Parts Of A Horse – A Complete guide With 3D Visible Horse

If you have ever been around horse people, you may have noticed that they have a language of their own to describe the parts of a horse.

If you want to learn the common terms that are used to describe the parts of a horse, you have come to the right place. We use a 3d visible horse to easily show each external part and the internal bone structure that lies under it.

Whenever it makes sense we compare the parts of the horse with the corresponding parts in humans.

Parts of a Horse Diagram

A complete overview of the external parts of a horse can be seen in the diagram below.

parts of a horse diagram

A complete overview of the equine skeleton in the diagram below.

horse skeleton

Below is the trailer of an animation that explains the parts of the horse in a fun way. You can get this video from amazon here.

Parts of A Horse’s Head and Neck

The horse´s head is elongated and very heavy compared to the rest of his body and is inserted at the top of the neck, which is long and very flexible.

The horse´s neck acts like a lever connecting the head to the body. So the horse balances itself using its neck and head.

When observing the different horse gaits, we can see how the head and neck move to support the horse´s locomotion and adjust its speed and direction.

Next, we will see the parts of the horse’s head and neck.

horse muzzle

The muzzle is the part of the horse’s head that includes the mouth, nostrils, chin, lips, and front of the nose. The muzzle is very mobile and sensitive. The skin is almost hairless and has whiskers to help the horse sense things close to its nose.

horse chin groove

Horses also have a chin groove behind the lower lip, similar to us.

horse jaw

The jaw is the long skinny portion between the chin groove and the throat latch. It contains the mandibular teeth, which can sometimes be felt in this area when they are erupting.

horse jaw versus human jaw

Comparing to our jaw, we can see the horse´s jaw is more elongated. Actually, the whole skull is longer, and the reason for that is because they need to look out for predators in the surroundings while they are grazing.

horse bridge of nose

In the front of the head, we have the bridge of the nose, similar to ours, which is a bony portion of the face after the nostrils.

This area may be convex (roman nose) like in baroque horses, concave (dish face) like Arabian horses, or straight which is the most common.

horse cheekbones

On the side of the face, the horse has projecting cheekbones, which can be easily felt below the skin.

horse cheeks

On the sides of the horse´s head, there are flat large areas which are the cheeks.

horse throatlatch

Behind the cheeks is the throatlatch where the head attaches to the neck. This is where the windpipe links to the head. 

A “clean” throatlatch (without excess fat and muscle) leaves more room for the windpipe and facilitates breathing when the horse is exercising. It also makes it easier for the horse to flex its head for collection.

horse eyes versus human eyes

There are some aspects of equine anatomy that have similarities to human anatomy but the eye is not one of them. 

The most basic difference is because humans are predators, and horses are prey animals. So, humans’ eyes are placed frontally, close together, and can focus quickly on objects both near and far. 

As a prey animal, the horse´s eyes are placed laterally, which allows them to have binocular and monocular vision. This works well for grazing and watching for predators coming from either side.

For more information on horse’s eyes, you may be interested in the article about cleaning the horse’s eyes.

horse forehead and forelock

The Forehead is the upper part of the face extending from the poll until the top of the eyes and is covered by the Forelock, which is the tuft of mane that falls downwards between the ears above the forehead.

horse ears rotate animation gif

Horses have very mobile ears. They can swivel them around, point them forward, pull them up or flatten them back.

The horse naturally directs his ears, separately or together, toward the focus of his attention.

horse's poll

The poll is the area immediately behind the ears and is marked by a slight depression. In this area, there are many nerve endings, and so it is very sensitive.

The underlying bones are the top of the skull bone and the first cervical bone of the neck.

horse neck

The neck is the area between the head and the shoulder and is approximately one-third of the horse´s total body length.

It has 7 vertebrae (cervical) which enable the horse to move the neck in many directions.

The neck is very flexible, and together with the head, is used to maintain the horse´s balance in a pendulum effect to counteract the hind’s actions.

horse mane and crest

The mane runs from the poll to the withers. It’s the hair that grows from the top line of the neck, called the crest.

A thick crest due to fat deposits or excess muscle is known as a “cresty neck.” In some cases, it can even flop over to one side.

Check this article to learn why horses have manes.

Parts Of A Horse’s Body

The body of the horse should ideally be square-shaped and symmetrical on both sides.

There are many external parts in the horse´s body, each one is described below.

horse chest

The Chest, also called the Breast, is the front portion of the body between the shoulders.

The chest should be wide enough to allow plenty of heart room and lung capacity.

Horse withers

The withers are located above and just behind the horse’s shoulders. They are at the top of the dorsal process.

In an adult horse, the withers should be higher or at the same level as the croup. If they are lower, the horse will appear “downhill” and tend to fall on his forehand when ridden.

The withers are used to measure a horse’s height. It is measured from the highest point of the withers to the ground.

horse shoulder and point of shoulder. Scapula and humerus

The shoulder is made up of the scapula and associated muscles. It runs from the withers to the point of shoulder, which is the joint at the front of the chest. The point of shoulder is the protruding head of the humerus bone.

The angle of the shoulder affects the horse’s movement. A more sloped shoulder allows longer strides, while a more upright shoulder will have shorter strides.

horse heart girth

The Hearth Girth is the area behind the elbow of the horse, where the girth is fastened. This area should be where the barrel is at its greatest diameter in a properly-conditioned horse.

The diameter of the heart girth and the horse length are used to estimate the horse’s weight.

horse barrel

The Barrel is the large area below the back in the general vicinity of the ribcage. This is where the heart, lungs, and stomach of the horse are housed.

horse flank

Flank is the area where the hind legs and the barrel meet, specifically the area right behind the rib cage and in front of the stifle joint runs up to the loin point of hip.

horse belly

The abdomen or belly is the broad area underneath the horse between the elbow and the flank.

horse back and thoracic vertrabae

The Back is the area where the saddle sits. It begins at the base of the withers and extends to the last thoracic vertebrae.

The correct muscular development of the back is essential for the horse to perform well under the rider’s weight.

Light Horses have an ideal back to place a saddle and thus carry a rider. That is why they are mostly used for riding.

horse loin and lumbar vertrabae

The loin is the short, muscled area joining the back to the croup. It is immediately behind the saddle. 

It has no ribs to add support, so it is susceptible to injury if it is not well-muscled. The back and loin need to have strong muscles to carry the weight of the rider.

horse croup and sacral vertabrae

The croup, also called the rump,  is the topline of the hindquarters, beginning at the hip, extending proximate to the sacral vertebrae, and stopping at the dock of the tail. 

The angle of the croup affects the horse’s movement. A more leveled croup allows longer strides, while a steeper croup will have shorter strides.

horse dock of tail and tail vertrabae

The dock is the solid part of the horse’s tail. It is the extension of the horse’s spine containing the tail vertebrae, but it is hidden behind the tail’s long hair.

horse hindquarters

Hindquarters is the large, muscular area of the hind legs, above the stifle, and behind the barrel.

The “motor” of the horse lies in the hindquarters. So strong hindquarters mean greater power.

horse buttocks

Buttock is the part of the hindquarters behind the thighs and below the root of the tail- fleshy part under the tail.

horse point of hip and point of buttock

Around the pelvis bone, we can feel some protruding bony parts which are called points.

Point of Hip – Is the bony point lying just forward and below the croup. This should not be confused with the Hip Joint, which is in a different location and is the joint between the Ilium and the femur.

Point of Buttock – Is the highest point of the buttock at the extreme rear of the animal. It is used as a reference point for hind leg conformation.

Parts Of A Horse’s Limbs

The horse’s limbs are composed of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that enable the movement of the horse and support its weight.

The bone structure and size of the limbs vary across breeds. This variation enables the optimal use of the horse for different activities (sports and work).

The forelimbs of the horse are the equivalent to the arms of humans, and the hindlimbs are the equivalent to the legs of humans.

horse arm and humerus versus human arm and humerus

The Arm is the humerus and goes from the point of the shoulder to the elbow. The horse’s arm is inside its body, and therefore has a limited range of movement. It is not free moving like ours.

Its length determines how tightly the elbow and leg joints can bend and extend. A long arm bone allows a long stride, while a short arm bone tends to have a short, choppy stride.

horse forearm (fused radius and ulna) versus human forearm

The forearm is the front leg area between the knee and elbow, consisting of the fused radius and ulna (Unlike us, these two bones are fused in the horse) and all the tissue around these bones.

A long forearm increases the stride length and speed, which is desirable for any performance activity. 

horse knee versus human wrist

The knee is the large joint in the front legs above the cannon bone. It contains the carpal bones. The knee should be broad to allow room for the tendons.

The horse’s knee is not the same as our knee. It is actually the equivalent of our wrist.

horse thigh and femur

The thigh is the part of the hindquarters behind the stifle joint. It is where the femur lies.

The horse’s femur is inside its body and therefore has a limited range of movement. It is not free moving like ours.

The horse’s stifle corresponds to the knee of a human.

However, the human knee is straight when we are standing, and the stifle is angled when the horse is standing.

horse gaskin versus human calf

The gaskin is a muscled area of the hind leg, above the hock and below the stifle. It is where the tibia lies. It is homologous to the calf of a human.

It is desirable for the horse to have a long tibia (gaskin) because this allows a long stride.

horse hock versus human ankle

The hock is the joint of the hind leg below the gaskin and above the cannon bone. It is homologous to the human ankle joint.

horse point of hock versus human heel

The point of the Hock is the most prominent part of the hock. It is homologous to our heel. If we step on tiptoes, our heel looks like the horse’s hock. 

horse cannon

The cannon, also known as the cannon bone, is the area between the knee in the front leg or hock in the back leg and the fetlock joint.

The cannon bone is a weight-bearing bone. This bone should be short and straight.

horse fetlock and fetlock joint

The fetlock joint is the horse’s ankle joint. Sometimes called the “ankle” of the horse, though it is not the same skeletal structure as an ankle in humans. 

It is called the fetlock joint because in this area grows a tuft of hair called fetlock.

horse lower leg versus human hand

The fetlock joint corresponds to the middle finger’s knuckle in our hands.

The leg from the fetlock down is actually an elongated finger. The tip of the “finger” is protected by the tough hoof, equivalent to our nails.

horse pastern

Between the fetlock joint and the hoof, there are 2 bones called the patterns, the long pattern, and the short pastern, also named proximal phalanx and intermediate phalanx, just like ours.

The pastern is very important for shock absorption.

The angle of the pastern should be aligned with the angle of the hoof. If they are not aligned, it will create additional stress on the tissues, leading to injuries.

horse hoof versus human fingernail

The hoof is the foot of the horse; the hoof wall is the tough outside covering of the hoof that comes into contact with the ground and is a much larger and stronger version of the human fingernail

The coronet, also called the coronary band, is a soft tissue ring at the top of the hoof, where the horse’s hoof grows from. It is homologous to the cuticles of our fingers.

horse coffin bones

Underneath the hoof lies the coffin bone, which is the shape of a hoof.

For more information about the hoof, you may be interested in the article shoeing a horse.

horse chestnuts and ergots

Chestnuts are a flat hornlike growth that appear on the front legs of a horse above the knee, or on the back legs of a horse below the hock. They can be large or very small.

Chestnuts are believed to be the vestigial “toes” of the ancestral horse that lived roughly 50 million years ago.

Ergots are also a hornlike growth but spikier than chestnuts. They grow under the fetlocks on the four limbs of the horse.

Ergots ate believed to be the vestigial sole pad of the ancestral horse.

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