"Proper leg conformation for the equine is highly important in all of
its endeavors. This is especially true of horses in the wild, where nature
is a ruthless culling agent. The wild horse whose legs give out because of
poor conformation might wind up being an evening meal for a predator. While
wild horses in general might not look like show ring models, it is seldom
that one will find wild horses with serious leg conformation problems. Most
wild horses with poor leg conformation don't make it to adulthood."
Icelandic Horses haven't had the benefit of natural selection from predators.
From an article by Christina Cable, DVM, Dipl. ACVS:
"To help you evaluate whether the horse's legs are straight, you can
imagine a plum line (a piece of string with a weight at the bottom allowed
to swing freely and hang straight). If standing in front of the horse,
imagine the line from the point of the shoulder (front) straight to the
ground. The line should intersect the carpus (knee), fetlock, pastern, and
hoof in the middle of each structure."
"Now let's step in front of the horse. Here, again, we can use the term
"straight leg." When looking at the horse from the front, superimpose a
mental vertical line. It should travel in a straight path from the point of
the shoulder, through the middle of the forearm and down the cannon bone,
pastern, and foot. No angles there. Just a straight line. Any deviations are
aspects of poor leg conformation."
Some of the conformational defects that you will want to check for in Icelandic Horses
are: toe-ing out, knock knees, offset knees, legs too close, standing under.
"One of the most serious front leg conformational defects is called
toeing out. When looking at the horse with our straight vertical line
imposed, we will observe that the toes are turned outward and the line,
instead of traversing the center of the foot, will be to the inside."
The conformational defects of the front legs of the Icelandic Horse will affect
the swing of the leg (and it's function), shown in the following pictures. If the
leg is crooked (i.e. toes out, knock-kneed), the leg will wing and it's flight path will not be
straight. The horse may have to wear boots to stop from injuring himself.
As you look at the pictures below, notice the airborn front leg. Is it moving
in a straight path? When the leg has reached it's furthest back point,
is it under the horse or to the outside of the horse?
When the leg is mid-flight (reaching forward) is it directly straight under the horse, or
close to or crossing past the midline?
Also notice the grounded front leg... is it straight? or does the horse appear to
This video shows the conformation fault of toe-ing out, and the resultant deviation of