Anatomy of the horse an illustrated texts is a collection of illustrations of the skeletal system and the muscles that move it. This book is a great reference for trainers, riders and massage therapists who are interested in better understanding how a horse is designed to move. It will also be of interest to those who breed horses, as it explains the role of the mare in the breeding process and how to best assess the conformation of the foal to ensure a healthy and vigorous future as an adult horse.
The skeleton is made up of bones that are held together by muscles, so a knowledge of skeletal anatomy is essential for anyone who wants to give a good massage with specific intent rather than just a rub-down. Muscles are designed to work in harmony with the bones they attach to and move, so correct muscle tension is key for balance and movement.
The first chapter gives a step-by-step overview of the horse’s skeletal structure and shows how the muscles, which are essentially levers and pulleys, fit in with the skeleton to operate and move it. The next chapters go through the major muscle groups in the horse and illustrate how they function. The muscles of the horse are divided into superficial, deep and intermediate layers. The muscles of the horse are also compared with human anatomy and a few other animal species.
For example, some muscles are broad in the area where they originate (their attachment to the bone) and narrow where they insert into a smaller bone or joint. This is because the muscle has to lose its bulk as it gets closer to its insertion point, and what is left is the muscle fibers and the connective tissue that surrounds them. The Latissimus dorsi is a prime example. It is very broad in the girth and the back of the shoulder where it attaches to the thoracic vertebrae, but its strong backward pull on the humerus is produced by its thin tendon which is attached to the small joint at the top of the humerus.
Another important muscle is the Serratus ventralis, which is found under the Brachiocephalicus and can be felt by stroking along the neck. If this muscle is not functioning correctly, it can cause a dip in the crest line of the neck, and horsemen sometimes refer to a horse with this problem as being “ewe-necked”. Correct function of this muscle will help keep the head in front of the shoulder and prevent the crest line of the neck from falling forward as the horse moves its head.
The hind legs of the horse are stacked vertically, as in humans, with three bones called the long pastern bone, short pastern bone and coffin bone. In addition, the thigh bone in the horse comes out of the pelvis at an angle, as in humans, and joins with a knee joint we call the stifle. This allows for a greater range of motion than if the thigh bone came out of the pelvis in a straight line.