Conformation Clinic

Aged Appaloosa mares


Clay Cavinder

Cavinder is a carded judge with the Paint, Quarter Horse, Palomino, and Appaloosa breed associations, as well as the NRHA and NSBA. During his 13-year judging career, he’s officiated at shows across the U.S. and in Canada, Europe, and Australia. His most recent shows include the ApHC Nationals, APHA and PHBA World Shows, the AQHA Italian Championships, and the Reichert Celebration.

An associate animal science professor at Texas A&M University, Cavinder teaches and conducts research in equine reproductive physiology. He’s also the head coach of the horse-judging team, and has coached teams to championships and reserve titles at major events including the AQHA World Show, All American Quarter Horse Congress, NRHA Futurity, and National Reining Breeder’s Classic. 


When I judge halter horses, I try to find the horse that best exemplifies, overall, the highest combinations of the traits we look for: balance, structure, muscling, and quality (sex and breed characteristics). A single fault doesn’t exclude a horse from high placement, and my primary objective is to stay positive! I prefer to look for the good points and not focus on the negative. 

A horse should be balanced, meaning that he blends together smoothly with physical components that flow together. He should be proportional throughout each third of his body. The slope, structure, and muscling of the shoulder and hip should be complementary. Levelness, correctness through the hocks and cannon bones, depth of the heart girth in relation to the length of the leg, and shortness of the back are all factors to consider as well.

A horse is also an athlete, so I consider how physical attributes will then affect performance. I also consider aesthetic appeal, especially in breeding animals. In a class of mares, I look for an individual that’s pleasing to the eye and feminine. Appaloosas are a stock breed, so few breed traits differ from others of this type (Quarter Horse or Paint) aside from the mottled skin and patterned coat—neither of which affect placement.

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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