Quarter Marks and Sharks Teeth 101

Quarter Marks and Sharks Teeth 101

To those new to quarter marks, applying them can seem like a complex and difficult procedure. However, practice is all that is needed to perfect them. If you get them right, they can enhance the hindquarters and can be that final touch to a polished, professional looking picture.

What are quarter marks?

Quarter marks are a type of decoration on a horse, usually found on the hind quarters and generally for competitions such as showing or the dressage leg of eventing.

What’s the purpose of them?

Apart form being decorative, quarter markers are supposed to enhance your horse’s hindquarter. If done well, and your horse has well-rounded hindquarters, they'll definitely make him stand out. 

However, if your horse’s hindquarters are not as ‘made up’ as you’d like them to be, i.e. at the beginning of the show season, don’t overdo the quarter marks. Less is often more, so don’t try to be too busy and do too much.

How are they created?

They’re created by combing the hair on the hindquarters in different directions, creating contrasting areas. In the good ol' days, each small square was created by hand with a small brush or comb. However, nowadays, they’re often created more quickly by use of a stencil laid on the area with the exposed hair brushed in a different direction than other growth.

At what stage should I do them?

They’re normally the final thing that is applied before going into the ring.

What do I need to do them?

You’ll need the following equipment:

Smart Grooming Quarter Marking Comb with Wooden Handle

  • A wide body brush with closely knitted bristles

Haas Body Brush

Supreme Products Coat Gloss

Supreme Products Sparkle

  • A bucket of water.

Which pattern should I do?

If you’re in a showing class, the quarter marks you need to do are well understood and are outlined below:

For Show Hack and Show Pony, the traditional quarter marks are an upside down V checker- board pattern:

  • Step 1 - take a body brush, submerge in a bucket of water and shake off the excess. Start at the top of your horse’s hindquarters and brush the hair straight from left to right, working your way down to just above your horse’s thigh
  • Step 2 - after the hindquarters have dried, spray Supreme Products Coat Gloss generously on to the coat. This creates a blank canvas for you to work with and will also help keep the finished markings in place all day
  • Step 3 - to create the checkerboard pattern, start on the left hand side at the top of the hindquarters and gently use the Quarter Mark Comb to comb downwards to create an even small square around 1 inch in size, then leave a gap of an inch and comb down again. 

Show Hunter quarter marks are much simpler to apply than Show Pony ones. A Hunter is meant to be a free and easy, forward-going horse that has scope and fluidity. So, the quarter marks should be big and bold, like the horse itself, and follow the contours of the horse’s hindquarters:

  • Step 1 - prepare the hind quarters as you do for the show ponies by using a damp brush and Supreme Products Coat Gloss
  • Step 2 - place the Quarter Mark Comb on the rump and comb down vertically to create a rectangle. Leave a gap about two inches and then repeat. You should be left with two or three rectangles, which should produce a simple look.

To put even more emphasis on the hindquarters, create a V-shape instead of rectangular blocks running down the quarters. To create this, take a body brush from the hip and brush into the centre, then take the brush and start from the top of the tail and brush to the centre.

After the quarter marks have been done, it’s time to add the sharks’ teeth underneath:

  • Step 1 - standing at the side or wherever is most comfortable to see, take a damp body brush and brush in an upwards direction with one stroke in an arch shape. This should be seen clearly as the hair will now be lying in a different direction
  • Step 2 - starting at the same point, brush downwards in a diagonal movement
  • Step 3 - the next step is to brush up and try to meet the last point down. Repeat this until there are three or four sharks teeth down, depending on the size of the quarters
  • Step 4 - to add a professional finishing touch, take a brush and, starting at the dock, brush down in a gentle arc, down the quarter to create a more refined look
  • Step 5 - use Supreme Products Sparkle to add the finishing touches to the quarter marks and sharks teeth, enhancing the overall appearance of the quarters even more.

If you’re at home and simply want to have a go at doing quarter marks, you need to bear in mind that the whole point of doing them is to enhance your horse’s hindquarters. So to do this you need to step back and be really objective about his confirmation and muscling. Does he have the perfect hindquarters? Don’t worry, very few horses actually do! Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is his bum a bit slopey?
  • Or is it a bit flat?
  • Is it a bit short in the hip?
  • Or a bit long?

It’s the answers to these questions that will help you work out which quarter marks will suit your horse best.

If your horse’s hindquarters are a bit slopey, then rather than following the lie of their hair which slopes down towards the tail, it’s recommended that you do your checks and bars so that their horizontal lines are parallel with the ground. That way it will give the illusion of a more level and muscled hind quarter.

If your horse is a bit flat, then follow a line that is more sloped to give the illusion of more angle.

It’s the same idea with shark’s teeth. They usually start down the line from the point of hip and where the flank ends. If your horse is a bit long in the hip then doing fewer but larger/fatter sharks teeth and/or starting them slightly further towards the hind quarter rather than right on that change of hair at the end of the flank, will help to give the illusion that they’re not as long.

If your horse is a bit short in the hip, then doing smaller and skinnier sharks teeth that start nice and close to that change of hair will help to elongate the hind quarter.

If you’ve done all of this and you’re still not sure on the best look for your horse, do two different patterns at a time, i.e. one on each side, photograph them and then lunge your horse. Standing still near you versus moving away from you, gives a very different look and it’s likely that you may change your mind once they’re moving.

Want to give quarter marks a go on your horse? You'll find everything you need in our wide range of grooming products

Quarter Marking Accessories


Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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