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Horse Anatomy

I’m still plugging away at learning anatomy.

I have run into a minor problem, the anatomical books that use photographs of horse dissection tend to give me minor nausea (much worse if I am eating while looking at the book) and also I sit there wondering what that particular horse was like, its personality, whether I could get a decent ride from that horse, all combined with the remembered heartache of many years of desperately wishing that I could actually own a horse. Could I have given THAT horse a good home?

I do NOT have that problem with the anatomical line drawings at all, I happily go on eating my meals while intently looking at the drawings. It is just the photographs of the dissected equine corpses that make my stomach feel uneasy, especially if I am eating.

The recommended book on the fascia is causing me this problem, lots and lots of graphic photographs of a horse’s corpse being dismembered. However I do not see many alternatives to getting the information I need now about equine fascia. It is pathetic, I am looking up every third word (or so it seems) while reading the text, and I am trying to integrate the fascia with the rest of the horse’s anatomy at the level of cause and effect. Now I also need to get much more familiar with the equine sympathetic nervous system since that seems to be the innervation of the fascia.

I am also left wondering how in the world this incredibly important biological system, shared among all animal life, ended up completely ignored or just merely mentioned in all the zoology books I’ve read over the past 50 years or so.

It cannot be because the scientists did not notice the fascia and have to deal with it. Heck, humanoid species have dealt intimately with fascia since humans butchered the first animal successfully hunted and killed by a humanoid. Meat eating humans deal with fascia for most of their meals, when preparing and cooking the food, and then while eating the food.

This is not at the level of figuring out the quantum universe. It is not at the level of finally getting telescopes good enough to see billions of light years. It is not at the level of figuring out animal biochemistry or even genetics. It has always been there, always visible while butchering corpses, used every nano-second by the animals. Fascia is not rare or far, far away.

Are there any human doctors or veterinarians that deal with “curing” fascia problems? I need one for myself, that is for sure.


I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but when I had to have my mare put down at a veterinary hospital, I was given the option to sign off on donating her body to the hospital for teaching purposes. There was nothing anyone could have done to give her a better life instead of putting her down; it was the only humane decision.

I don’t know if dissections for anatomy books come from such arrangements, but I imagine it’s likely they do, rather than putting down a horse just for the sake of a dissection.

Personally, I hope that as many students as possible benefited from having my mare’s body at their disposal to learn from so that something good could come out of the situation.



Thank you SO MUCH for recommending the “Atlas of Anatomy” by Chris Pasquini. It finally got here yesterday and I am so happy to have it.

The pictures are bigger than many and the outlines are bolder than many, so I do not have to squint as much, get my lighting better or get my magnifying glass out. Plus it has some drawing with viewpoints that the other books do not use. The tables in the back are also great.

Right now I use my 3-D Horse Anatomy program as inspiration to look deeper. Metaphorically a bone, muscle, nerve, ligament or section “jumps up and down waving its hands” and that is what I concentrate on that day, going through usually 6 or 7 of my anatomy books, looking closely at the pictures and reading whatever the author deemed important.

Right now I am still jumping from section to section. Since I can make the 3-D Horse Anatomy pictures bigger and rotate them to get a complete view of the anatomical feature I have a basis for comparison, and the anatomical pictures in the books have a lot more meaning for me.

I have many questions but now I have close to a critical mass of horse anatomy books. When I get down to reading them all, look at all the pictures closely, and follow all the mind numbing detail I am sure that I will eventually have an answer to all of my questions. The information in nitty-gritty detail now resides in my bookcase. I am in much better shape for studying horse anatomy than I was at the beginning of the year.

All I have to do is put in the effort and time.


Yay, I’m so glad it’s helpful to you. Happy studying!

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I am still plugging away at learning equine anatomy, both the classical static anatomy and I am slowly, very slowly, starting to “understand” the fascia and the idea of biotensegrity.

Reading about equine biotensegrity has given my brain a “reason” for why the horse has so many darn muscles, many doing variations on a theme with movement. Some of the deeper smaller muscles make me ask why they exist (other muscles share the load) from a pure biomechanical viewpoint, but with the biotensegrity viewpoint they start to make sense.

There are many biologists that seem to think that life always lives on the sharp edge of survival, that everything uses scarce resources. From this viewpoint my brain goes “why all the extra muscles, resource hogs that do not contribute a lot to the whole”? Within the theory of biotensegrity these muscles ARE necessary and survived to contribute in their small way to the whole, assisting in the movements of the horse.

I bought more books. Right now I have 18 books on static horse anatomy (plus I am waiting on one more to be delivered), the “3-D Horse Anatomy” computer program and 4 books on equine fascia. I am also the proud owner now of the “Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary” so I am well set up for the next few months of studying. This is good because I am due to have cataract surgery that is not fully covered by my insurance, OUCH! I will have to cut back on my casual spending, basically I ride horses when possible and wait on everything else until we get the operations paid for.

Today I am concentrating on the multifidi muscles of the back which seem to the base muscle layer on top of the spine that affect the spine itself (instead of the deep muscles that do respiration.) Your horse is inverted? The multifidi back muscles do their part to cave in the back under your seat (extending the spine?)

I am keeping my brain amused, which is good because I get bored easily which leads to me musing on the horrible state of the world. I feel so much more cheerful after I dive into the itty-bitty details of horse anatomy. I am also learning a “new language” (anatomical terms) and getting exercise with weights by carrying these heavy tomes from my bookcase to my bed, both which are recommended for people with MS (lifting weights and learning a new language, not studying horse anatomy.)


I have this book

O. R. Adams’ Lameness in Horses


I have that one and at least 2 subsequent editions in hard copy, as well as the current version online.


I have that book too.

I bought it in the early seventies. I tried reading the first paragraph and realized that I had to buy a medical dictionary right away.

I “translated” all of the book until the end where they got into artificial insemination, Arabs did not allow that back then so I was not interested enough to translate the last part.

All through that book my mantra was “my grandmother was a doctor, she managed to learn stuff like this so I can learn it to.” I repeated that mantra endlessly as I translated that book.

Reading this book is the reason why I am not “afraid” to read veterinary stuff, I learned a lot of the language and I still have that medical dictionary and I know how to use it.

In the decades since I bought the book I lent it out once, after warning the lady that it was a very difficult read. She gave it back to me the next time I saw her, she could not handle translating it.

I was DETERMINED to read it, I needed to learn more about lameness in horses and how not to ruin my precious horse. I already knew some of the anatomy of the lower leg, but the tern coffin bone did not appear, it was the medial distal phalange or something like that.

When I tell vets that I have read that book they take me more seriously, after telling me it is a very good book.


That’s a great idea. I have it, too!

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I am still plugging away at learning horse anatomy.

When I start losing interest I look at the 3-D Horse Anatomy program, rotate it around, and find something that I had not noticed on the 2-D drawings or photographs.

Lately I have been focused on the scapula, rather the front part of the neck of the scapula. The 3-D program showed the cranial crest of the scapula below the neck of the scapula jutting out. When I made the picture bigger and rotated it I could see it clearer.

I looked at several of my anatomy books. Most did not show a lot of detail of that particular area of the scapula but some did show some shading that indicated that the 3-D program might be correct about it jutting out. After looking at the pictures in around 10 books I broke down and went to the to me sort of nauseating “Color Atlas of Veterinary Anatomy–The Horse” and I looked closely at the photos of the dissected shoulder area. There are shadows there on the bottom of the scapula that supports the 3-D Horse Anatomy views.

Then I started a hopeless quest for an actual equine scapula for sale. I could not find any, not that I can afford one right now, first I have to pay for my cataract surgery, but I could save up money after the surgeries were paid for if I knew how much one would cost.

Not that I am eager to have pieces of an actual horse skeleton strewn around my house, but I am finding the equine scapula to be an extremely interesting bone, especially with the sling muscles for the thorax and its beautiful shapes where the muscles originate and go down the length of the scapula.

Hopefully after my cataract surgeries I will be able to see the pictures and photographs more clearly.

One positive result of my horse anatomy interest is that I have been able to tell my riding teachers about the sheer importance of the equine fascia. I got both stables the Posture Prep tool for going lightly across the fascia to relax areas where it has become hard. I got blank looks at first when I told them about the equine fascia but now both ladies are getting INTERESTED in this mostly unrecognized “organizing principle” of equine anatomy.

This is good. I am pleased that my interest in horse anatomy has a chance of making the lives of the lesson horses I ride better and more comfortable.


This is way past your level, OP, but in case others are interested. I just received my Hoofprints.com catalog and ordered some anatomy charts and coloring books for barn mates.

ETA I meant below your level but whatever, we’re all friends here.


Hi @BrownDerby!

Good for you for aiding the horsie education of your barn mates!

These are really not “below” my level. I got my High School diploma 44 years ago and went no further with school (my MS acted up BIG TIME every time I tried.)

So for those with inferiority complexes because they never got far in college, well if you made it through one term you went a LOT further than I ever managed to. Get a good medical or veterinary dictionary, be prepared to use it often, and “translate” all the medical speak. It is just like learning a foreign language.

It is like with riding. If I can do it just about anybody can do it. It is not easy, it takes a LOT of time, but with determination most people can “conquer” this particular area of study.

Besides the pictures help a good bit. If the person gets the “3-D Horse Anatomy” computer program studying horse anatomy is a lot easier because the pictures and writing in the anatomy books are all 2-dimensional and you cannot rotate the pictures in the books. I would be pretty helpless without this program, yes I could learn all the terminology and get a general idea from the descriptions but believe me, being able to rotate an anatomical drawing is really good for getting the picture of how the horse is actually “built”. Too bad this program will not let me separate something and rotate it around so sometimes the bones &/or muscles get in the way of the particular spot I am trying to see clearly on the medial surfaces when I rotate the image of the whole horse.


I had cataract/astigmatism surgery on my right eye on Thursday.

Now my right eye sees much more clearly–for distance vision. Reading is not that good.

The first three days were “interesting”. For two days I had a clear plastic eye shield over my right eye so I ended up with three different levels of visual clarity. My eye doctor now says that I only need to wear my eye shield when I am sleeping so I only have two different levels of visual clarity.

Plus I am not allowed to lift more that 5 pounds. Many veterinary books are HEAVY, especially the ones with coated paper and the ones that are hard back. I am currently using my "3-D Horse Anatomy computer program (I can make the picture BIGGER and rotate it), a coloring book (Kainer & McCraken) and one regular static anatomy book (Pasquini). I can handle the big pictures but I am having problems with reading the text and seeing the smaller pictures clearly. At least the Pasquini anatomy book has darker lines on the drawings which helps me a good bit and I use my magnifying glass some.

I don’t think I would be as inspired to continue studying horse anatomy without the 3-D computer program. Being able to rotate the picture helps me see all the details of a bone (well most of them) then I can go back to the books and understand the pictures better. I started losing interest in the scapula, got it up on the program, magnified and rotated it and now I am back to learning all the details of this incredibly interesting bone.


Right now I am bored, and not quite as cheerful.

My neurologist agreed with me that my brain trying to integrate two different focal lengths and the difference between a corrected eye and the other eye still with bad myopia, double astigmatism and cataract is using a lot of my energy, and part of the reason why I am so dang tired now.

I was hoping to make some progress with my horse anatomy studies the past two weeks. I started off sort of fine, but now the fact that even though I can see the pictures I cannot read the labels without a magnifying glass and that I often have to shift the book from one side to another to be able to see a line clearly, is taking all the fun out of my horse anatomy studies. Not only that, I just cannot seem to “escape” mentally by studying my anatomy books like I was doing before the cataract surgery.

And with the current state of our politics and all the problems in the world I miss having the “escape” of rapidly flipping from one book to another when I concentrate on a particular part of the horse while I temporarily forget about everything else.

So while I am allowed to carry a stack of heavy horse anatomy books there is not point in doing this since I just cannot see the labeling clearly by just glancing at it. Sometimes I have to look at a word for a second or two before my brain figures it out.

Right now I am obsessing with the subclavius muscle pair, aka as the anterior deep pectoral muscle (I think it is.) When I think about the forces that these muscles bears when a horse lands from a HIGH jump (over 6 feet) I am amazed that these jumpers can stay sound.

In fact I am amazed that horses do not completely destroy their bodies by the forces these muscles and bones have to cope with.

I also find myself wondering exactly how old these muscles are. Did dinosaurs have equivalent muscles? Did theraspids have the “same” muscles? How many millions, tens of millions, hundred of millions of years ago did the subclavius muscle appear among the vertebrates? Did it arise among the ancient invertebrates? Of course invertebrates would not use it like vertebrates do. Just idle speculation here.

In humans the subclavius muscle is small and looks rather wimpy, and it would never occur to me that in another species this muscle would be big enough and strong enough to stand up to a 1,200 + pound horse landing after jumping a 6 foot plus jump.

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The main purpose of the front limb muscles in most quadrupeds is to keep them from face-planting.
The synsarcoses which hold the thoracic limbs to the axial skeleton are far better at shock absorption than the bony arrangement seen in bipeds.
(I still have a helluva hard time figuring out biped thoracic limb anatomy. It seems like the scapula is upside-down.)


Yeah, I am not even trying human anatomy this minute.

However my youngest grandson found these little videos/songs about various scientific subjects. Right now, according to his father, he goes around singing the various human anatomy songs.

I need to buy him a human anatomy coloring book. At least at his age it does not need to be super duper technical. It does not have to be thick.

I might just go ahead and get myself a more technical human anatomy coloring book just so I can conveniently compare between humans and horses and marvel at how much better horses are built (at least I think they are!)


When is the other surgery? I bet you’ll be relieved to have it all done. While I was between eyes, DH removed the lens from my glasses on the side that was already done. So I was looking through one surgically corrected eye and one corrected by glasses. That kept me from going nuts. Is that something you can do? It doesn’t help the cataract that remains, but at least it removes a layer of difference between your eyes.


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My nest operation is next Thursday 11-2.

My lenses in my glasses seem FIRMLY embedded, my cataract doctor did not seem to think it would do me that much good after I told him I just could not get it out.

Besides, if I need some corrective glasses after the operation I can have a professional deal with the lenses, they have the equipment and the skills that I don’t have.

I can deal with 5 more days.

My face can finally heal up some without wearing glasses for a while.

Now I have to look into UV blocking goggles/sunglasses that can also keep the horse/feed/bedding dust out of my eyes at the stable and protect my eyes from the sunlight.

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I bought Walmart wraparound sunglasses after my surgery. I have multiple pairs of them: one in each car, one that lives with my bike, and one or two others scattered around. They have a good rating for blocking UV, and I paid seven to ten bucks for each. They keep the dust out of my eyes when it’s windy or I have to go by someone with a leaf blower (fondly known in my house as Blowhards).



Thank you Rebecca!