The front half of a walking horse has the same problems, faults and good points as our trotting friends. Here again, the use we have planned for our horses makes a difference in what we look for in conformation. A horse has two bones in his shoulder.  The scapula runs from the point of the withers to point of the shoulders. The humerus or arm bone goes from the point of the shoulders to point of the elbow. How these bones relate to each other determines how a horse moves in front. In talking about how a walker “moves out of the shoulder” we are most familiar with the scapula, or shoulder blade. However, the humerus is very important and seldom talked about. It is capable of side to side movement, and also swings from back to front, raising or lowering the elbow. It determines the way a horse will fold or unfold the elbow, knee and fetlock joints. It determines the style or way of going of the front end of the horse. The longer the humerus the more scope the horse will have. Scope is defined as the ability to move the elbow away from the body, either toward the front or to the side. Scope is a very desirable characteristic. To be considered long, the humerus must be at least 50% of the length of the scaupla. Better motion is seen with the length closer to 75%. The shorter the humerus, the more short gaited the horse will be, moving with short, stiff, choppy strides. In our walkers we must have this length to allow the forearm to extend forward. No matter what the length or angle of the shoulder, without a long humerus the horse can’t roll out of the shoulders.

The steeper the resting angle of the humerus, the higher the horse can raise his knees. This is of obvious importance to those of us who want to show our horses. The most spectacular natural action is shown by horses with a moderately upright shoulder, around 55 degrees, and a long steep humerus. Hackneys and park horses are good examples. Since we like our walkers to have reach forward as well as natural upward action, the walker’s shoulders should be more sloping, between a 45 and 50 degree angle. A very sloping angle of around 45 degrees is found in racing thoroughbreds and dressage stars who need great forward extension, but little knee action. A long upright humerus with a moderately sloping shoulder is what we need if we want natural elevation with as little fuss as possible.
A horse with a more horizontal humerus will have less natural ability for high action or tight folding. He will move with little elevation of his front legs and will have difficulty in raising his forearms to level and may hang his knees.

In order to have a rolling shoulder, the angle between the scapula and the humerus must be at least 90 degrees. Less shortens the forward movement of the whole shoulder. A shoulder slope of 45 degrees needs a humerus angle of 45 degrees to keep a 90 degree angle between. A shoulder angle of 50 degrees needs a 40 degree angle of the humerus.

Many walkers seem to fall into the category of medium angle of the humerus. They may not make high stepping show horses; but their movement will be pleasant. They would probably show well in western, trail pleasure classes and be wonderful riding horses. Their shoulder angles are probably between 51 to 55 degrees with a humerus angle of between 39 to 35 degrees. Heavier shoes and other training methods will have less of an elevating effect on these horses.

 The gray gelding shows an extremely low angle of the humerus and consequently also is low headed. He also has a very straight shoulder and “travels downhill.” He is hard to collect and it is structurally impossible for him to elevate his front end. Heavier shoes would have no effect on his gait. He is moderately straight legged behind with high cannon bones. His gaskin and femur are nearly equal in lenght. He does a proper flat walk, but cannot “go on.” He breaks into a trot when pushed too fast. He has a marvelous canter.

The black mare has a wonderful shoulder. It is open a full 90 degrees. Her long uprigh humerus is a full 75% of the scapula in length and her shoulder is long and sloping with an angle of 45 degrees. This combination gives her great extension of the forelegs. She is high headed. She has less natural elevation than a horse with a slightly more upright shoulder, but she would respond to heavier shoes and training with more elevation. She has a powerful pelvis with a good sloping angle. Her loin area where the back joins the pelvis is smooth and strong. Her femur is long and she has a moderately long gaskin. ( If I could improve her, I would like to see her hind cannon bones just a little shorter to lower her hocks.) She has the power of her hindquarters to coil or round her back and push her legs under her body at the flat and running walk. Her gaskin length is more in proportion to the femur length, being only moderately longer. She has a wonderful flatwalk and a running wark with speed. She has good extension in front and a big overstride behind. The hardest gait for her is the canter. Her longer hind limbs with cannons longer than perfect make it difficult for her to extend her hind legs under her and instead they push her rump up at the canter. It will take more work to teach her to round or coil her back at this gait. She makes a good show mare and trail horse, but she would not be as good at ranch work.

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