Trivia Challenge: Do You Know What Makes a Horse’s Head Sound and Attractive?

Do you know what to look for when evaluating a horse’s head conformation? Do you know which faults are most likely to cause soundness issues? Test your knowledge and learn more about the equine head.


Illustration by Navah Rae Adams

1. All horses, regardless of breed, are valued for having a relatively…

A) convex facial profile.

B) narrow throatlatch.

C) broad forehead.

2. True or false: Somewhat smaller nostrils are considered more desirable in a horse than are larger ones.

T / F

3. If a horse’s lower jaw is shorter than his upper jaw, the horse is said to have a…

A) sow mouth.

B) parrot mouth.

C) monkey mouth.

4. True or false: A dished face is a slightly concave facial profile, common and desirable on Arabian horses and Welsh ponies.

T / F

HOW’D YOU DO? (Answers below.)

1. C is correct. A broad forehead is desirable in all horses, especially when paired with large eyes set well apart. A convex facial profile, on the other hand, is a Roman nose—not desirable. And a narrow throatlatch, which may restrict breathing, is also undesirable, especially in speed horses.

2. F is correct. Large nostrils are desirable. They enable easier breathing, especially during exercise.

3. B is correct. This jaw construction, which causes an overbite, is known as a parrot mouth for its resemblance in structure to the beak of a parrot. Considered an inherited unsoundness, parrot mouth reportedly affects 2% to 5% of horses to some degree.

4. T is correct. A dished face is common in Arabians, and may also be found in other breeds influenced by the Arabian. Though this head conformation is highly desirable in the Arabian horse, certain breeding trends have, in some lines, exaggerated the trait to a point many believe is unattractive and even potentially unhealthy because of the restrictive effect it may have on nasal cavities.

[Is *your* horse beautiful? Learn how to take a good conformation photo.]

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