| Animal traction |
|2. Draft animal selection|
Conformation refers to the form or shape of an animal. An animal with good conformation has a shape which shows the normal characteristics of its species and breed.
An animal used for draft must have a build well suited for pulling. It should be low to the ground, have powerful shoulders and legs, and have a broad frontal dimension that will accommodate the placement of a harness. It must be big enough to deliver, alone or in a pair, the power needed to pull equipment for an extended period of time. It must also be able to exert the concentrated or "instantaneous" effort needed to overcome temporary increases in the draft requirement caused by roots, rocks, hard soil, or inclines.
While some animals are bred to produce good draft abilities, within any breed individual animals vary greatly in these qualities, and care must be taken to choose those with the most potential. A thin but well-balanced animal can be strengthened with a good diet, health care, and work. However, an animal with a swayback, bad legs or impaired vision will be a constant source of trouble.
Selection is a process of matching ideal qualities against those seen or latent in a given animal. Good draft animals, regardless of species or breed, will have the following qualities:
• head well proportioned; squarish, sculptured look
• balanced vision and hearing; head carriage high and straight
• normal mouth; good teeth and jaw structure
• body should have depth and width; short, full neck, full shoulders, broad chest, and straight, broad beck
• wide, thick hindquarters, lowset and evenly-fleshed
• short legs, straight and square to the body; ample bone
• clean, well-developed joints; no swelling or unusual boniness; no turning in or out of knees or hoofs; free movement of limbs
• feet straight, hard; normal angulation of hoof.
The illustrations-below can serve as general guidelines for identifying qualities in don keys and mules as well as horses.
The proper and faulty conformation of the forelegs when viewed from the side:
B-forelegs too far under body
C-forelegs too far advanced
E-calf-kneed-standing with knees too far back.
The proper and faulty conformation of the hind legs when viewed from the side:
B-sickle-hocked-hind legs too far under body
C-legs set too far back
D-hock joint too straight.
The proper and faulty conformation of the forelegs (top) when viewed from the front, and the hind legs (bottom) when viewed from the rear. The forelegs:
B-splay-footed or basenarrow forefeet, toe cut out, heels in
D-knock-kneed, set close together with toes pointing outward
E-conformation predisposing to interfering
F-knees set close together
G-pigeon-toed or toe narrow-a conformation which will cause the animal to wing or throw out the feet as they are elevated.
The hind legs:
B-hind legs set too far apart
C-bandy-legged-wide at the hocks and hind feet toe-in
D-hind legs set too close together i E-cow-hocked.