“Stacy, what do u think the affects of quarter horses being built downhill have to do with their performance?”-Ingrid S.

What do u think the affects of quarter horses being built downhill have to do with their performance?

This young horse runs ‘downhill’ meaning his hindquarters are higher than his front end. Many young horses go through growth spurts and exhibit this but out grow it. This young guy grew up and always ran downhill even when fully grown.

This is an interesting question to think about mostly because it seems like it should have a simple answer. I have never heard someone say, “Yeah, I chose to breed that horse because he/she runs downhill.” I doubt anyone has aimed for this as one of their breeding goals, which would indicate that it is not a desirable characteristic. This would make it seem like people would avoid breeding for it…

But it isn’t quite that easy.

It is very difficult to breed for one specific trait. Often trade-offs are made.

There is one specific bloodline in reining that is prone to producing horses that run down hill. Running down hill should cause the horses to be heavy on the forehand. This could cause the horses to be more difficult to change leads on, it could cause the horses to be heavy hitting during their slides and it should make them less athletic…but that isn’t true in this bloodline. Why? Because the horses also tend to have a lot of ‘heart’ or try. A desire to please. A willingness to work. And these characteristics have over-ridden the seeming downsides to running downhill.

Do people breed these horses because they run downhill? No. They breed them because they make great horses despite the fact that they run down hill. Generally people choose to cross the bloodline with horses that don’t run down hill in an attempt to keep the mind and improve the body. Several generations away from the original horse the breeders seem to have succeeded. Many of the offspring maintain the desirable mind combined with improved conformation.

It should be easy to say that a horse being built downhill will negatively effect the performance…but it would seem that although it is not desirable, the amount of heart a horse has is a bigger determiner of performance.