Supplement Article To: The Up And Down Of It – Shoulder Angle And Slope

Paint Mare wrote in the comments section:

After I read this post, I looked up the recent Equus articles on shoulders. The article on seeing a shoulder said that while usually you can measure the angle of the shoulder by tracing a line from the point of the shoulder to the middle of the withers, some horses have a shoulder blade that runs in front of that ideal line, further up the neck. The article said this isn’t the best conformation, though didn’t seem to really specify why. When I look at the Paint Mare, I think she is in fact built this way. And as she is the primary horse I get to examine and prod, that’s made me a bit confused over how to see the shoulder! Whether you follow the ideal line or the actual line changes how steep the angle of her shoulder is, and how open the arm joint.

I’m attaching a photobucket album that shows her in current fit mode, but also as a green broke 5 year old with less muscle. Any thoughts? We have always found her a bit restricted in the shoulder though she has some relatively snappy high knee action at the trot, and can lift her knees OK jumping if she gets the right distance.

Paint Mare sent me some photos of her – Paint mare – so let’s examine more closely.

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I don’t see her scapula being ahead in position.  It’s not ‘middle of withers’, it’s ‘highest point of withers’.  That latter gives the impression of being forward with the rest of the withers tapering off gradually as you want to see.  When measured, her slope is about 52/53 degrees with a closed shoulder angle of 85ish degrees.  Her humerus has great length being about 67%, and is a bit more toward vertical than horizontal.

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This is one of those contradictory type mixes of conformation, but in the end the humerus bone wins.  It’s not vertical enough in orientation and thus the creation of a closed shoulder angle rules the outcome: reduced range of motion causing an inability to get the knees up well for jumping (forearm below perpendicular to the ground) and be tight below.

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Paint mare included a second picture.  Note that to get the knee up on the right front her horse had to badly twist the shoulder and leg.  The left front leg shows a much tighter lower leg, but to achieve that the horse had to lower its knee and also twist the shoulder and leg.

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Additionally, some of the issue is from a muddy shoulder bed and tightness behind the wither and into the back.  This can be improved with stretching, massage and more engagement so that the horse lifts its base of neck, withers and back.

Paint Mare will know this has been achieved when the dip in front of the withers disappears, the lower neck thins, she can place her whole hand under the scapula along its entire length, the hollow behind the withers fills in and the horse develops a double back along its entire length.

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Looking at other aspects of this horse’s conformation, I see no reason it can’t be achieved rather easily and in a relatively short period of time – 4-6 months – and when done the horse’s jumping form will have improved.  There’s a lot to like about this horse, despite that closed shoulder angle.