Conformation Essentials: Front and Rear View
Illustrations courtesy of the American Youth Horse Council's Horse Industry Handbook
Feet - Look for balanced feet on both sides, or symmetry. Avoid misshapen, dished or cracked feet.
Cannon bones - From the front, the cannon bones should appear straight and be of the same length. Keep an eye out for splints under the knee, on the front of the cannon bones. Example A shows a bow-legged horse, example B a knock-kneed horse, and example C shows offset or bench knees.
Knees - It is best if the knees are set squarely on top of the cannon bones, not off to one side or another: "Offset knees."
Chest - A horse's chest should be broad and appear powerful. Narrow chested or slab-sided horses are said to lack power.
Shoulder - Look for balance, symmetry and good muscling. A straight line from the point of the shoulder should bisect the entire front leg all the way to the toe.
Hocks - From the rear, the hocks should appear to point straight at you and not turn in -- "cow hocks" or turn out -- "open in the hocks" or "bow-legged." Ideally, an imaginary line from the point of the buttocks to the ground should bisect the gaskin, hock and hoof.
Hip/Buttocks - Note that much of the horse's athleticism and power comes from behind. Definition and development are key attributes.