Draft horse breeders have focused their attention on the structure of the hind legs found on the draft horses they breed for centuries. It is a fact well known, that the hind legs must be properly positioned and structurally correct, to remain sound when the harnessed draft horse is tested in the field, on the street or in the show ring. Hocks should be tight, their points turned in. The free movement of both stifle joints is facilitated by such a configuration. It is important a draft horse’s hocks are positioned so a plumb line, dropped from the point of each buttock, touches each hock’s point, and falls parallel to the back of each cannon bone, to the point of each fetlock. If a draft horse has hind legs positioned in this manner, and his hock joints, ankles, pasterns and feet, are structurally correct, he should remain sound for a lifetime. But, what about the front legs on a draft horse?
One can fault the front legs found on all too many draft horses bred today. Bench knees, in particular, are far too common. The cannon bones are not centered in the knee, where they should be. On occasion, one of the front cannon bones will be twisted. Draft horses with these configurations fail to travel true. Put to the test working in the field, on the street or in a show ring, such horses often go lame.
One finds many draft horses bred today back on their knees. This is readily seen when a draft horse is studied from his right or left side. The side view of many pictured draft horses in breed publications offers powerful evidence of this fault. The number of draft horses, who are back on their knees, appears to be growing. However, take caution. Shoes of some length nailed on the front feet of a horse can cause a plumb front leg to go back at the knees. In these instances, the faulty configuration of the front leg is not hereditary.
Foals are often over at the knees at birth. Seldom is this a problem. Given proper genetics, good feed, clean water and plenty of exercise, such legs will likely be plumb in a short time.
While breeders are encouraged to pay attention to the configuration of a draft horse’s hind legs, they can ill afford to overlook the configuration of a draft horse’s front legs. They carry two thirds of a horse’s weight.
At least this is how I see it!