View Full Version : Question re High Withers

Apr. 28, 2010, 11:41 AM
I noticed at the trot up at Rolex that a lot of the horses had, what I consider to be, high withers. I saw the same thing on many of the horses who ran at the Maryland Hunt Cup in a video.

I'm curious to know whether there is a correlation between high withers and jumping and/or galloping ability. Or, any athletic ability for that matter. Sort of like horses with long backs make good jumpers (or at least that's what I've heard).

Can anyone enlighten me? Thanks.

Apr. 28, 2010, 12:20 PM
I think its more of a breed thing. The majority of upper level eventers have mostly TB blood if not all, and of course the MD Hunt Cup horses are TBs. I know very few TBs and TB type horses with low withers.

Apr. 28, 2010, 12:20 PM
It think what your are seeing are prominent withers.....which often is the case with TB or TB crosses who are FIT FIT FIT. It to me is more a function of the breed type and fitness and doesn't serve any special athletic function. For example. One of my mares had very high withers....until she got cast in her stall and broke them.

Now they are FLAT. You could rest a drink in front of your saddle on her....who knew...built in cup holder:D She was a very very good mover and jumper before she broke them....and still is a very good mover and jumper. It didn't affect her at all.

Apr. 28, 2010, 07:37 PM
Prominent withers usually sit atop a very long, sloping shoulder. This is generally desirable in an event horse. And as BFNE explained, the withers tend to stick out a bit more when a horse is very fit, as opposed to very fat. :winkgrin:

Sometimes you can pick out a good event prospect by looking at the withers-- you don't want to see a "shark fin," but notice how big withers flow into the neck, and down through the shoulder on a nicely built, athletic horse.

Apr. 28, 2010, 09:42 PM
What little "conventional wisdom" I know is that prominent withers are referred to as "jumping withers" I don't know why but the Rolex jog up is one good place to see them.

Apr. 28, 2010, 10:02 PM
From Wofford's book:
"I think prominent, clearly defined withers, coupled with an exaggerated slope to the shoulders, is a definite beauty mark. Without appearing ewe-necked, the horse should be slightly high in front. This shape is a great source of confidence to you when thundering at a downhill vertical late in a long course; the horse will still feel high and balanced in front of you. In my own mind prominent withers and a sloping shoulder are the two most accurate, visual indications of the horse's jumping ability."

Apr. 29, 2010, 01:20 PM
I had thought high withers often meant a horse was built more uphill and a horse built uphill tends to be a better jumper. I'm no expert though. My horse has prominent, sharkfin withers, but is not a TB - he may have TB in him, but he is definitely not 100%

Apr. 29, 2010, 03:35 PM
Actually...tall withers doesn't mean anything about and Uphill balance.

I've known more than one VERY downhill horse who had sharkfin high withers. I think Jimmy's book wants both...an uphill balance, sloping shoulder and defined withers.

If the withers are tied to a long sloping shoulder...they are usually good movers and jumpers. But to me that has more to do with their shoulders than their withers.

Apr. 29, 2010, 08:26 PM
My QH is super downhill with huge withers. Big shoulder, very downhill spine, huge wither.

The uphill balance of a horse is not measured wither to croup, it has to to do with the level of the spine.

Apr. 30, 2010, 04:05 PM
High, long withers provide just the excuse one needs to have a custom saddle made

Apr. 30, 2010, 09:38 PM
And they keep you on in sticky situations.

May. 1, 2010, 08:41 AM
There's an interesting article (which I've only skimmed so far) in this month's (May) Equus about wither conformation and function. One thing it did say was that high withers increases leverage, I don't know how much that really applies to jumping though.

May. 1, 2010, 09:16 AM

He explains it best.

He discusses the subject in detail.

The books he wrote are by now old and some might consider outdated, but he wrote them at the very height of the success of the cavalry and they knew what it takes to make a horse go across country.

On page 46, he states that what we call downhill, a term not used in those days, is disadvantageous in a cross country horse because of poor balance.

He goes to great length to describe a desirable top line.

Every serious horseman should have a copy of all of his books on their bookshelf.


Christa P
May. 1, 2010, 11:00 AM
High, long withers provide just the excuse one needs to have a custom saddle made

I have found my ancient Stubben fits these types well.