Breyer Horse Judging: The Basics of Biomechanics and Conformation

Model horse shows in the simplest sense are the miniature counterparts to a real horse show. The two largest factors in real horse showing are biomechanics and Conformation, and we hear these words thrown around quite a bit in model horse shows, but do we really know what they mean?

Many judges will tell you that the most important of these two terms is biomechanics. Biomechanics is the study of how an organism (In this case a horse) is physically built. In model horses judges look for which horse could physically be possible in real life. No model horse is one hundred percent realistic, there are always flaws in the sculpture, but there are often horses that stand out above others as having correct biomechanics. If a model horse has incorrect biomechanics, it may not be able to survive in real life; for this reason, they are placed with a higher  importance.

Some things to look for in the realm of biomechanics are correct muscle structure and that all the parts of a horse are in the right place. Muscle structure is one of the most common things that can be incorrect. Muscles like legs move in a certain way and sometimes models can have incorrect leg movement in comparison to what the rest of the body is doing. Look for tensed muscles to see what looks correct and look for the overall visual of the horse; often an overall look of the horse can help you judge if something looks “off”. Take the time to also check the legs for correct placement and leg bone length and check the eyes to see that they aren’t “Froggy” or sunken in. These are common flaws that can be found that might make or break your entry.

Conformation is a bit easier, but less important than biomechanics. Conformation is the study of how well the body structure and physical appearence of a horse matches the “Breed Standards” set forth by the founders of the breed. The easiest way to learn about these is to either visit a particular breed’s website where information can be found or to visit a large trade show like Equine Affaire and meet all of the different breeds and their owners in person. These are rare and wonderful opportunities to bridge your model horses and real horses!

So the next time you start pulling your horses together for a Golden Oak Stable show, take a few minutes to study the biomechanics and conformation, you may just help pick the next champion!

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