Basic horse anatomy
Knowing some basic horse anatomy, is a big aspect of good riding, effective training and horsemanship in general.
Today we know a lot about how the horse hears, sees and learns. We also know about the biomechanics of the horse, as it relates to how the horse moves the different parts of it’s body. A basic understanding of biomechanics is a must in any training program, riding program or horse sport.
Hundreds of years ago, when not much was known about horse-anatomy, there were many great horsemen who trained and rode. Experimentation, observation and, trial and error served these horsemen to get a better understanding of how the horse’s body functions.
Knowing about the organs of the horse has helped with our understanding of, horse nutrition to the point where we can use nutrition to help us assess and modify our horse’s behavior. Similar to knowing that it is not wise to feed lots of sugars to youngsters just before they are going to be asked to sit still for an hour or two!
A basic knowledge of horse anatomy helps us to communicate with veterinarians, other horsemen, and horse professionals such as trainers, farriers and handlers. Even more importantly, it can help us in our understanding of horse behavior. For instance the fact that a horse grazing, with its head down, can see 360 degrees around them, is why it is almost impossible to come up from behind a horse without him knowing you are there.
What do we know about horse vision?
Knowing something about a horse’s vision, might also lead us to understand that a horse can see things that we cannot, without turning our heads, and thus they are more apt to react to something that we have no idea is even around.
How can horse anatomy help you to ride a horse?
Horse-anatomy can also give us an understanding of how the horse’s back is structured. This knowledge will lead us to a better understanding of how a proper workout for a horse would consist of getting the back muscles relaxed and strong to make the horse better at carrying a rider. A horse was not born with a rider on its back! Whether we are trail riding or participating in an equestrian sport, if we are to ‘ride’ a horse, it should be our obligation to make his task easier.
Horse-anatomy also is important knowledge to have when saddle fitting a horse or selecting an appropriate bit. Although these two are a whole science in themselves.
How to learn horse anatomy?
The easiest way to learn a bit about horse anatomy is to start with knowing the names of the different parts of the horse: withers, cannon, hoof etc. Then some basic knowledge of the skeletal system and locations of major organs is helpful. Finally, an understanding of vision, hearing and certain bones, muscles and ligaments that our riding can affect most directly.
I taught a very nice lady once that had every type of protective boot available and used them on all her horse’s legs, all at once, every time she rode or turned him out. Yet the lady had no idea why she did this and how she was actually interfering with her horse’s movement. Well, she did not even know what a splint was or that horses had splint bones! If you think about it I guess you could say that knowing a bit about horse-anatomy might even save us some well earned money.
Finally, horse anatomy can help us understand the conformation of the horse. Conformation is important when purchasing a horse or when determining what type of job would be best suited for a horse.