Conformation Clinic

Aged Paint Geldings


Robert Dehn

Dehn is a carded judge for APHA, and an industry-renowned professional trail course designer. He’s developed courses for numerous APHA, ApHC, and PtHA world and national shows, and many other events across the country. He attends over 45 shows per year in the capacity of judge or course designer. 

In addition to his work as an equine professional, Dehn also has been involved with 4-H and FFA as a horse-judging team coach. He’s coached several national and world 4-H champions, and one FFA champion judging team. Dehn also has received several accolades in judging competition himself. His family has raised and shown halter and rail horses since his childhood.

The first things I look at, and the most important parts of conformation, are balance and structure. Good conformation is like having a solid foundation under a house. If the house isn’t sturdy, then it doesn’t matter how nice the outside looks because it’ll eventually deteriorate. The same is true for horses; a strong foundation is a must. 

When I judge, I start at the withers. They act as my central focal point. I look backward to forward to assess overall balance and levelness. A shorter back and strong, level topline are ideal. This combination stabilizes the horse. I also want a long, sloping shoulder, balanced by a long, full, more box-shaped hip. Both of these allow a horse to carry his weight more evenly, which makes him a better athlete and helps maintain physical longevity. More heartgirth ratio (the ratio between the girth and leg length) allows higher lung capacity and a stronger overall frame. I then look at a horse’s legs to determine levelness of hock and knee, and straightness through the leg, especially below the knee. The angle of the hock is also important for function and injury prevention. 

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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