When showing a horse or purchasing one, its conformation can be all important. Something less than perfect conformation, to the extent that perfection is seldom achieved, can cost a horse points in the show ring. As far as purchasing a horse is concerned, its conformation is important with respect to how you plan to use the horse. If it to be a pet, the fact that it looks nice may be sufficient, even if it is lacking in some aspects of conformation.
Just what is conformation and why is it important? Broadly speaking, conformation is the formation of parts of the various skeletal-muscular structures of a horse (neck, legs, head, etc) in relationship to the structure of the horse as a whole. A horse with poor conformations may have legs that are too close together, a head that is a hair too long or too short, or it might be just a bit swaybacked. Most of these faults would cost points in the show ring, while some will affect a horse’s performance.
A horse whose front legs are just a little too close together will normally make a perfectly fine riding horse, and might even be well suited for dressage, but it could be ill-suited for barrel racing. Those that are conformation-conscience look for as such things as straightness of the leg, the length of the head relative to the length of the horse, the height from fetlock to elbow relative to the height from the elbow to the withers (they should be equal), the front hooves and the back hooves should form exact pairs, and so on.
A particularly interesting example of perfect conformation has to do with the horse’s head. The length of the head should be equal to the distance from the shoulder to the knee and equal to the distance from the fetlock to the hoof. That’s perfection, but the conformation of most horses is at least somewhat close. Now you know a few things to look for when purchasing a horse.