Conformation Clinic

Quarter Horse Mares


John Pipkin

Pipkin is a carded judge for APHA, AQHA, NRCHA, NRHA, NSBA, and WCHA. He’s officiated at more than 380 shows nationally and internationally, including the world shows for both the Paint and Quarter Horse breed associations, as well as their youth world shows.


Aside from judging, Pipkin is a professor at West Texas A&M University, where he’s the director of the Equine Industry Program in the Department of Agricultural Sciences. He’s coached horse-judging teams to over 90 champion or reserve champion titles at competitions, including intercollegiate contests held in conjunction with the AQHA World Show, All American Quarter Horse Congress, and National Reining Horse Association.

When judging conformation, I look for qualities that best represent stock horse industry standards, developed over decades. I’m honored to be a member of the judges committee for the World Conformation Horse Association (WCHA), which, in alliance with many breed organizations, has worked to establish these standards to ensure that horses are judged more objectively and consistently. 

I look primarily for four characteristics when judging: balance, structure, quality (breed and sex characteristics), and muscling. The best horse will have the most positive overall combination of those four characteristics. 

Balance takes into account the length and angle of the shoulder, hip, and croup; length of back and neck; levelness of topline; and depth of body or heartgirth. Structure can be assessed very well only from the side here, so I try to determine angles and alignment of legs based on our one view. Quality is best seen in the head and neck, and has a key role in overall attractiveness. Finally, I look at muscling, which is judged not only on size and volume, but also on expression and definition, reflecting the horse’s overall tone and condition. Muscling is important as long as the horse has the other components of balance and structural correctness in place, as well.

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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