a very bad fault.

Fetlock Joint
The fetlock joint like the knee is designed to act as a shock
absorber.  When a horse stands it has as much as two thirds of it's
body weight on his front legs.   This weight presses down on the
back of the fetlock joint.   The fetlock joints is where the bottom of
the cannon bone connects to the top of the long pastern bone.
Think of the fetlock joint as the horse's ankles.   Fetlocks
should be slightly rounded in the front, flat on sides and rear.
From the side profile the joint should appear to be straight and in
line with the cannon bone.   The joint should be wide enough for
room for the ligaments to support the bones and tendons to pass
around and between the seamoid bones.   There is a large
suspensory ligament that runs down from the knee and the back of
the cannon bone.  When it reaches the fetlock joint is splits into
two branches where they affix to the outside seasmoid bones and
then part of these branches wrap around the pastern and merge
with the extensor tendon.   This serves as a spring that
counteracts weight and impact and keeps the fetlock joint from
hitting the ground in stride.   When you hear the term "blown
suspendsories" in racing or performance horses it means these
ligaments were stretched and the fetlock joint has dropped down,
often actually resting of the ground. The fetlock joint has
a horny growth of hard tissue that grows on the back of it.  It
is referred to as the "ergot."   It is somethings hidden by hair
on the fetlock.   The ergot is an external reminder of ancestors
who had a few more toes.   It is thought to be where a ligament
to the toes ran down the back of the prehistotic horse.   When
the ergot gets to much growth and especially for halter horses
these need to be trimmed back.

The Pasterns
The pasterns has two bones, the long bone which attaches to the
fetlock joint and the short bone that affixes to the coffin bone
inside the hoof. When viewing on the side profile that pastern
should be between 45 and 55 degrees.   When the pastern
performs correctly it sends some of the weight to the tendons that
attach up to the muscles in the upper leg.  A good length for the
pastern is between one half and threefourths of the length of the cannon.


Viewing Front Legs from Side Profile
The horse's elbow should align
directly below the front of the withers
and the normal side profile of
the front leg.
Valor #9
Bright Red Chestnut
Sculpted and painted by
Carol Williams 2008
Rio Rondo Enterprises

Normal slope to pasterns distributes equal
weight at the three points shown.
Okie Too #7
Burgundy Chestnut Overo
Sculpted, customed and painted by
Carol Williams 2007
Rio Rondo Enterprises

Stock horse breed example of
angle of the humerus in relation to
the point of the shoulder.
Okie Too #7
Burgundy Chestnut Overo
Sculpted, customed and painted by
Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises


Front View of the Legs:
When viewed from the front the front legs should be balanced
and straight with no odd angle that would cause any stress
on any joint or the overall legs.   Both legs should measure
a 90 degree straight angle with the ground.  The hooves
should point directly to the front and the feet should
both be the same distance apart and the same distance
between the forearms.   If you use an imaginary straight line
down the center of the front leg it should go directly down
the middle of the forearm, knee, cannon, fetlock joint, pastern
and hoof.  

Conformational Faults of the Front Legs
Viewed From The Front:

Base Narrow
Bare narrow is where the legs are closer together at the
hoof than they are at the chest.   This sort of conformation
can predispose the horse to faults of gait, such as paddling,
interfering or brushing, where the horse knocks one foreleg
with the other foreleg as he moves.   They will wear the outside
of the foot lower than the inside.

Base Wide
Base wide is where the legs are further apart at the hoof
than they are at the chest.  Horses with this conformation
often also have feet that splay outward and exhibit faults of
gait such as dishing or plaiting.   They will wear the outside
of the foot lower than the inside

Toeing Out
A horse is said to be toeing out when the horse's front feet are
pointed outward with an imaginary line that will run down
through the inside of the hoof.   These horses will put extra
stress on the inside of the knees and fetlocks. They will tend to
wing inward with each foot during each stride which is really
noticeable at the trot.   The horse may often strike the
sesamoid and splint bones of the opposing limb.

Toeing In
Toeing in is when the direct opposite of toeing out.  A toed-in
horse will paddle, the feet rotate outward or laterally as it
travels. This is more evident at the trot.   This defect can cause
additional strain on the ligaments of the fetlock and pastern
joints with problems such as ringbone and sidebone occuring.
Using the imaginery line from in front, the bulk of the foot will
be inside of the hoof.

Bench Knee
A horse is referred to as bench kneed when the forearm enters
the knee on the medial side and the cannon bone exits the
knee on the lateral side, so that the two do not line up.

Knock Knees
When the angular limb deformity occurs due to one
or both of the knees turn inward when viewed from the front
the horse is said to knocked knee.   This casues a great deal
of stress the ligaments and small bones of the knee more so on
the inner side.   Toeing out often accompanies this problem.

Bow Legs
Bow legs occur when one or both knees turn outward, when
viewed from the front.   Stress outer side result from this
problem.   Toeing in often is also present.

Conformational Faults of the Front Legs
Viewed From The Side Profile:

Calf Knee
The knee appears to bend backward from an imaginary
line when viewed from the side.  Calf knees place a great deal
of stress on ligaments and tendons as well as on the knee joint.

Buck Knee
Buck Knee are often referred to as "over at the knee."   When
viewed from the side, the knee protrudes over the imaginary
line.   The knee looks as though in is permanantly bent to
some degree.   Buck knees put excess stress on joints,
ligaments, and tendons.

Standing Under
A horse is said to stand under when the entire forelimb from
elbow on down is aligned too far back under the body and
behind the imaginary line.   This causes too much weight on
the front limbs and more the horse will have ahistory of stumbling.

Camped In
Camped in is the opposite of standing under, with the foreleg
from the body to the ground aligned too far forward and in
front of the imaginary line.   Horses that have this type of
conformation may also be predisposed to navicular disease and

Short Upright Pasterns
A horse is said to have short upright pastern when there is little
or no angle to the pastern, which means little dispersion of the
impact as the horse travels.   This can also affect the hind legs.

Long Sloping Pasterns
When the pastern are pasterns are so long, sloped, and weak
that the fetlock strikes the ground as the horse travels is said
to have Long Sloping Parterns.   This may also occur in the
hind limbs as well.

Viewing Front Legs from Side Profile
The horse's front legs
should be straight

Sculpted and painted by by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises

Side view of Buck Knees

Viewing Front Legs with Faults

Viewing More Front Legs with Faults


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