CONFORMATION AND MOVEMENT AS FORM AND FUNCTION
Does Good Conformation lead to Good movement?? Not necessarily. Letís take a look at why.
Conformation known as form, is the skeletal system made up of bones and joints. The bones and joints must be located at specific angles. Different angles such as hip, shoulder or pastern angle create different degrees of movement in the horseís body. The bones are the back drop for the muscles. Muscles move the bones, contributing to the musculoskeletal system responsible for movement.
However, there is a very important neurological system hidden from our view that is ultimately responsible for good movement supporting good performance. The system is similar to the electrical system in all of our homes that works to allow all of the appliances to function in perfect order. It is similar to the perfect timing and synchronization of the pistons in the engine of our cars, so the engine runs smoothly. This intriguing neurological system is called proprioception. This is the neuro-muscular process by which the body synchronizes itself into the proper sequence of motions. It basically letís the body know where its limbí s are in space through proprioceptors which are tiny neurological sensory receptors that provide information about joint angle, muscle length, and muscle tension. It is what synchronizes movement into perfect timing. It is what makes a great dressage horse dance fluidly. It is what makes a top cutting horse slice impeccably through an arena.
Proprioceptive ability differs from one horse to another, or even from one person to another. All mammals are born with it. Some have a greater degree of proprioception than others. It is basically talent. It creates excellent reflexes resulting in balance, coordination, and endurance. When a horse has a high proprioceptive ability, he can move easily. The easier a horse can move the more he can do, the less tired he becomes. The less tired he becomes, the more stamina he has, and the less chance of injury. Most importantly, the various levels of proprioception create the difference between a top athlete, the weekend athlete and the klunker. What might come easy for one horse, may be difficult for another. If a horse has good conformation and a high level of proprioceptive ability then he will be a very good mover and valued as a top athlete. If a horse has good conformation and little proprioceptive ability, then despite the good conformation, the horse will only be an average to fair mover. It is all parts moving together in perfect harmony as a result of the neurological system that creates an exceptionally moving horse. Couple that with good conformation and you have an outstanding athlete.
An example may be when we see horses shown on the line. They may have fabulous conformation, but when they jog, they are just mediocre in their movement. This situation often comes as a surprise to many people. The reverse can also happen. How many times have we seen horses with poor conformation and they move beautifully and are very athletic!
In the end, good conformation is important, but the amount of proprioception as part of the neurological system is what counts.