Conformation Clinic

Aged APHA Geldings


Clay Cavinder

Cavinder is a carded judge with the Paint, Quarter Horse, Palomino, and Appaloosa breed/color associations, as well as the NRHA and NSBA. During his 15-year judging career, he’s officiated shows across the U.S. and in Canada, Europe, and Australia.

He’s an associate professor in animal and dairy science at Mississippi State University. As the MSU state horse extension specialist, he teaches and conducts research in equine physiology. He’s also the coach of the horse-judging team, and has coached former teams to championships and reserve titles at major events.

When judging conformation, I first look for a horse’s overall appeal. I must be attracted to a horse’s profile first, then I ask myself why I’m drawn to that horse. That’s when I examine the components of balance, structure, quality, and muscling as laid out by stock-breed rule books. Looking at the details first, rather than the big picture, will lead to confusion. I prefer to look at the horse as a whole. His parts should blend aesthetically into a pleasing whole.

A horse is an athlete, so I consider how physical attributes affect performance. For balance, he should blend together smoothly, giving the appearance that all the physical components have flow. He should be proportionate in each third of his body, with all pieces complementing one another. He needs a short, strong topline for an easier time rounding his back for collection, thus engaging his hocks and hind end. A horse should be correct through his hocks and have straight cannon bones. He should have long, laid-back shoulders with matching pastern angles, which will cushion each stride and improve flexibility. His hip and shoulder angle should be complementary. He should have good heartgirth ratio, meaning he has good body depth from his withers to his girth in relation to the length of his leg.

Now you be the judge!

Instruction: Evaluate and place these in your order of preference. Simply click each photo from the left and place it in the corresponding placement to the right. Once you've made your decision, hit the button below and see how well you did compared to our expert judge!
First Place Here
Second Place Here
Third Place Here

To submit a photo of your horse to be evaluated in Conformation Clinic, send us a left-side profile photo of your horse (for digital photos: high-resolution, 300 dpi, in at least 3" x 5") to with your contact info and your horse's breed, age, gender, and height. (We welcome all breeds!) Visit for additional instructions.

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