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The overbuilt jumping horse

According to classical teaching, the rider is suggested that an overbuilt horse is a flaw for a riding horse. This assertion cannot be left in such an undifferentiated manner. Because a covered horse is not a mistake, as many seem to assume. The massively muscled, heavily built-up croup definitely makes sense in the horse world. It is therefore worthwhile to take a closer look at this topic and look for areas of application.

What does "overbuilt" mean?


An overbuilt horse is called this when the hindquarters (the highest point of the croup) are higher than the highest point on the withers.

Sometimes the first impression is wrong. A powerful hindquarters and sloping topline can only appear to be higher than the withers.

It is therefore worth doing the test on a standing horse with a folding rule on the back from the withers to the croup. This makes it easy to determine whether the horse is actually built over or whether this is just an optical illusion.

Who is the use of an overbuilt horse?

Anyone who compares sprinters and long-distance runners in racing (whether horse racing or athletics) will find that enormous muscle groups are necessary for the sprint in order to develop a powerful start and maximum speed over short distances. The long-distance runner does not need such strong muscles. On the contrary, this means unnecessary mass, which puts a strain on the musculoskeletal system and results in a loss of stamina.

The four-legged sprinter (classically the quarter horse and the short-distance thoroughbred) has considerable muscle mass in the hindquarters, so-called pants. The hindquarters appear massive in relation to the rest of the body and the hindquarters are usually also overbuilt, which ensures greater leverage in the hindquarters. (see also: The classic riding horse model)

What is there to complain about?

To classic riding instruction If such a horse is not built uphill enough, it often lacks attachment. Specifically, an overbuilt croup ensures that the horse is less productive because it is constantly running on the forehand. Strictly speaking, however, that depends on the intended use, because this body shape is expressly desired among Western horses.

For a Dressage horse the overbuilt croup, on the other hand, is more of a problem. Simply because there are simply more suitable candidates for the Grand Prix than the massively overbuilt bodybuilder type. In the permanent downhill tendency, assembly, erection and shoulder freedom are difficult, and in many horses the saddle slips forward.

An overbuilt horse can suffer from diffuse back problems and lameness more quickly. (see also: Recognizing exhaustion in the horse) On the one hand, through the continuous loading of the forehand, if it is not suitable for absorbing the forces. On the other hand, the risk of injury from grasping the hind legs in the front legs (ball kick) can increase.

The effects

The problem with the argument that riding horses are fundamentally unsuitable is that many international show jumpers look like this. When viewed from the side, they are not ideal according to classic exterior theory, but rather constructed downhill.

But they perform well for that. Take, for example, a Frenchman like Galoubet A, who is built over and built downhill. His offspring, however, jump exceptionally powerfully despite all the forehand heaviness. The classic genetic example is the handsome Escudo I, a beautiful horse in appearance and appearance. Although he has a great neck and perfect topline, it is not sporty enough for the top. It looks similar with the offspring.

From this it can already be concluded that being overbuilt in itself is not an obstacle to a horse that is successful in sport. It just depends on the intended use and how the body can compensate. The effects of the jump sequence are described in more detail below.

For the jumping horse

Being overbuilt and jumping ability are known to be related. No wonder, because a lot of engine makes intuitive sense in a show jumping horse. After all, it takes strength to carry 650 kg of live weight plus rider over obstacles. The muscles for this are located in the hindquarters and ideally are supported by an optimally angled hindquarters. The large levers ensure an oversized hindquarters, the horse is overbuilt.

The danger with this body construction is that the horse tends to walk on the forehand. Or rather, according to Reiter's dialect, is "top-heavy". The horse then basically has difficulty in galloping down and getting in front of the rider. If the horse has not been picked up enough before the jump, forehand errors often follow because it does not stay away from the jump on its own.

The feeling of landing after the jump is potentially uncomfortable for the rider because the horse is diving towards the ground in front of him. If the horse does not close within a very short time, the jump is followed by a four-stroke gallop directed into the ground. A flat gallop without much engagement of the hindquarters causes the horse to dig its nose into the ground during the landing phase. This makes it much more difficult for the rider to continue riding on the course.

In order for the advantages of a built-over horse to come into its own on the jump, additional effort is required in daily training. This is only worthwhile if the horse has exceptional jumping talent. This is exactly what overbuilt show jumpers do on a regular basis.

As a rider's countermeasure, the only thing left is to put the horse well on its hindquarters. This requires extra effort in the daily dressage work to ensure the permeability and constant half parades in the course to get the horse on the hind leg.


You shouldn't label an overbuilt horse as an unfit riding horse. With proper training, it can turn out to be a great talent on the jump. Whether a horse is good or not depends primarily on the area in which you want to use it.

Because it is by no means the case that a horse cannot be used as a riding horse only because of an overbuilt croup. This is a prejudice that unfortunately can hardly be gotten out of the minds of the riders.

Personally, I go even further and say: the classic conformation assessment is generally the wrong approach for a show jumping horse.

Continuing with a similar topic: Establishing a rhythm in the jumping course or mountain abbot trend with the blood horse

Have I aroused your interest in the topic? If you want to take your horse assessment to the next level and want to know exactly, I have just the thing for you! To assess a horse correctly, take a look at my online course Horse connoisseur!

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Categories exterior & performance