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Horse Anatomy

Sick and tired of all the angst in our society and getting really bored with it all I started studying Horse Anatomy. It was becoming more and more obvious to me that studying this was probably the quickest way to make sure that I do not inadvertently end up annoying the lesson horses I ride unnecessarily. I have MS, bad balance, bad coordination, and I lose track of my limbs. I do pretty good, at least the horses usually do not cuss me out but I always want to become a better rider.

Since I am 72 studying horse anatomy will probably fill all my vacant hours for the rest of my life. A little part of my brain told me that if I wanted to study horse anatomy I was running out of time and that I needed to take a deep dive into the subject.

I have a sort of odd learning disability. I simply cannot learn even the basics of a subject until I have read around 20 books by at least three different authors on a subject. I did not have 20 books on anatomy a few months ago. So I got on line, found the 3-D Horse Anatomy computer program, started playing with it, and realized that it had the same limitations as the anatomy books I already owned, not enough detail and not enough information. So I went on-line hoping to find a horse anatomy equivalent of Grey’s Anatomy, hah!

Thanks to going on-line and buying the more veterinary school caliber anatomy books I now have 15 whole horse anatomy books plus two anatomy books for specific areas. Not quite my ideal of 20 books but a decent start. I have been looking at the pictures, my brain decides it wants to know more about a specific muscle or bone and I look that up in at least 7 of the books. Early on I realized that the differences between the pictures (or photographs) could well be because they were all of different horses, of different ages, breeds, soundness, etc…

I never “got” horse anatomy by looking at just one book at a time. I saw that there was complexity there, but to see complexity better I need to see a wide range of examples. I’ve noticed that the different books approached the subject with various foci, and what one book neglected another book might mention, and if I am lucky another book will have a relatively detailed description/or better picture.

I am aiming to “build” an anatomically correct “model” of a horse in my brain.

Amazingly I am not getting bored. In the last two days I was concentrating on the deltoid muscle and could probably spend more time on it later. Right now the horse’s shoulders have great attraction to my brain, along with the thoracic sling muscles originating in the scapula. Simply riveting how well the horse has evolved to deal with great weight on biological structures.

Who knows, maybe all this information will help me become a better rider who moves with her horse rather than blocking the horse. I do pretty good now but the horses have told me that I can improve. The horses will tell me when I get it right but they seem to think that I should figure stuff out myself.


What is currently in your library? I may be able to recommend a couple books.


For me, anatomy from a book never really clicked. Watching autopsies and surgical procedures really brought it home. Nothing beats seeing things in three dimensions.

Best wishes in your learning journey.


On my bed right now I have most of my anatomy books that deal with static anatomy–the horse is not moving (because the horse is dead and is being disected.)

Raymond R. Ashdown and Stanley H. Done, “Color Atlas of Veterinary Anatomy, Volume 2, The Horse”

O. Charnock Bradley, “The Topographical Anatomy of the Head and Neck of the Horse”
“The Topographical Anatomy of the Limbs of the Horse”
“The Topographical Anatomy of the Thorax and Abdomen of the Horse”

Klaus-Dieter Budras, W. O. Sack, Sabine Rock, “Anatomy of the Horse”

Peter Goody, “Horse Anatomy-a Pictorial Approach to Equine Structure”. 2nd Edition

Pauli Gronberg, “ABC of the Horse Atlas”
“ABC of the Horse Biomechanics”

Jones, William E., Editor “Anatomy of the Horse” from material in “The Horse: Its Treatment in
Health and Disease” by J. W. Axe

Robert A. Kainer and Thomas O. McCracken, “Horse Anatomy–A Coloring Atlas”

Lowes D. Luard, “The Horse–Its Action and Anatomy”

Carla M. Lusi, Helen M. S. Davies, “Fascial Anatomy of the Equine Forelimb”

R. H. Smythe “The Horse Structure and Movement”, 2nd edition revised by P. C. Goody

Gamal Eldin Swielim, “Atlas Anatomy of the Horse”

Robert F. Way, Donald G. Lee, “The Anatomy of the Horse”

I have also been using other books with decent anatomical drawings that concentrate of the ridden horse, anatomy plus movement plus carrying a human. Right now though I hit around 5 to 7 of the listed books every day, usually when I am looking at my “3-D Horse Anatomy” computer program produced by Biosphera.


After several days of me being just too tired to study intensively I am even more in love with my 3-D Horse Anatomy program.

It is the first thing I call up when I turn on my computer. I look at it several times a day. It inspires me to go hit the books so I can see clearer pictures and read what the books say about the muscle/bone.

Right now I am becoming fixated on the sling muscles of the forehand. Yesterday my mind wanted to know ALL ABOUT the subclavius muscle. I am too tired to spend a lot of uninterrupted time on this, but when I have an idle moment it is a good way for me to spend my time.

I am running out of horse anatomy books to buy (I already have one coloring book and I don’t need any others.) I dove deep into Amazon’s pages of horse anatomy books and on the 6th or 7th page I ran into (and ordered) “Anatomy of Equine Body Work” by Pattilo. It is over 700 pages so there should end up being decent anatomical pictures and descriptions there.

After that it looks like I will have to content myself with the scholarly reprints of serious horse anatomy books. Maybe I can order them after I see how bad the rain bands from Hurricane Idalia are for us. That will be 2 or 3 more books unless I get into the more specialized books.


Of course I just had to post while in the midst of tearing my study apart and then frantically attempting to reorganize it before the fall semester starts, so I can’t find anything right now.
You’ve already covered much of what I’d suggest.

I also like Nancy Nicholson’s “Biomechanical Riding: A Dressage Rider’s Atlas” and “The Horse in Motion” by sarah Pilliner, Samantha Elmhurst and Zoe Davis.

And I have the first edition, but IIRC there’s at least a second of Denoix’s book “Physical Therapy and Massage for the Horse”.

All have some decent diagrams/illustrations that can help with figuring out what’s going on.


PS–I have an early ebook from Patillo that has some excellent diagrams, so I suspect the body work book is well worth looking at.

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I have the Nicholson book. I was SO EXCITED when I got it years ago, BUT I quickly got so irritated with all the photos of horses moving with their faces behind the vertical that I went back to Wynmalen’s “The Horse in Motion”. I have referred back to Nicholson’s anatomical drawings in her book, THOSE are useful for me.

I do have a new motion book, 'The Horse in Motion" by Pilliner but I have not really looked at that one yet (am I afraid of being disillusioned yet again?)

I LOVE Wynmalen’s “The Horse in Motion”. Over the decades I used it to figure out when to time my aids, like when I was trying to get my pacing Paso Fino mare into a 4 beat gait. I was successful with that, and I could not have figured it out without Wynmalen’s book.

I know this is not exactly anatomy related but the last decade or so I see a book that looks interesting, pick it up, look at the pictures, and if 50% or more horses are behind the vertical I put it back. I do not care how highly it is recommended.

I have noticed that if I study pictures of people riding horses behind the vertical it shows up in my riding lessons and then my riding teacher gets after me for my riding (thank you Debbie!). I already know how to ride horses badly after all, I do not need reinforcement of bad riding habits. It is hard to read a dressage book and not look at the pictures which is why the dressage books I read are old, from back when dressage riders were taught that going behind the vertical was BAD.

Thank you for recommending books! I’ll look into Denoix’s book later. I have spent a lot of money on horse anatomy books, I figure studying and looking at them will be a good use of my time whenever the internet goes out. I can even look at these books in the daytime when the electricity is off. With my horse anatomy books I will be able to defeat BOREDOM so long as I have enough light to see the pictures. Well worth the money because I get bored pretty easily.


One thing that I have learned from my study of anatomy, is that the drawings are guidelines at best. Sharon May Davis also emphasize it during the dissection course I did with her in Aiken. There are so many variations on connections and size of the muscles.


I noticed that.

Then I realized that at least some books show the results of dissecting ONE animal, and that there are variations between animals.

Of course several books are probably illustrating “averages” among the horses they dissected.

No book is perfect, and my beloved 3-D Horse Anatomy computer program for some reason left off the tubercle a little bit down the proximal caudal side of the spine of the scapula. THAT led me to look at many, many drawing of the lateral side of the scapula, and the program could have done better with this.

That is essentially what inspired me to get as many different horse anatomy books as I could find, the more advanced ones (WHY are there so many horse anatomy coloring books?)

There is a horse anatomy book from China, in Chinese. I do not read Chinese but I have been idly thinking about getting it for the pictures since I presume the horse population in China has a few differences from the horses that are the result of centuries of planned breedings in the West. I did manage to find a pretty good book done by an Egyptian anatomist (in English) just to see if there are subtle differences, and also the probably vain hope that some Arabian horses were in the mix of horses there, somewhere.

Since I am not a veterinarian and will never operate on a horse, the horses are not in too much danger from my method of learning anatomy. It did throw me a bit those differences between the books until I realized that all these different books did not describe ONE horse, but several horses of different breeds, ages, state of training, and injuries.

I do regret that the anatomists, when they do anatomical drawings of one horse, make no mention of age, breed, height, etc., etc., etc… Even just the horse’s name would be nice even if the horse is dead.

Just like with any other method of evaluating and riding horses, once I am on the horse I explore how that horse is different from every other horse I’ve ever ridden. I really don’t care if there are signs of whorls, the color of the horse, of how they were supposedly trained, I ride the horse I get on that day and I realize that the next time I ride the horse may be completely different on how it reacts to my riding.

Nowadays I am thinking like that about anatomy. Every horse is different, even full siblings of intensely inbred lines (like the Davenport/Hamdie Al Khamsa Arabians, VERY highly inbred to around 15? ancestors from over a century ago.)


I’m certainly nowhere near as well-versed as you or Ghazzu, but when I was looking for an anatomy book to keep on hand as a reference my vet recommended the “Atlas of Equine Anatomy” by Chris Pasquini. I have a copy and it’s certainly nice but by no means exhaustive. I love the idea of the 3d software as well!


Thank you @equinelibrium, I just ordered that book.

Soon I will reach my goal of 20 serious horse anatomy books!

Now I just have to “digest” all of this knowledge and get it into my brain.

I won’t be sitting around bored for a long time.

The MS society recommends people exercise their brains. They suggest learning a new language but it is hard to find native speakers to practice on, plus my memory is pretty bad (memorizing new words, easy for me in High School, very hard for me now.) So I decided learning the language of horse anatomy would be good, with all those names in Latin and Ancient Greek.

It is SO MUCH EASIER for me to learn new stuff if it is about horses. With just about any other subject it is a struggle for me to remember new stuff.


Charles Craver had an extensive collection of Arabian horse skulls, mainly Davenports, and there were noticeable differences between the different strains, particularly as regards the atlanto-occipital conformation.
I know the collection ended up in a museum ultimately.


Pasquini’s book is very useful.
He has another that is multiple domestic species, which is also great.

The emphasis on clinically relevant anatomy is nice.


Your dedication is inspiring. I can totally relate to it being easier to learn horse-related things. Or making everything eventually related to horses. When I was in school it was almost a game to me to make every single school project horse-related, and I don’t think I’ve grown out of that! :see_no_evil:


You might really appreciate a well known vet, Ivanna Rudduck-Lange, who puts up video and discussion of anatomy. You can become a Patreon member and get even more. I really enjoy her videos and explanations.



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I have an ancient horse anatomy book Mr Atlatl found in a used book store; it’s illustrated by George Stubbs.


@atlatl, somewhere, in a box in my house, resides my copy of Stubb’s Horse Anatomy book.
I must admit that I put it to one side, when it was given to me I was working full time, 2 small boys, 4 or so horses, 60 mile commute every day, etc… The odd s (double s?) used in Stubb’s time just threw me. Did anybody ever put out an edition using the modern English alphabet?

@PaddockWood, I will look into this site. Thank you.

Today I had an e-mail exchange with Courtney at the EquiLearn Institute, where I had tried to order "Anatomy of Equine Body Work: by Debranne Pattilo (I do not have Pay Pal, I gave up and my son ordered it for me from Amazon). She had checked up because she had seen that I had tried to get the book. I asked her if her organization was going to put a book out about equine fascia. She said no, but recommended the book “Equine Myofascial Kinetic Lines” by Rikke M. Schultz, DVM, Tove Due DVM and Vibeke S. Elbrond, DVM, PhD. Lucky for me I have already bought it during my horse anatomy buying extravaganza earlier this month.

Can somebody PLEASE refer me to an excellent dictionary of veterinary anatomy &/or medicine? I am still depending on my “Dorland’s Pocket Medical Dictionary, 22nd Ed.” I bought around 1977, but that is a medical dictionary for human medicine. In order to “translate” this book on fascia I am going to have to have a dictionary that is pretty complete about horse biology using modern veterinary words and terms. I could use Dorland’s, after all I got it to “translate” “Lameness in Horses” by Adams back then (I gain status with vets when I tell them I read this book), but it might be easier on me to use a veterinary dictionary for this.


Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary
Black’s Veterinary Dictionary.

Also, Hilary Clayton has a book on Clinical Anatomy of the Horse that I forgot to mention.
Illustrations are dissection of fresh specimen.


I am having a great day today–my copy of “Anatomy of Equine Body Work” came!

Pricey, but I think it is worth every penny.

I particularly like that the anatomical drawings are big enough so I do not have to squint to see them, or feel like I need a good magnifying glass. I have the feeling that if Shannon comes by to help me on Sunday she will spend a lot of time looking at this book and get more out of it than she has from looking at my other anatomy books.

I have started reading “Equine Myofascial Kinetic Lines”. It will be slow going for me as I get physically tired (exhausted) if I do too much brain work for an extended period of time. It has a lot of information I have to digest.

My brain is daring to venture that with the Pattilo book that came today I might finally have enough horse anatomy books to get a decent “model” of a horse in my brain as far as static anatomy is concerned. I am still waiting on some others and I may buy two or three reprinted anatomy books, but they, being reprints, are a lot cheaper than the modern serious anatomy books. Since every single serious (as in not a coloring book) anatomy book has its own strengths I am glad that I went ahead and got them all while I can afford to buy them.

When I finally get all the anatomy books I want I have the feeling that my Horse Anatomy bookcase will have the equivalent of Grey’s Anatomy as far as information is concerned, spread over several of my books.

Now I just have to study them and get the information into my handicapped brain (MS messes up the central nervous system big time, including memory.) It used to be decades ago that if I wrote down passages of the books I was trying to understand that the information would stay in my brain. This has not worked for me for over a decade now. If the information is to stay in my brain I have to memorize it somehow. Good pictures really help with this, and now I can compare anatomic pictures between several books by several authors often from different angles. Nowhere near as good as doing actual dissections I know, but since I will never be able to do an actual dissection this is the best I can do. At least I have had enough spending money to save up for these pretty expensive books.

And maybe the horses will thank me for studying this, eventually, like they thank me for all the studying I have done over the decades about riding horses. My riding teachers will also probably thank me for my new knowledge if I present it in a form that is understandable, something I seem to be pretty good at still.