Conformation Clinic: Young Paint geldings.
Evaluate the conformation of these 3- and 4-year-old APHA geldings and place them in your order of preference. Then see how your choices match up with our expert judge’s.
Bilke is a horse judge and breeder. He was raised in a farming and ranching family in Oklahoma, and later attended Oklahoma Panhandle State University where he completed his B.S. in animal science while competing on the rodeo and horse-judging teams. He holds cards with APHA, PtHA, PHBA, AHA, and USEF, among others. He’s judged at national and international events, including world shows and futurities. He also serves as the executive vice president of the Pinto Horse Association of America. Bilke resides in Edmond, Oklahoma, with his family.
Form to function is important when judging a class of horses, and this starts with proper balance, conformation, and breed characteristics. First, I like to look at a horse’s legs to ensure that they’re all pointed in the same direction. His legs are his foundation, so should be of good bone and straight. He shouldn’t be toed-out or “duckfooted” in either his front or hind legs.
I then assess a horse from front to back. His head should be ref ned and exhibit breed characteristics. A stock horse should have a large eye, short ears, and a pleasing prof le, exemplifed by a straight nose and ref ned jaw. His throatlatch should be clean and tight. As well, his neck should be long and thin with a smooth, high tie-in at his well-sloped shoulder. I think of the shoulders as being like shocks in a car: A too upright shoulder will cause concussive movement, similar to a car without good shocks. A shorter back with higher withers will be strong and ft a saddle properly. His underline should be longer than his topline, and he should have a proportionate, but large heartgirth for improved lung capacity. A long, sloped croup with muscle that ties in low and toward his hock is best for a strong hind end. I don’t like to see a horse with a round rear that sticks far out behind his hocks. His hocks should be close to the ground for best maneuverability and hind-end engagement. A long, well-sloped hip is also important for reach. A horse should, with his hind leg, be able to reach and track directly on top of or just behind his front footstep. His pasterns shouldn’t be too long or straight, as these absorb concussion. →