Guide to Horse Muscle Anatomy

How much do you know about horse anatomy? Just like humans, horses are unique individuals with different shapes and sizes, and you need to know how to care for each of them so they can stay healthy and happy. Here’s what you need to know about horse muscle anatomy in order to give your horse the best care possible.

Guide to Horse Muscle Anatomy

Guide to Horse Muscle Anatomy

Before learning how to clean a horse, you must first understand its anatomy. Horses are long-limbed mammals who are often known for their strength and beauty. Have you ever wondered where those muscles are on a horse? If you’re looking for an exercise or hobby that will build your strength and confidence, there is no better option than cleaning a horse. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these horse muscles below!


The horse is a large animal, and as such, has many muscles. The most complex part of its anatomy is perhaps its leg; there are numerous muscles in each leg and they have different functions. The horse's gait or stride is driven by two forelimbs on one side moving together in synchrony. There are three joints: hock (sometimes referred to as cannon), fetlock and pastern joint that must be able to provide movement for limb rotation for suspension phase, support phase and propulsion phase respectively.


There are several different glands in a horse’s body that produce fluids that enter into his bloodstream. These include: tear, saliva, sweat, earwax and sebaceous (oil) glands. It is important for you to know about them because these glands make up a large portion of your horse’s overall health and well-being.

Intestines and Gastrointestinal Tract

The horse’s gastrointestinal tract consists of his mouth, pharynx, esophagus, cecum (hindgut), small intestine and large intestine. These organs work together in order to separate indigestible foods from nutrients by absorbing nutrients and passing indigestible food material on through to be eliminated as manure (feces).


If you can picture a horse skeleton in your mind, you’ll notice right away that their skeletal structure is very similar to that of humans. Similar bone placement and shapes – just scaled down a bit. Because they are mammals, horses have seven vertebrae: sacral, lumbar, thoracic and cervical vertebrae in their spinal column (humans have five). Horses have 22 ribs (that’s one more than us), which attach at six or seven vertebrae.


The tendons in your horse’s body are like rubber bands. They transfer muscle power from one part of your horse’s body to another and are connected by joints. The largest tendon in a horse is called its girth, located between its front legs. This thick band of tissue connects a horse’s shoulder blade muscles with its chest muscles and is used for pulling.

Cartilage and Ligaments

Cartilage is a strong yet flexible material that covers and protects most of a horse’s bones, while ligaments are fibrous connective tissue that holds joints together. The cartilage covering a bone consists of two types: hyaline cartilage and fibrocartilage. These two kinds of cartilage make up your horse’s nose and mouth, respectively.

Skeletal Muscles

Muscles are attached to your horse’s bones and when they contract, they cause movement in your horse. Since horses have four legs, there are six main muscle groups: two for each front leg and two for each hind leg. There are also a number of smaller muscles located in both front and hind limbs that aid in more precise movements. Each muscle group contains both superficial (on top) and deep (underneath) muscles.


The organs of equine anatomy are highly similar to those of a human. Some organs, such as the heart and stomach, are placed in very different areas than they would be in humans. For example, horse hearts are located on their right side close behind their forelegs; whereas human hearts rest near our chests just under our right arms. As far as senses go, horses have excellent eyesight and an acute sense of smell; both of which enable them to survive in their natural environment.

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