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12 Days of Christmas - Day 10: Horses are truly amazing

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

The horse is a highly sophisticated living organism made up of atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs and systems. To enable him to reach is full athletic potential and give him a happy, healthy quality of life, it’s up to us as carers, riders, trainers and therapists to ride him sensitively, manage him effectively, predict his emotions and behaviour and that all his needs are met and give him the best possible chance to succeed.


gillian higgins horses inside out cover photograph book horse anatomy performance

To do this, it’s important to understand both his limitations and capabilities within the context of his structure and function.


The horse’s body is a marvellous machine. Each anatomical system has individual tasks to perform but is also interdependent on each other. Horse Anatomy for Performance looks, in detail at how the horse functions and looks at some practicalities of anatomical training.


After learning all about the 12 systems of the horse you’ll have a much clearer understanding of how anatomy influences the way you manage, ride, and train your horse.


Fun Anatomy Facts:

  • The skin is the largest and heaviest organ in the horse’s body.

  • Your horse has three types of hair.

    1. Permanent hair – the mane, tail and feathers.

    2. Tactile hair – whiskers, used to estimate the distance between the muzzle and an object.

    3. Temporary hair – his coat consists of an undercoat of fine, densely packed hairs, covered by a layer of longer coarser hairs.

  • The skeleton consists of approximately 205 bones (this number can vary as some bones fuse together). It can be divided into the Axial skeleton – made up of the skull, vertebrae and ribs, and the Appendicular skeleton which comprises the limbs.

  • Muscles control every aspect of movement – both internal and external. They form the largest tissue mass in the horse’s body.

  • Tendons connect muscle to bone and are involved in movement.

  • Ligaments connect bone to bone and control a joint.

  • Tendons and ligaments in the lower limb have a poor blood supply, which makes them slow to heal.

  • Horses have a unique digestive tract that can digest both forage and concentrates.

  • Horses do not have the brain capacity to plan or think ahead. They can only respond to situations.


Horse Anatomy for Performance brings anatomy to life thanks to the use of fantastic photography and Gillian’s informative paintings and diagrams.


This book clearly explains the importance, relevance and interaction between each of the anatomical systems, the information is delivered in a clear and easy to understand format. It will really make you look at your horse in a whole new light.



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