Sunday, July 6, 2008

Icelandic Horse Neck Conformation

Horses and humans and most other animals have seven vertebrae in the neck.

The cervical spine in horses can be shaped very differently.

There are some straight necks, but for the most part, the cervical vertebrae are shaped in an "S".

The top curve of the "S" can be straight, wide curve, or narrow curve.

The bottom curve of the "S" can be straight, wide curve, or narrow (shallow) curve.

The shape of the curve can be enhanced to a small degree by the way the horse uses it's muscles, or how the rider affects the horse with contact and exercises; but the basic shape will remain the same.

The pictures below will show different "S" shapes of the cervical neck of the horse.

The horse with the wider curve at the top, and the less curve at the bottom, will have more athletic ability than one with a shallow curve at the top and wide curve at the bottom.

Icelandic Horses generally have shallow curves at the top, and wide curves at the bottom. The shallow curve at the top restricts the area between the vertebrae and the jaw, and does not allow the horse to easily flex. Flexing can constrict the windpipe.

Dressage horses generally have wider / longer curves at the top; shallow on the bottom. This upper curve allows the horse the ability to flex more easily, and to give to the bit. Additionally, there is more room in the throat latch area for the windpipe. This shallow tie-in to the spine allows them to be lighter on the front end and move more athletically.

Icelandic Horse's necks are wider and thicker on the bottom than on the top.

This type of neck would be called "inverted".

It seems that the current breeding goal for Icelandic Horses is to breed for a higher set neck. However, the actual neck shape is still inverted. Perhaps the breeding goal should be, first and foremost, to breed necks that are not inverted. That seems as though it would be a more logical direction to take, especially if it's desired to have the horse that goes more easily on the bit!

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Icelandic Horse Connection

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