As horses are one of the most used domesticated animals, it is important to understand their anatomy. In addition, knowing about equine anatomy can help to improve the overall health and performance of your horse. This custom veterinary anatomical illustration of the deep musculature of the horse is one in a series of three images I created for a client who specializes in massage therapy and performance horses.
This horse muscle diagram illustrates the muscles that are responsible for large movements in the body. These include the trot, canter and gallop. It also shows the tendons and ligaments that are involved in these movements. The lateral view of the illustration is useful for identifying specific muscles and their attachment points. The image can be used as a reference tool in developing and improving the horse’s gaits.
Muscles of the Horse Diagram
In general, the horse’s limbs are stronger and more propulsive than those of other terrestrial mammals. This strength is essential in performing a variety of activities, including walking, running and jumping. The hind limbs are generally larger and stronger than the forelimbs, which is important because they support the majority of the horse’s weight.
The keratinous structure of the hoof is composed of numerous layers of keratin, known as lamellae. These are grown proximally over the dorsal surface of the distal phalanx. There are additional generating regions on the ventral surface of the distal phalanx, forming the frog. A ridge of keratin known as the white line extends between the dorsal and ventral lamellae.
The muscles of the neck and head are capable of a large range of movement, allowing the horse to move its head in relation to the forelimbs. They are able to do this through a combination of isometric and eccentric muscular contraction. When the top line muscles of the neck, particularly the splenius muscle, contract concentrically (they shorten in length), they enable the horse to maintain a flexed outline while supporting the weight of its heavy head.
Eccentric muscle contraction, on the other hand, is when the muscle gradually lengthens to control movement and support and stabilize joints. The horse’s abdominal muscles are highly effective at eccentric muscle contraction, as they are able to rapidly support the movement of the back and pelvis.
The frog of the horse is an area ventral to the medial and lateral hoof cartilages. It is made of a thick layer of keratin that grows symmetrically in the same way as the nail bed in humans. The frog also contains a dense network of vascular tissue and connective tissues, which provides blood supply to the frog. Unlike the human nail, which ends in the sole of the foot, the frog is connected to the lateral and medial hoof cartilages via a transverse duct, which connects the proximal and distal phalanges of the digit. This duct also transmits lateral force, enabling the frog to function as an effective shock absorber.