Horses are multi-talented creatures that can accomplish amazing feats, yet they’re also incredibly fragile. Horse residents need proper nutrition, exercise and care to keep them healthy and sound. Understanding basic horse anatomy and terms can help a sanctuary’s staff be more effective at caring for their residents.
Neck: The elongated area of the horse’s head, containing the ears and nose for sensory input. It also allows for head and neck movement. Mouth: The horse’s main food-receiving organ and is capable of producing up to 30 liters of saliva per day to aid in chewing, swallowing and lip movement.
Chest: The horse’s torso, which contains the ribcage and vital organs for protection and respiration. A chest that’s too broad or narrow can slow the horse down and lead to fatigue and a less efficient stride.
Front Legs: The horse’s two front legs, which support the chest and front limbs for balance and locomotion. Front legs are often referred to as forelegs and hind legs are sometimes referred to as back legs.
Barrel: The center portion of the horse’s body, including the back, loin and torso. It incases the ribcage and vital organs and provides a framework for movement. A barrel that’s too large or small can hinder a horse’s mobility and result in injuries to other parts of the body.
Flank: A slender portion of the horse’s body that sits between the barrel and the hindquarters. A horse’s flank should be rounded and not pinched, as this is a sign of poor conformation.
Hoof: The foot of the horse, made up of a hard outer covering of keratin and a soft inner layer. The hoof supports the weight of the horse, absorbing shock during movement.
Toes: The toes of the horse are similar to human feet. The toes of the forelegs are called frogs, and the toes of the hind legs are known as haunches or hocks.
Splint Bone: A callus-like growth on a horse’s front leg that acts like the knee on a human leg. A splint bone can help to absorb impact during movement and protect the front leg from injury.
Hock: The joint of the horse’s hind leg that’s most like the knee on a human leg. The hock helps to generate power for movement and to provide stability for the horse.
Tail: The end of the horse’s body, consisting of the tailbone vertebrae and the first few segments of the tail. The tail provides a means of propulsion and attachment for the mane.
Familiarity with a horse’s anatomy is important for selecting and fitting tack correctly, ensuring comfort and safety for the animal. An understanding of basic horse anatomy can also help to prevent health and performance issues, as well as assist with evaluating and addressing any problems that may arise. Lastly, knowledge of basic horse anatomy can be helpful in understanding how the different parts of a horse’s body work together as a whole, which is referred to as conformation.