The horse’s neck is an important part of its body. It has seven neck vertebrae and a number of tendons, ligaments and cartilage that allow for movement. In addition, the horse has a complex system of muscles that allows it to move its head and neck in many ways, including flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion.
The hair that grows from a horse’s head and falls over the back of its neck is called the mane. It is a very important part of the horse’s coat. It provides protection from the sun and wind, keeps flies and other pests away from the horse’s face and head, and keeps the neck warm in winter. It also helps to keep the horse’s ears clean by keeping flies and other debris out of them.
Some people try to attach meaning to the location and shape of a horse’s hair whorls on the neck. These are usually called cowlicks. They used to have special significance to the Bedouins for their Arabian horses who were bred for smooth gaits and speed. They were a sign that the horse was well trained and fit. Today, these whorls are a very useful aid in the identification of horses, especially when there are no tattoos or brands, pin firing marks or scars on the body that can be used to identify them.
A horse’s neck can have other distinctive markings, like dapples. This is a pattern of slightly darker and lighter hairs in small circles that can be seen on any color horse. The pattern can vary with the season, nutritional status or physical condition of the horse. Some horses have a more prominent dappling than others, and this can also be useful in identifying the horse.
Other neck hairs are more important, such as the crest, which is the ridge of hair that runs from the poll to the withers. This is important for the horse because it helps to hold its saddle in place. It also provides some insulation and keeps the horse’s skin from rubbing against the saddle.
Another very important neck hair is the bridle path, which is a strip of hair that connects the bridle to the top of the shoulder blade. This is very important for the horse because it prevents the bridle from pinching and irritating the bridle path and the horse’s skin. This irritation can lead to painful ulcers. This is why the bridle path should always be checked for any signs of irritation. It is also important to check the bridle path for any areas of hair loss that may indicate a parasite infestation. This is most often caused by a worm known as Onchocerca cervicalis, which enters the horse from the bite of an infected gnat. This itchy condition is sometimes accompanied by areas of hair loss on the belly and withers as the dying microfilaria break off. A medication called ivermectin can help to control this parasite and prevent itching.