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How to Think Like A Horse: The Essential Handbook for Understanding Why Horses Do What They Do

Horse Stable and Riding Arena Design

Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook (Howell Reference Books)

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage: Designing and Managing Your Equine Facilities

- Anatomical Terms -

Parts of a Horse, AnatomyPoll: The poll is located at the very top of the horse's head, in between the ears

Ear: The horse hears things with its ears. The ears are located at the top of the horse's head. They can swivel back and forth in any direction and are a very expressive part of the horse's behavior. If the horse's ears are laid back flat against its head, the horse is angry or upset. If the ears are forward, the horse is interested in something in front of him. When one ear is swiveled back to you and the other forward, it means that the horse is listening to his rider while keeping an ear out for anything that might startle him. This is the ideal position your horse's ears should be in while you are riding him. There is less chance of him spooking this way. Talking to a horse is a good way to let it know that you are there and that you are not a threat.

Forelock: The forelock is the lock of hair which falls down the horse's forehead or face from where it grows between the ears. It is often braided for shows, or sometimes left down to fall softly over the bridle's browband.

Forehead: the space between the horse's eyes, extending from the top of the head at the ears down to the top of the horse's nose.

Eye: what the horse sees with. An albino horse can have blue eyes, or one blue eye and one brown, and other horses can have brown, blue, or walleyes. It depends on the horse. The horse's eyes are located on either side of its head. The horse can see almost a full one hundred and eighty degrees with each eye, but cannot see directly behind itself or directly in front. This is why you need to be careful when walking behind or in front of a horse, because they often lash out at what they cannot see. A horse's eyes work independently of each other. Each covers a a wide field of vision over a full semicircle. There is a small overlap in front and a blind spot directly behind. A horse makes little use of stereoscopic vision for judging distances as we do, so a one-eyed horse can still judge distances. a horse loses sight of the fence as it takes off, so it has to trust in its rider knowing that it is safe to jump. The eyes should be bright, without discharge. It is normal for there to be cauliflower shaped black bodies visible within the iris; these are called the corpora nigra. The membrane around the eye and inside the eyelid should be salmon pink.

Nose: also known as the muzzle, this part of the horse is located at the bottom of its long head. The horse has two nostrils and has a very keen sense of smell. To introduce yourself to a horse, blow gently in its nostrils. That way it will remember you when you come again and knows it can trust you. 

Nostril: the nostrils are a part of the horse's nose. It smells with them. The horse's nostrils are very tender and soft, and must be cleaned regularly. This can be done with a damp soft sponge. Wipe gently inside the horse's nostrils so clean out any debris. Smell also enables the horse to detect undesirable items in its food. It is also important in social interactions, when horse greet friends or identify strangers by touching muzzle to muzzle.

Mouth: The horse's mouth is located underneath its nose. The horse eats with its mouth and often uses it to express what it's feeling. If the horse is very relaxed and sleepy, sometimes it will open its mouth slightly and droop its eyes shut. Horses have very delicate mouths. They can be eating in a patch full of weeds and thistles and still manage to only pick up the good grass with their teeth. They have very sensitive mouths. 

Lips: The horse's lips play a large part in the horse's life. Like I said before, they are very sensitive and can choose certain blades of grass over others, and over weeds and other things they don't like. Sometimes the horse looks like he's laughing, because he'll pull his lips back and grin. That's one of their ways of getting a lot of scents from the air.

Cheek: The side of the horse's face

Lower Jaw: Right under the upper jaw. Used for grinding food.

Jugular Groove: The jugular groove is found on the lower part of the horses neck, on both sides. It looks like a line of indentation and is just above the windpipe. The jugular groove contains the jugular vein, the carotid artery and the sympathetic trunk. The jugular groove is often used to take the horses pulse. It is the easiest place to feel a pulse and is in a safe place and so avoids kicking.

Shoulder: The horse's shoulder is not actually attached to the spine by a collar bone as it does in humans. Instead, the shoulder is attached to and supports the weight of the front end by sheets of muscle. These sheets of muscle attach the shoulder blade from various points along the cervical vertebrae (bones of the neck), the thoracic spine, and to the ribs. Because of this, the shoulder is designed to be a shock-absorber. The muscles attached to the horse's shoulder are responsible for absorbing the impact when a horse moves.

Point of Shoulder: The point of shoulder is a hard, bony prominence surrounded by heavy muscle masses

Breast: The Breast is a muscle mass between the forelegs, covering the front of the horse's chest

Chest: An ideal chest is deep and contains the space necessary for vital organs. A narrow chest can lead to interference with using the front legs. Chest muscles should be well developed and form an inverted "V". The prominence of chest muscling depends on the breed.

Forearm: The horse's forearm extends from its elbow to its knee

Knee: The joint between the horse's forearm and cannonbone

Cannon Bone: The large bone in the horse's lower leg that runs from the knee to the ankle. This bone receives the greatest amount of stress when a horse is moving. There are no muscles linked to the cannon bone.

Fetlock: The joint between the cannon bone and the pastern. The fetlock joint should be large and clean

Pastern: This bone extends from the fetlock to the top of the hoof

Hoof: The horny wall and sole of the foot. The foot includes the horny structure and the pedal bones and navacular bones, as well as other connective tissue.

Ergot: Growth on the underside of the fetlock joint - hard, feels like it's made out of hoof material.

Chestnut: A scab-like object on the horse's inner leg. Originated from when the horse was born, their legs are held together in the womb to keep from tangling up during birth.

Elbow: The point of the horse where the front legs almost meet the belly. This area is tender and sweats very easily.

Brisket: The area directly between the forelegs at the front of the abdomen

Quarters: The part of the horse's body from the rear of the flank to the top of the tail down to the top of the gaskin

Shank: The cannon bone on the hind leg

Tendon: Attaches bones together and helps them move fluently.

Girth: Where the girth or cinch for the saddle lies around the horse's barrel

Throat: The portion of the horse's neck underneath the head before it meets the neck. Where the throatlatch of a bridle sits.

Pectoral Muscle: Muscles in the chest that help pull the foreleg forward. Provides carrying space for the horse's lungs. Pecs on a horse should be large and wide.

Jowls: The rear side part of the horse's jaw

Ribs: Structure of bones that surround the horse's vitals. Most horses have 18 pairs of ribs.

Belly (Barrel): The biggest area on the horse. Houses the heart and lungs, intestines, etc.

Stifle: the joint at the end of the thigh corresponding to the human knee

Coronet: the band around the top of the hoof from which the hoof wall grows

Hock: the joint between the gaskin and the cannon bone, in the rear leg.

Point of Hock: The bony protuberance at the back of the hock

Gaskin or 'second thighs': the region between the stifle and the hock

Thigh: part of the horse's back legs made up of the stifle and gaskin

Point of buttock: The rounded part of the horse's rump

Tail: Extension of the backbone over the horse's hindquarters. Used for swatting flies.

Dock: Where the horse's hindquarters connect to the tail

Flank: The area below the loin, between the last rib and the massive muscles of the thigh

Croup: Lies between the loin and the tail. When one is looking from the side or back, it is the highest point of the hindquarters

Point of Hip: Topmost portion of the horse's rump

Loins: The short area joining the back to the powerful muscular croup

Back: Extends from the base of the withers to where the last rib is attached

Withers: The highest point of the back, just above the shoulder blades. The prominent ridge where the neck and the back join. At the withers, powerful muscles of the neck and shoulders attach to the elongated spines of the second to sixth thoracic vertebrae. The height of a horse is measured vertically from the withers to the ground, because the withers is the horse's highest constant point.

Neck: The portion of the horse's body between the head and back/barrel

Mane: The hair growing out of the horse's neck. Mostly for appearance, but for protection from flies too.

Crest: The topline of the horse's neck, from just behind the horse's ears (at the poll) to about halfway down the neck.

Heel: The back of the bottom of a horse's hoof

Toe: The front point of a horse's hoof

Hoof Wall: The part of the horse's hoof that is visible when the horse is standing. Protects the inner parts of the hoof.

Bulb of Heel: Similar to the fleshy part of your hand above the wrist

Cushion of Heel: The part of the horse's hoof on the bottom that cushions the horse's foot as it moves

Frog: "V" shaped part of the horse's hoof on the bottom of the foot

Bars: The weight-bearing structrues of the horse's hoof

White Line: A line of distinction between the insensitive outer hoof wall and the inner area of the hoof which contains sensitive nerves and vulnerable blood vessels.

Sole: The area surrounding and slightly above the frog which does not come in contact with the ground

Breastbone: The center of the horse's ribcage

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