Trivia Challenge: Do You Know What Makes a Good Topline?

Answer the questions, then check at bottom for the key. For more great information about horses, read H&R’s ‘The Ride’ newsletter. (Not getting it? Sign up below—it’s free!)

Illustration by Navah Rae Adams

1. True or false: An ideal back is about the same length as the horse’s underline.

T / F

2. True or false: A strong topline means a horse is level across his back from the point of his withers to the top of his hips.

T / F

3. Swayback can occur in older horses, but it’s especially prevalent in horses with…

A) wide backs.

B) long backs.

C) narrow backs.

4. True or false: The length of a horse’s neck should be roughly equal to the length of his shoulder and his hip.

Book: The Horse Conformation Handbook

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HOW’D YOU DO? (Answers below.)

1. F is correct. The ideal back is about half as long as the horse’s underline so he can bring his hocks up underneath himself with greater ease and power. If the ratio is too close to equal, it’s more difficult for the horse to gain collection, and he’ll tend to have a hollow back that won’t allow him to properly engage his rear end—his power source.

2. T is correct. Withers and hips that are about equally high means a horse will be able to engage his hocks while remaining light in his front end. If a horse is taller at his hips than his withers, his weight shifts forward, potentially resulting in a front-heavy, jarring stride.

3. B is correct. A too-long back is weak and can cause a horse to develop a swayback; it also reduces hind-end function.

4. T is correct. When a horse’s neck is roughly the same length as his shoulder and hip, plus longer along its topline than its underside, it means he’ll be able to use his neck well for balance and collection.

[LEARN MORE! An expert tells you how to evaluate conformation.]

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