Equestrian blog

Horse anatomy

Today, in the 21st century, we are already well aware of the conformation of the horse. Not only veterinarians should know it very well, but also every professional or amateur rider, trainer or the owner of a mount, in order to be able to properly carry out everyday care or to make a good purchase.

Structure of the horse

The anatomy of the horse is very complex. Its dissection into first parts and detailed systematics with description is the subject of many hours. So let’s get to know the general outline.

The horse’s body consists of the head, neck, trunk, forelegs and hind legs, as well as the rump and tail.

Horse head diagram. Source: equishop.com


The head of the horse is divided into two parts: the upper and the lower. The upper part consists of the occiput (the area behind the ears), the darkleaf (between and in front of the ears) and the forehead (under the ears in front of the horse’s head).

The lower part, the so-called muzzle part, includes the nose, nostrils, lips with the chin, cheeks with the gannets (jawbones), the intermaxillary ditch and the gap and angles of the muzzle.

We distinguish between the following horse head conformation: noble (straight forehead-nose line), dry (broad forehead, large eyes and nostrils and concave nose line), garbonose (convex, rounded nose line, short upper part and elongated lower part of the head), and swine (disproportionately small snouts and nostrils, short muzzle).

Head muscles: canine and masseter.

Types of horse neck. Source: equishop.com

Neck of a horse

The neck says a lot about the overall condition of the mount. Too short makes jumping impossible, a long one makes riding figures difficult.

The neck is made up of the left and right sides, the nape and the jowl.

We can distinguish three types of the horse’s neck structure:

  • straight, which is the most desirable. It can be high, properly or low set.
  • swan (the lower and upper edge of the neck form a characteristic arch),
  • stag (lower edge convex and upper edge concave). The horse carries its head high, which can cause it to stumble, and also this structure can make breathing difficult.

Cervical muscles: parallelogram, lobes, quadrilateral, dentary, sternocleidomastoid, brachiocephalic and others.

For more similar horse conformation diagrams and a more detailed description, see the article on the Equishop online store.


The point where the neck ends and the back begins is called the withers, and it is the place where the important muscles attach. Ideally, the withers should be high and wide, extending far back.

The correct structure of the horse’s chest should accommodate the heart and lungs. It is characterized by a moderately wide chest with correctly arched ribs. Narrow can make it difficult to ride a horse, there is too little room for internal organs. A wide one may cause slow movements and a swaying gait.

In the horse’s hock we will also find the so-called “weakling”. This is the area between the body and the rump. By it we will know if the horse has a good condition and is properly nourished.

The muscles of the hock: the dorsal widest, the dorsal cogs, the rectus abdominis and others.
Fore and hind limbs

The most vulnerable part of the body to injury. They must support the body and absorb shock. Types of conformation of the forelegs: normal, convergent (they come together inward), divergent (they diverge), clubfoot (the hoof and fetlock axes point inward), French (the hoof and fetlock axes point outward), barrel-shaped (the limbs resemble the walls of a barrel) and dancer’s (the limbs are shaped like an “X”).

Front limb muscles: subclavian, supraclavicular, pectoral descending, shoulder and others.

In the hind limbs we find the shank and the hock. The main task is to carry the rump and the dynamics of the jump. It is worth looking at the hock joint, because its defects can prevent the performance of many activities. The structure of the hind legs is the same as that of the forelegs, with two additional possibilities: narrow (limbs positioned too close together) and cow’s hind legs (limb axes are kinked inwards at the hock joints).

Lower limb muscles: gluteus medius, broad fascia flexor, biceps femoris and others.

An important part of the horse’s limbs is the pastern, and its abnormalities can lead to tendon rupture, buckskin or spurs.

Types of horse quarters. Source: equishop.com

Rump with tail

We distinguish: normal croup (pelvis inclined at 15-25° to the ground), horizontal (less than 15°) and sloping (angle 30-40°).

Construction: normal (well-muscled, broad, oval), roofed (the lines of the rump form a “canopy”) and split (the hip processes are level with the sacrum).
Hoof construction

Composed of the third toe, hoof pinna, cartilage, hoof joint, and hoof cup. Daily, proper care is a primary responsibility. Improper hygiene and neglect leads to a dangerous disease called laminitis.
The horse’s back

This is the most sensitive area of the horse’s body. Proper relaxation of the horse that affects a healthy back starts with the neck. The trunk, along with the back, is the most important protection for key internal organs. The saddle and our body are located at the most sensitive area of the body. Trainings are designed to strengthen as much as possible the back muscles that support the rider’s body weight by arching.

The horse and its anatomy and structure is a vast field that should be familiar to anyone who interacts with these beautiful animals.

Anja Benjamin

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