The horse’s body: the head and the neck

To know the horse it is important to know first of all its normal body and the way it works


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The horse’s body is divided into a head, a neck, a trunk, four limbs and a tail. The head and the neck have a great deal of movement at the end of the more rigid trunk which gives attachment to the limbs. The head contains the brain and special organs (eyes, ears, nose and taste buds) and for efficient use of these, mobility is needed. The ability to move the head and neck is also important because it is through the mouth, equipped with teeth and mobile lips, that the horse ingests his food and water.
​The body, or trunk, is divided into two compartments. The front compartement, or chest cavity, formed by the ribs, houses the lungs an heart, and the rear compartement, housed within the abdominal muscles and pelvis, contains the stomach, bowels, liver, kidneys, bladder, spleen and various glands. These cavities are completely separated from each other by a sheet of muscle known as diaphgram. The skeleton gives support and shape to the body. It is made up of a large number of bones joined together at joints which are bound by ligaments. For sport horses, the important joints are in the limbs, because these are the most likely to be injured.

Bad conformation predisposes the horse to injury or disease. Over the years, breeding has gravitated towards the production of certain ideals associated with beauty and armony, good movements, speed, strength, temperament, agility etc. This, naturally, has related to the type of use for which the particular horse was intended.
A good head should be of a size proportionate to the horse. A head that is too big tends to unbalance the animal. The muzzle should be well defined with large but not dilated nostrils and the straight faceline should be wide and flat between the eyes. A good width should exist between the branches of the lower jaw. The lips cover the upper and the lower incisor teeth wich should meet at the tables.
The eyes shold be large, prominent and clear with uniformly curved lips. Ears should be very well placed and alert. Drooping ears have been considered to be a sign of sluggishness, though some very good families of horses have carried this characteristic through their better members. Long ears are said to be associated with speed!
The neck should be straight and not too heavy since the carriage of the head is largely dependent on the shape of the neck. A ewe neck may indicate uncertain temperament. The angle at which the head is set on the neck is also important; if too acute it may restrict the larynx and, thus, the breathing.
​The greatest horsemen are able to judge what is the best looking at a horse. Very often even they cannot explain what it is that attracts them. It may be instinctive, but it is a talent which is very hard to come by without learning and experience.