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HORSE HEAD AND NECK CONFORMATION

Head
Neck
The Well Balanced Head
In order to be well balanced a horse's head should be in
proportion to its overall size.   If you measure from the
poll to the top lip, the head should not be longer than
the neck when measures from the behind the ears to where
neck would join the withers.   The head should be long
enough to allow for large nostrils, nasal passages and a good
set of teeth.   Heads will vary by breed with Thoroughbreds,
Standbreds and Warmbloods known for having the longest and
Quarter Horses and Arabians having shorter ones.

The Coarse Headed Horse
A coarse head is known as a "heavy head".   It tells
you that there is cold blood in the breeding and a lack of
refinement.  This type animal will not be quick or
agile since the head acts as a counterbalance for the body
during quick changes of direction or balance.   Normally, a
course head is seen on a shorter necked horse and on a heavy
bodied horse more suitable for draft work than for a riding mount.

The Too Large Headed Horse
When the head is not is proportion the neck and body and is
too large the horse will travel too heavily in the front.
He will be clumsy and difficult for collection, lean heavy
on the bit and lack proper balance and agility.

The Too Small Head
If the horse's head is too small it cannot properly act as a
counterweight in order to balance itself.   These type
horses have difficulty with agility.  They often "bounce" when
when maneuvering stops or show wasted movement with any
precision movements.

Head and Sored Horses
You can tell a sore horse by watching it "in gait."   When the
horse is sore in the front it will shift the weight off the
front by raising the head higher than normal.   If the
rear leg is sore it will lower the head to bring the weight
forward so that the rear hind leg will not carry the full
weight

Head Profile
There are three side profiles of the head.   The Concaved
also known as the "dished", Straight and Convex or "Roman Nose".
The dish head is favored by Arabian breeders is accented by a
slightly bulging forehead known as the "jibbah".   An extreme
dished head can have narrowed air passage ways causing poor air
intake.   A straight profile is seen in most breeds with
many stock breeds having a shorter length, heavier jowls and
teacup size muzzles with foxlike ears and large liquid eyes.   The
A Roman nose is seen on drafters, heavy boned warmblood and
Spanish breeds.   When the convex angle comes out far outward
from the eyes down it can interfere with good vision.   The size
of the head is important to the rider as communication to their horse
is done through a bit which can be enhanced when the head from
the poll to the mouth is somewhat keen and able to be mobile.

Foreheads
A wide forehead is the most desired among knowledgable
horsemen.   A broad forehead allows for room for the brain,
sinus cavities, tear ducts and air passages.  Most of the space
behind the forehead houses the sinus cavities and not the brain.
When the head is wide it also allows for the connection of the
throatlatch and more space for windpipe and jugular veins.
A wide poll is normally connected to a wide forehead with the
ears set wide apart for better hearing.   All of the above
are conditions needed for a good performance prospect.

Eyes:
Eyes should be large and round and prominent but not bulging.   They should be set wide apart and when tested show proper tractability.

Just above each eye is a large indentation that is really a fat filled
cavity that acts as a cushion if the eye is bumped.   The upper
eyelids should have large tuft of eyelashes to keep the sweat, dirt
and foreign objects out.   A third eyelid is attached to the
corner of the eye with has a membrane that whips over the front of
the eyeball like a windside wiper. A horse has two blind spots when
standing squarely.   A small area directly behind him and a small
area directly in front of him.  He must turn his head in order to see
these two spots.

There are four major faults of the eyes.   One Eye Pointed Out
also called a "gotch eye" where the affected eye cannot shift to look
forward.  One Eye Turnd Down where the horse cannot see off
to the side.   You can easily tell this fault by a part of the sclera
"white of eye" shows between the iris and the upper eyelid.  
One Eye Turned Up and Out prevents the horse from seeing the ground on that side or in front if him.   These horses are known to
be spooky and the white of eye will show between his iris and the
lower eyelid.   Cross Eyes" These horses are known to be
stiff and uncertain.   They do not make good trail horses.   He
will keep trying to focus but see double until he can finally turn his
head to one side.

Ears:
When set just level below the poll at the top of the head, ears can be
easily rotated forward and backward.   Active ears are considered
a sign of intelligence or also can be a sign of nervousness,   Most
horsemen prefer small to medium sized ears.   But large ears can
actually help to dissipate heat.   While people normally have a
preference to the size of the ear is it not an important factor in conformation.

Jaw:
The lower jaw is located under the head of the horse.   It should be
clearily defined and and the space between the two sides of the
lower jaw should be deep and wide.   To check if a horse has a
good sized jaw take your hand, make a fist and slide it fingers up
underneath from top to bottom of the two sides.   If you can fit
all four knuckles of an average sized man's hand (3 inches) then it is
considered a good width.   It is important since the space as to fit
the larynx and the muscle attachment.

Jowl:
The cheek or jowl should never be too large or heavy.   If they are
too heavy they can hinder breathing, prevent proper tongue
posititon and reduce flexion at the poll.   The cheekbone should
be well enough constructed to fit all the molars of the horse.   The
cheekbones affect the overall look of the horse's head.   They
should not be too narrow.   They should be prominent and well
sculpted.   There should be no misalignment of the upper and lower
jaw and the upper and lower teeth should evenly.   A horse with
an overbite (parrot mouth) or an undershot jaw (sow mouth or
monkey mouth) will have trouble keeping weight on and not thrive
enough if worked hard.

Mouth and Muzzle:
The mouth should not be too deep or too shallow when measured
from the front incisor teeth to the corner of the mouth.  A deep
mouth would be that of which extends beyond the narrowest part
of the chin.   A shallow mouth ends below the narrow chin groove.
The muzzle should be somewhat refined and flexible.  The horse
cannot see the end of his nose.   He uses the upper lip and the
muzzle to sort food and push objects away from his feed.

Nostrils:
A horse can not breathe through it's mouth so the nostrils should be
very wide to allow for inhaling and exhaling during performance.
The nostrils should be thin and elastic to give good extension when
necessary.   When the nostrils are too small or narrow or thick
walled the horse cannot get enough air intake.  Draft breeds do
have small nostrils since they orginated from cold climates.   They
have the advantage of protecting the lungs from too much cold air
and do not need large amounts of air flow to perform cold steady
pulling work.  A "false pouch" is a chamber just inside the nostril
that protects and warms up air before it comes into the lungs.   The
horse can also snort or whistle through the pouch by making it
vibrate when the horse blows through it.

Throatlatch:
The throatlatch is just behind the jowl.  The throatlatch should
not have excess fat or muscling so as to it.   It needs a lot of
room for the windpipe, esophagus, blood supply, and all the nerves.
When the area is too thick the passageways are constricted and so
is the air intake. Some hobby artists tend to sculpt Spanish and
Warmblood models with heavy thick throatlatches and cresty necks.
If they would first check in with the dedicated breeders of these
horses they would find the better specimens of these breeds are not
conformed in that manner.  Old School print artists have painted
them in that manner as just that "art" without taking into
consideration what proper conformation of these breeds should
look like.   Don't be fooled into buying these types of models
if you want to show the piece as a correctly conformed Spanish or
Warmblood Athlete.

                               

Concaved Head
Arabian Park Horse Phase 2
Dark Bay w/Mohair

Sculpted and painted by by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises


Straight Head
Matriarch#34

Dappled Red Rose Grey.
Sculpted and painted by by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises


Convex Head
Kladruber #564-R

Dappled Bronze Grey
Resin Sculpture by Brigitte Eberl
Note the very correct throatlatch
Painted by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises

                                                                                                                                                                                               

The Ideal Neck:
The neck of a riding horse should always be of reasonable
length and never too short.  The neck links up the head
and the shoulders and there needs to be sufficent length
of the neck in order for the horse to swing it's head up
or down to shift it's weight and keep it's balance and
stride.   Bones have the most influenece on how
tyhe neck will look but muscles add to the look.   The
ideal neck is that of a long upper curve in the bones
just behind the head and a shallow lower curve in the
bones that join into the withers.   This type of neck
will result in a good arch and provide a good head and neck
joint to allow for flexion at the poll and give on the bit.
The horse can then use his head and to counterbalance
the rest of his body when performing his tasks. The muscles
of the neck help to pull the shoulders and the front legs
in forward movement.   The neck muscles actually contract
and then extends almost two thirds of the neck's actual
length.   So a short necked horse is less desirable since it will
have a short upright shoulder and a short stride and be a
choppy ride

Neck Length:
The length of a horse's neck will contribute to how the
will use it's head to find his center of gravity and his
affect his blance.   If you would measure the horse's
neck from the poll to the top of the withers it should
be in proportion to his overall length of body and be
right around one-third of it's overall length.   It
should be long and slender with the underside line
somewhat straight and the topline having a slight arch.

The Too Short Neck:
A neck that is too short has a lot of issues.  When it
to thick it will cause problems with the balance.  Many
short necked horse stumble and are clumsy as it adds weight
to the forehand and reduces the agility of the horse. It
inhibits flexion at the poll and constraints side to side
mobility.  It is often companied with a short upright
shoulder which means it process a shorter stride that
interferes with a pleasureable ride.

The Too Long Neck:
A neck is conisdered too long when it is more than one and
one half times the length of the horse's back when measured
from the withers to the croup.  If you look at the
length of the neck (from the poll to the top of the withers)
and compare it to the rest of the topline (from the peak
of the withers to the tail) any neck that exceeds the rest
of the topline is excessive in length.   This extra
length gives the center of balance located at a point to
forward.   The neck is then unable to flex correctly,
unable to respond to the bit and will noy travel straight.
They will often tire quickly from having too much weight
put on the forequarter.  They have a tendency to drop
their heads and some have issues with vertebrae and can
develope "wobbler synderome."

Head and Neck Angle:
The curve of the vertebrae or lack of it affects the way the
head and neck meet up.   There should be room for the
for the width of at least two fingers between the jawbone
and the first neck bone.   tHe neck should sit at such
an angle that the horse can flex at the poll to collect and
to change direction while maintaining a good balance. When the neck is well proportioned it should also be well
arched and be convex rather than straight on concaved at
the topline.   There should be a flat almost level area
just behind the ears where the skull attaches to the first
vertebrae,   The length of the neck will be determined
by the way the horse carries the head and how the neck joins
the withers.

Too Abrupt Angle:
An abrupt head and neck is often found on short necked
horses.  The neck forms a right angle instead of a curve
and the lower line is often loose and fleshy.   The fault
is referred to as "cock-throttled".   When the head and neck
are also accompanied by a lack of curvature in the neck
bones just behind the neck, the angle is even more upright
and abrupt.   This is referred to as " hammer-headed".

Neck and Shoulder Angle:
When viewed on a side profile there should be a smooth
transition from the shoulder to the neck, with the neck
set neither too high not too low.   If it is set too
low there will be very little chest.   The horse will
appear to be leaning forward and traveling is heavy
in the front quarters.   A neck should depart from
the chest with a level angle equal to that of the point
of the shoulder.   The too low neck set is often seen
on very top performing saddle mules.   The influence
comes from the donkey genes when cross breeding.

Neck and Shoulder Angle:
The neck bones of the horse fit into a near "S" shape.
The proportions of the "S" will determine the shape of
the neck.   The are four types of necks for the
the horse.   Normal or Ideal Neck has a
shallow lower curve and is placed high in comparsion
to the angle of the shoulder.   The upper half
of the curve is longer with the turnover behind the
head.   Upper Ewe Neck has a wide and longer
lower curve and a short upper curve making the horse
appear hammer headed.  Looking at the side
profile the horse will have a downward dip along the
part of the top of the neck just before the poll begins.
Lower Ewe Neck or Swan Neck with has a wide and
deep lower curve but a long upper one which shows on the
side profile as a sownward dip just before the peak of
the withers begins.   Straight Neck has neither
the upper or the lower curve showing any kind of a deep
curve.   On the side profile the neck appears to
be rather a straight line on both the upper and lower
lines.

Heavy Crests:
A thick heavy neck and large head are an advantage for
draft breeds to lean into the harness and pull any weight.
But for any other breed including Spanish and Warmbloods
it is not a desired trait.  Short beefy necked horses
lacks flexion and have poor balance.  It shows the
animals has a poor metabolism and could be a candidate
gfor founder.   Stallions should show a bit of
thicker crest than mares but if it developes too much
it shows a coarse trait and the horse will be heavy in
the front limiting agility.   The stallion should
display male traits but do so with a well arched neck of
good muscling.  Mares should never display a coarse
neck or heavy crest as it is a signal for an hormone
imbalance and poor fertility.


Excellant example of a sculpted
ideal or normal neck

Pseudo Albino RRISH
Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises




Example of a neck set too low
but typically seen on mules.
Resin Sculpture by Brigitte Eberl


Correct neck or ideal neck


Ewe Neck - Lower Curve - Swan Neck


Ewe Neck - Upper Curve


Straight Neck Angle




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artist resins sculpted and or painted by them for sale.