Background Various head and neck positions in sport horses are significant as they can interfere with upper airway flow mechanics during exercise. Until now, research has focused on subjectively described head and neck positions. The objective of this study was to develop an objective, reproducible method for quantifying head and neck positions accurately. Results Determining the angle between the ridge of the nose and the horizontal plane (ground angle) together with the angle between the ridge of nose and the line connecting the neck and the withers (withers angle) has provided values that allow precise identification of three preselected head and neck positions for performing sport horses. The pharyngeal diameter, determined on lateral radiographs of 35 horses, differed significantly between the established flexed position and the remaining two head and neck positions (extended and neutral). There was a significant correlation between the pharyngeal diameter and the ground angle (Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient −0.769, p < 0.01) as well as between the pharyngeal diameter and the withers angle (Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient 0.774, p < 0.01). Conclusion The combination of the ground angle and the withers angle is a suitable tool for evaluating and distinguishing frequently used head and neck positions in sport horses. The ground angle and the withers angle show significant correlation with the measured pharyngeal diameter in resting horses. Hence, these angles provide an appropriate method for assessing the degree of head and neck flexion. Further research is required to examine the influence of increasing head and neck flexion and the related pharyngeal diameter on upper airway function in exercising horses.