The Balanced Horse
This balanced frame is the basis of all equestrian disciplines, with the exception of horses asked to work on the forehand, such as Western cutting horses. In this frame, the horse is able to carry weight equally on the hindquarters and forehand. A horse in this balanced frame will usually have his legs straight under him which means less stress on the suspensories, hocks, stifles, knees, poll and hip. In dressage, it can be piaffe one second, lengthen the stride the next.
In the balanced horse, the humerus is at 45 degrees, as are the femur, scapula, and pelvis. The cannons, both front and rear, are perpendicular to the ground.
In the unbalanced horse, the humerus and the pelvis are somewhat less than 45 degrees, while the femur and the scapula are somewhat more than 90 degrees. The cannons, both front and rear, are facing inward. This position of the cannons will cause stress to the knee in front, and the hocks behind. This downhill conformation causes a horse to move with difficulty, unable to carry very much weight, and can lead to multiple lameness problems.
In conclusion therefore, the angles between the humerus and femur indicate the muscular conformation of the horse. It becomes evident what needs to be addressed to change those angles to accommodate the discipline you are interested in.
The importance of understanding a horse’s anatomy cannot be overemphasized. Riding is a sport that relies on the athletic ability of a horse, and it only makes sense that a thorough understanding of the muscular/skeletal build is helpful. If your saddle does not allow your horse freedom of movement under your weight, it will be difficult for him to develop the muscular confirmation that your discipline requires. The information given herein is simple and intended to give a very cursory overview of these implications as they pertain to saddle fit, and not meant in any way to go into comprehensive detail. Much of what is stated is based on the knowledge and opinion of our certified master saddler, based on years of personal experience and consultation with veterinarians, physiotherapists and chiropractors.