Are long pasterns on a horse bad?

In fact, long pasterns are not bad on a horse. It is believed that horses with long pasterns have a more pleasant pace for the rider (many Spanish bred horses have), but it depends on what you want to do with the horse in my opinion. For example, you looked long and hard for a horse with shorter, more upright pasterns since a longer one would not hold up to distance riding. You may have a (probably illogical) worry that a horse with a long, sloping pastern will put too much strain on the fetlock joint while traveling long, rapid distances.

Can horses with long pasterns jump?

Thoroughbreds and Saddlebreds often have long, sloping pasterns. A well-sloped pastor enhances the chances of a lengthy career. It increases the animal’s capacity to travel across uneven terrain, helps it survive the rigors of a competition or race, and makes the rider’s stride more comfortable.

They are sought in a riding horse because they improve the leg’s shock-absorption capacity, resulting in a smoother and more pleasant gait for the rider. This flexibility, however, raises the risk of some connective tissue injuries that do not occur in horses with more upright patterns.

This is due to the fact that many of the tendons and ligaments that run down the rear of the leg continue beneath the back of the fetlock joint and link to the pastern bones or the coffin bone. When the horse applies weight to his leg, the fetlock lowers closer to the ground, which is a necessary response since it helps absorb the shock of the footfall. 

When the pasterns are excessively long or slanted, the fetlock is not adequately supported, and the fetlock may hyperextend, perhaps to the point where the ergot contacts the ground. Because the delicate tissues that run under the fetlock are stretched longer, they are stressed. They may rip or burst if overstretched.

The following medical issues are more frequent in horses with long, sloping pasterns:

  • The tendon that has bowed
  • Sesamoiditis
  • Should the joint hyperextend to the point that it contacts the ground, the sesamoid bones at the rear of the fetlock may shatter. 
  • This is more common if the horse is weary, like towards the end of a race.
  • Suspensory ligament Ringbone injury caused by severe tension on the pastern joint.

How can I help my horse with long pasterns?

In general, any horse with limb rotation or club foot conformation is at risk of experiencing limb joint and/or soft tissue discomfort. Compensatory lameness issues, such as back discomfort caused by stifle or hock pain, can also arise. A comprehensive veterinary exam aids in determining the reason for lameness, allowing you and your veterinarian to devise a plan to enhance the horse’s comfort. 

A medical strategy for a conformationally challenged horse is the same as one for a lame horse with proper conformation. The distinction is that lameness concerns may appear sooner in a horse with poor conformation.

Furthermore, if issues arise, that horse will most likely require continuing treatment to be comfortable. Recognizing these concerns early on and being proactive with your treatment are critical methods for maximizing a horse’s performance for as long as feasible.

If you understand what you’re up against, you may devise ways to maximize a horse’s potential while lowering his chance of injury. Concussion increased up the limb has the potential to cause osteoarthritis in a horse with an upright pastern conformation or straight hind legs.

It is important to shoe such a horse properly, train on excellent footing, handle competition schedules accordingly, and utilize supportive joint supplements. Regular evaluations and flexion tests by your veterinarian are critical techniques for detecting minor changes before they become major issues.

Another example: a horse with a lengthy pastern may benefit from having the veterinarian examine him at least twice a year. This regular examination may involve palpation and flexion tests to detect subclinically (not yet visible) discomfort, particularly in the fetlocks.

Such monitoring may not often need radiographs or ultrasounds, but rather a comprehensive hands-on inspection by a qualified veterinarian.

Another essential technique for managing all horses—good and bad conformation alike—is to have constant talks with your farrier about foot care and strategies to prevent concussion. Trimming and shoeing procedures are very important when dealing with horses who have angular limb abnormalities, such as toeing in or out or club feet.

Progressively improving your horse’s health and fitness will also aid in the development of strength throughout all of his musculoskeletal systems. Gradually increasing your horse’s performance level will help him grow his skill set at a safe rate appropriate for his talents. Also, don’t overlook the need for adequate warm-up and cool-down times.

Aside from meticulous shoeing methods to assist the feet to fall uniformly and balanced, your veterinarian may also prescribe several medicinal therapy choices for horses with joint and/or muscle pain. Intra-articular joint injections and regenerative treatments (stem cells, platelet-rich plasma, IRAP) are examples, as are shock wave therapy, massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture.

How long should a horse’s pastern be?

The horse’s pastern varies in size depending on the species and age of the horse. In general, the length of a horse’s neck should be one and a half times the length of its head. To provide for adequate chest room, the neck should be tied into the horse’s body rather high. Shoulder and pastern angles should be in the range of 40 to 55 degrees. 

A horse’s movement is optimum when it has a short back and a long neck. Weight is transferred from the tendons to the upper leg via a well-sloped hoof. This relieves pressure on the tendons and keeps them in good condition.

Where is the long pastern on a horse?

The pastern is the area of a horse’s leg between the fetlock and the top of the foot. The pastern joint is made up of the long pastern bone (proximal phalanx) and the short pastern bone (middle phalanx), which are kept together by two sets of paired ligaments (proximal interphalangeal joint). The pastern, which is anatomically similar to the two biggest bones in the human finger, was notoriously misdefined by Samuel Johnson in his lexicon as the knee of a horse.

When a horse is analyzed conformationally, the pastern joint is evaluated because it affects the horse’s stride and the soundness of the joints above it. Traditionally, a 45-degree angle at the front leg’s pastern joint was considered optimal. 

However, this angle has been changed to a somewhat steeper angle of 47-55 degrees, as the conventional angle, while pleasant, substantially increases the likelihood of breakage. Because the hindleg requires less shock absorption, its pasterns are somewhat more erect than those of the front limb, increasing its strength (about 49-59 degrees).

If the hind pasterns are at the same angle as the front, or if they are excessively sloping in general, they are more prone to break down over the horse’s lifetime, especially if the horse is used for severe labor. The length of the first phalanx determines the length of the pastern joint. The short pastern bone is less important since it is smaller, measuring just 2 inches in length, and part of it is enclosed in the hoof.


To conclude, medium pastern length with a medium slope is the ideal construction for the horse. Longer, more sloping pasterns may give a “softer” riding sensation, but at the price of the horse’s soundness. Similarly, short, excessively upright pasterns should be avoided.

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