How to Set a Horse's Front Legs in Halter

How to Set a Horse's Front Legs in Halter

Follow these horse-showing tips to set your halter horse’s front legs just right.

halter horse leg set up at AQHA World Show (Credit: Journal)

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At its core, the tenants of a halter class are balance, structural correctness and degree of muscling. Genetics play a great role, but every halter horse’s conformation can benefit from a little strategy and finesse. 

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Kathy Smallwood of Pilot Point, Texas offers advice on where to begin setting up a halter horse:

  • Appraise your horse’s assets and faults. Assessing your halter horse’s conformation will help you do a better job of positioning him so he looks his best to the judge.
  • Minimize the faults. Remember that you can’t fool a judge or totally hide imperfections, but you can minimize the faults so it doesn’t holler, “Hey! Look at this!”
  • Make the best of the showing area. Uneven dirt can cause one foot to prop up higher or sink down lower. Kathy says, “That’s when I will pick up the front foot, use my own foot to smooth down the dirt, then replace horse’s foot on the smoothed surface.”

Any halter horse can benefit from a few small adjustments. For a better first impression, heed the following tips from Kathy:

  • With a horse that’s correct, you want his legs to come straight down; the same way you would with a good-hocked horse. Looking from the side, follow the imaginary straight line.
  • If a horse is long-backed, set the front feet 1-2 inches behind the line. By having his legs camped under just a tad, it creates the illusion of a shorter back.
  • For a wide-chested horse, make sure you don’t set his feet too close together. The horse will end up shaking on his legs and not stand as stable. He will be uncomfortable and will want to move.
  • If a horse is over at the knees, set his front legs 1-2 inches forward of the line to relieve tension and create stability.
  • A horse with offset knees will benefit from setting the right foot first off the shank. Place it as straight down as possible, when viewing from the front.