I’m an insecure artist and not afraid to admit to that.

My weakness compels me to read the comments below my articles posted on Facebook; I want to know what people like and dislike about what I’ve written and how I might best appeal to the masses.

The other day, a few people commented about the image attached to the Why We Measure Horses in Hands article. They were interested to know more about the diagram that heads the article, which also the image below.

You casually mention and you shall receive. 

As you can see in “Fig. 73.” someone seems to have gone through a great deal of trouble to add letters and lines that run to and fro. Nobody does this sort of thing for fun, so as is the way with me, I went in search of answers, and I have to say I’m glad I did. Those comments about the diagram were on point and because of the commenter’s curiosity, we are all about to find out what is going on here. 

Gird yourselves, this is interesting and unexpected.

The image comes from a book entitled, The Horse: Its treatment in health and disease with a complete guide to breeding, training and management. There is never any questioning as to what these old books may be about. Anyway, it was edited by Prof. Axe J. Wortley and was printed in London, England in 1905.

The diagram in question is found in Section II of the book: Conformation and its Defects. This of course follows Section I: The Exterior of the Horse and proceeds Section III: Varieties of the Horse.  

Section II is 76 pages in length and gives an intriguing insight into horse conformation. I shan’t regale the entire section but instead will leave you with this useful link in case you want to read it. 

The diagram is under the subtitle Proportions of Height to Length, which explains all the lines and letters. 

Below is quoted directly from the book.

The length of the head almost exactly equals the distance…

1st. From the back to the abdomen, N O, fig. 73 (thickness of the body).

2nd. From the top of the withers to the point of the arm, H E (shoulder).

3rd. From the superior fold of the stifle-joint to the point of the hock, J J.

4th. From the point of the hock to the ground, J K.

5th. From the dorsal angle of the scapula to the point of the haunch, D D.

6th. From the xiphoid region to the fetlock joint, M I; above this latter in large horses and race-horse, below it in small horses, and in those of medium size.  

7th. From the superior fold of the stifle-joint to the summit of the croup in subjects whose coxo-femoral angle is large: this distance is always less in other cases (G. & B.).

Two and one-half times the head gives…

1st. the height of the withers, H, above the ground.

2nd. The height of the top of the croup above the ground.

3rd. Very often the length of the body from the point of the arm to that of the buttock, E F.

The length of the croup from the point of the haunch to that of the buttock , D F, is always less than that of the head: this varies from 5 to 10 centimeters. As to its width from one haunch to the other, it often exceeds only very little its length (often it is equal to the latter) (G. & B.).

The croup (D F) exists quite accurately in length four times in the same horse.

1st. From the point of the buttock to the inferior part of the stifle-joint. F P.

2nd. In the width of the neck at its inferior attachment from its insertion into the chest to the origin of the withers, S X.

3rd. From the insertion of the neck into the chest to the angle of the lower jaw, X Q, when the head is held parallel to the shoulder.

4th. Finally, from the nape of the neck to the nostril, n n’, or to the commissure of the lips.

The measure of one-half the head will also guide us very much in the construction of the horse, when we know that it is frequently applied to several of his parts, namely:

1st. From the most prominent point of the angle of the lower jaw to the profile of the forehead above the eye, R Q (Thickness of the head).

2nd. From the throat to the superior border of the neck behind the poll, Q L (attachment of the head).

3rd. From the inferior part of the knew to the coronet, T’ T.

4th. From the base of the hock to the fetlock, V U.

5th. Finally, from the point of the arm to the articulation of the elbow (approximate length of the arm).

What follows the above information are 41 examples of the Compensation of Defects of Conformation. Here is a selection of a few such defects and compensations. 

This was a fascinating exploration into the conformation of a horse that I admit I’ve never heard before. We are never too old to learn something new. The trick is remembering it.