The head is the most important part of any horse, as it contains many nerves and acupuncture points. In addition, it is the center of emotional control. The eyes are set slightly on the side of the head which allows a horse to see objects at different distances. The nostrils and chin are also located in the head area, as is the poll (where the bridle path begins). The skin of the forehead is almost hairless and the underlying bones are very mobile. The nose is able to bend and turn left or right, as is the ear. The ears are very sensitive and can detect a variety of sounds and smells.
The neck extends from the head to the shoulder area and has seven cervical vertebrae. The neck may be short and muscular or long and slender. It is a very flexible joint and can change in length according to the activity of the horse. The neck should be proportionally long to the rest of the body, allowing it to move freely and flexibly.
A swollen forehead or muzzle often indicates an infection of the sinuses. This is called a Sinus Cyst and can cause one or both nostrils to become clogged and swell on the side that is swollen. This can affect the breathing of the horse and needs to be treated promptly to prevent complications.
Horses are very susceptible to cancers of the skin and head. Sarcoid tumors, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas are common in older horses and can spread quickly if they are not diagnosed and treated early. The neck, if it has a deformity such as a wither, should be evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out a serious problem.
Whorls of hair on the forehead and around the face are a good indicator of a horse’s temperament. Mark Deesing, a Utah-based horse shoer and trainer, discovered this three decades ago after he noticed that the position of the whorls on a horse’s forehead correlated with its temperament. He developed a tool to predict a horse’s temperament by examining the pattern of the whorls on their foreheads.
A very shallow depression in the forehead above the eyes is a sign of ill health. A deep depression, on the other hand, is a sign that a horse is feeling well. A staple placed in this depression by a vet has been found to have a calming effect on the horse.