Hindquarter Overview |
The horse's hindquarter is responsible for all the weight of the
whole body when the horse stops or turns quickly. It must
also be strong enough to propell the body forward. The
hindquarter is made up of the croup, quarters, pelvis, hip,
buttock and thigh. The joints running down the hind leg are
the stifle, hock, fetlock and pastern. The side leg are
profile of a correctly conformed rearquarter should have the
quarter "rump" shaped long with the point of the hip directly
over the stifle. The cannon bone should is vertical.
The rear imaginary line of the cannon bone should be
directly under the point of the buttocks. The point of
the buttocks should be inline with the point of the hock and follow
down to the back of the cannon down to the back of the fetlock
joint and the heel of the foot.
Where the hind leg joins the backbone at the lumbrosacral joint
to the sacrum is called the croup. For such an important part
of the hindquarter it is normally only about 6" sqared, It
is the highest point of the hind leg. The height, length, angle
and placement of the croup will determine the shape and lineup
of the hind leg. The croup should be the same height as
the withers except for dressage horse. Riders of this
discipline perfer the wither to be slightly higher than the
croup so that the hindquarters will work under the horse as it
is taught to crouch down on the hindquarters and raise the front
end for the upmost collection.
Rump and Quarters
The area from the top of the croup to the top of the tail dock
is called the rump. Muscles that blanket the on either side
of the backbone from the croup to the top of the tail dock is
called the quarters. The hindquarters refers to the entire
hind end of the horse. The conformation of the rump is
determined by the pelvis, hip angle and the muscles that cover
it all. All the major muscles of a horse's hindquarter are
attached to the pelvis and this is what propels the horse forward.
The longer the pelvis bones the longer the muscle and the more
performance ability the horse will have. It is very important
that both the front quarter and the rear quarter match in
proportional balance in order to avoid a mismatch of angles
or basic form.
The hip should be behind and slightly lower than the point of the
hip. The horse's hing leg connects to the hip joint. The
hip joint should be no higher than the pivot point of the shoulder
blade. If you use an imaginary line from the hip joint, through
the tibia and though the middle of the hoof when the horse stands
square. A second line when dropped from the patella at the stifle
joint and a third dropped down from the point of the buttocks and
the back of the hock and cannon should all align and be exactly
the same in length.
The ideal angle of the thigh is that of an equilateral triangle.
The thigh sits in the center of the hind quarter just above and
sightly off to a 45 degree angle of the stifle. It is
a fairly large muscled area that covers the femur bone. In
order to have an ideal stifle the femur and the tibia should be
nearly the same length. When the femur is correct in length
the stifle should sit slightly below the udder or sheath of the
horse. The thigh should be long, well muscled and deep.
While the outside does not look like it the stifle is like the
human knee. It is made up of the lower end of the femur
and the upper end of the tibia. It has a patella which acts
as a kneecap that glides in a large groove on the lower end of
the femur on the very front of the stifle so that the three bones of
the stifle create two working joints. The stifle is the largest
joint of the horse and is the highest visible joint of the hind leg.
The stifle should be at the same height as the elbow of the front
leg. It should also be positioned well forward and in direct
line with the hip bone above it. The stifle and the hock joint
should be of the same degree of angulation in order to be better
The gaskin is the muscle between the stifle and the hock and its
duty is to move, bend, flex and extend the hock. The gaskin
should be well muscled according to the breed. The stifle should
be forward of the gaskin in a manner to allow for a good length
between the stifle and the hock. Muscles on the inner thigh
should extend and blend into the the inner gaskin.
We have the ankle and the horse has a similar joint, the
hock. It does nearly the same thing as the knee on the front
leg. The hock is between the tibia bone and the cannon bone.
When flexed it brings up and swings forward the hind leg. The
hock disperses the concussion of the weight put upon it when it
flexes. The hock must be large and correctly angled with the
lower and upper leg of the same length. Using the imaginary line
from the point of the stifle to the point of the hock and then using
an plime straight line from the point of the hock to the ground
both lengths should be the same. Both these lengths should
also be the same length as the horse's head. The hock joint
should be aligned with the back of the leg down to the fetlock
joint. The cannon should be set directly in the center of the hock.
The hock should be wide from the front to the back and set on a
solid cannon bone. There should be no deviation in the
cannon bone. The hock should be somewhat flat on the inside
and slightly rounded on the outer side. The height of the hock
should be in line with the height of the chestnuts on the front leg.
Cannon and Fetlock Joint of the Rear Leg
Conformation for the lower hind leg and the cannon and fetlock
joint is pretty much the same as the front leg except the rear
cannon bone is a little wider, longer and thicker in density. The
hind fetlock is a little bit sturdier.
The hind pastern is typically a little shorter than the front pastern.
It is more upright, solid and requires greater strength. The
angle can be anywhere form 49 to 56 degrees.
A to B - Hip should be in line with the stifle
C - The Thigh should be centered in the rear quarterly.
B to D - The distance of the front of the
stifle to the point of the hock should be the
same as the distance of the point
of the hock to the ground.
F the Chestnut should be in line with the hock.
Dappled Isabella Palomino
Sculpted and painted by
Rio Rondo Enterprises
The point of the buttock
down to the point of the hock
down to the back of the fetlock
Down to the back of the bulb of the foot
should all be in a straight line
when the horse is standing still
Still Dreamin #8
Sculpted and painted by
Rio Rondo Enterprises
Correct rear quarter conformation
Sculpted and painted by
Rio Rondo Enterprises
Rear View of the Hindquarters:|
When viewed from the rear the hind legs should look straight.
The hindquarter shoulder look slightly squared with the rump
rounded, uniformed and balanced. The width of the pelvis
is not as important as the length but mares should have more
width to be a good broodmare prospect. A horse with narrow
hindquarters will have the hind legs too close together and this
cut back on performing ability and endurance. The tail
should set sraight and centered and hang freely of the buttocks.
A plume line dropped fown from the point fo the buttocks should
bisect the leg, pass the center of hock, cannon, fetlock joint,
pastern and through the bulbs of the hooves. The croup, hip
and stifle should be equally proportioned on both sides of the
tail and show no protusions or uneveness.
Rear View of The Rear
Ideally the hind should be somewhat squared or slightly pear
shaped. The different breeds will have different shapes and
widths from apple, pear to rectangle. Stock breeds need more
muscling and will be wider across the thighs than across the hips.
What is not wanted is A shaped, T shaped or peaked hips.
Rear View of Thigh
From the rear the thigh should be full, developed and give off
a squared or oblonged look to the hindquarter. The "hams"
of the back of the thighs should be thick enough to touch each
other for most of the lengh until they split off and bow inward
up until the gaskin.
Rear View of Stifle
The horse should have a have wide view of the stifle behind
not narrow. The stifle must be able to move and if it is too
narrow the belly may come into collision with the swinging
movement forward of the hind leg.
Rear View of Gaskins
The gaskin should be a little shorter than the thigh but still long
enough to give proper leverage for the hock and to perform a
long decent stride. There should be a obvious rise of muscle
on the outer leg then blending into the outside curve of the hock
and down to straight hind legs.
Rear View of the Hock
The point of the hock should be directly under the point of the
Faults of the Rear Quarter:
Short Gaskin/Hocks High
Results from a relatively short tibia with a long cannon. Ideally,
hocks are slightly higher than the knees, with the point of hock
level with the chestnut of the front leg. Hocks will be noticeable
higher in horse with this conformation. The horse may have a
downhill balance with the croup higher than the withers. Seen
especially in Thoroughbreds, racing Quarter Horses, and Gaited
horses. With this conformation, the horse can pull the hind legs
further under the body, so there is a longer hind end stride, but
the animal may not move in synchrony with the front. This will
create an inefficient gait, as the hind end is forced to slow down
to let the front end catch up, or the horse may take high steps
behind, giving a flashy, stiff hock and stifle look. May cause
forging or overreaching. Often results in sickle hock conformation.
Long tibia with short cannons. Creates an appearance of
squatting. Usually seen in Thoroughbreds and stock horses.
A long gaskin causes the hocks and lower legs to go behind the
body in a camped-out position. The leg must sickle to get it
under the body to develop thrust, causing those related problems.
The long lever arm reduces muscle efficiency to drive the limb
forward. This makes it hard to engage the hindquarters. The
rear limbs may not track up and the horse may have a reduced
rear stride length, forcing the horse to take short steps. The
horse is best used for galloping events, sprinting sports with
rapid takeoff for short distance, or draft events.
Hocks Too Small
Hock appears small relative to the size of adjacent bones.
Same principals with knees too small. The joints are a
support which tendons and muscles pass over for power and
speed, and large joints absorb concussion and diffuse the load
of the horse. Small joints are prone to concussion and
instability, especially in events where the horse works off its
hocks a lot. A small hock does not have a long tuber calcis
(point of hock) over which the tendons pass. This limits the
mechanical advantage to propel the horse at speed. The
breadth of the gaskin also depends on hock size, and will be
Cut Out Under the Hock
Front of the cannon, where it joins the hock, seems small and
weak compared to the hock joint. In the front end, its called
"tied in at knee." Mainly affects sports that depend on
strong hocks (dressage, stock horse, jumping). Reduces the
diameter of the hock and cannon, which weakens the strength
and stability of the hocks. Means a hock is less able to support
a twisting motion (pirouettes, roll backs, sudden stops, sudden
turns). The horse is at greater risk for arthritis or injury in
Slightly Camped Out Behind
Cannon and fetlock are "behind" the plumb line dropped from
point of buttock. Associated with upright rear pasterns. Seen
especially in Gaited horses, Morgans, and Thoroughbreds. Rear
leg moves with greater swing before the hoof contacts the
ground, which wastes energy, reduces stride efficiency, and
increases osculation and vibrations felt in joints, tendons,
ligaments, and hoof. May cause quarter cracks and arthritis.
Difficult to bring the hocks and cannons under unless the horse
makes a sickle hocked configuration. Thus, the trot is inhibited
by long, overangulation of the legs and the horse trots with a
flat stride with the legs strung out behind. It is difficult to
engage the back or haunches, so it is hard to do upper level
dressage movements, jump, or gallop efficiently.
Sickle-or Sabre-Hocked/Overangulated Long Hind Legs
The hind leg slants forward, in front of the plumb line, when
viewed from the side. The cannon is unable to be put in
vertical position. Also called "curby" hock, as it is associated
with soft tissue injury in the rear, lower part of the hock.
Limits the straightening and backward extension of hocks,
which limits push-off, propulsion, and speed. There is overall
more hock and stifle stress. Closed angulation and loading on
the back of the hock predisposes the horse to bone and bog
spavin, thoroughpin and curb.
Angles of the hock and stifle are open. The tibia is fairly
vertical, rather than having a more normal 60 degree
slope. Tension on the hock irritates the joint capsule and
cartilage, leading to bog and bone spavin. Restriction of the
tarsal sheath while in motion leads to thoroughpin. A straight
stifle limits the ligaments across the patella, predisposing the
horse to upward fixation of the patella and a stifle in a locked
position, which interferes with performance. It is difficult for
the horse to use its lower back, reducing the power and swing
of the leg. Rapid thrust of the rear limbs causes the feet to
stab into the ground, leading to bruises and quarter cracks.
Hocks deviate from each other to fall outside of plumb line,
dropped from point of buttocks, when the horse is viewed from
behind. The hoof swings in as the horse picks up its hocks
and then rotates out, predisposing the animal to interference
and causing excess stress on lateral hock structures and
bog and bone spavin, and thoroughpin. The twisting motion
of the hocks causes a twisting motion on the hoof as it hits
the ground, leading to bruises, corns, quarter cracks, and
ringbone. The horse does not reach forward with the hind legs
because of the twisting motion of the hocks once lifted, and the
legs may not clear the abdomen if the stifles are directed more
forward than normal.
Hocks deviate toward each other, with the cannon and fetlock
to the outside of the hocks when the horse is viewed from
the side. Gives the appearance of a half-moon contour
from the stifle to hoof. Often accompanied by sickle hocks.
Usually seen in draft breeds. Disadvantages to trotting horses,
jumpers, speed events, and stock horses. Medial
deviation in cow hocks causes strain on the inside of the
hock joint, predisposing the horse to bone spavin. More
weight is carried on medial part of hoof, so it is more likely
to cause bruising, quarter cracks, and corns. The lower
legs twist beneath the hocks, causing interfering. The horse
develops relatively weak thrust, so speed will be lost.
Rear Legs Base Wide, Toed-Out
The horse lands hard on the outside of the hoof wall and places
excessive strain on the medial structures of the fetlock and
pastern, leading to ringbone or sidebone, and spraining
structures of the carpus. The horse will wing in, possibly
leading to an interference injury or overload injury of the splint
Rear Legs Base Wide, Toed-In
The horse lands hard on the inside hoof wall, placing stress on
the medial structures of limb. The horse will also paddle.
Stands Close Behind/Base Narrow Behind
The point of buttock, the lower legs and feet are placed more
toward the midline than the regions of hips and thigh, with a
plumb line falling to the outside of the lower leg from the hock
downward. Usually accompanied by bow-legged conformation.
A fairly common fault, especially in heavily muscled horses like
stock breeds. The hooves tend to wing in, so the horse is
more likely to interfere. If the hocks touch, they may also
interfere. The horse cannot accelerate. The outside of
the hocks, fetlocks, and hooves receive excessive stress and
pressure. This leads to ligament strain, hoof bruising,
and quarter cracks. The horse is best for non-speed sports
and those that do not require spins, dodges, or tight turns.