Parts of the Horse: Front, Back & Beyond

With respect to the parts of a horse's body, here's a simple run-down:

  • The Front . Feed this end. Twice daily is the norm. Check with Lady Love. Beloved's diet may be restricted. Maybe his hay needs soaking. Whatever it is, a healthy horse has an appetite at all times and spends most of the time browsing for a snack. Speaking of snacks, don't tempt him with your hands at his mouth. "Finger Food" is no joking matter so do keep your digits to yourself. The average horse might wonder if your other body parts are edible too!


Let's now move on to another important area :

It's the horse's engine - very closely connected with its mind - and its panic button, I might add. (It's also the part of the horse you might see most often, as Lady Love is riding off / headed to the pasture / or leaving you to your own for some other reason.)

Further, if you dare look closely, you might see shreds of someone's hard-earned money emanating from this particular zone. This is normal. Attempts to recoup this money have historically failed.

BODY LANGUAGE (AKA "What the He%# is This Horse Thinking?")

Believe it or not, Beloveds experience a wide range of emotions and they have moods and "days" just like we do. Be watchful and you can decode their expressions and behave / respond accordingly. Be sure to look at the whole picture in order to make your best assessments.

Ears:

Forward and perky? Beloved is keenly interested in something. If, at the same time, his head is high and his top-line (neck / back / spine) is tight he's probably really alarmed.

"Off to the sides" can suggest the horse is bored or relaxed, even.

Ears back? Beloved could be listening to something happening behind him. OR he's grown irritated of something. . . as pictured here:


Ears PINNED back (and showing his teeth) means he's downright mad and it's a strong warning!

"I said SLICED carrots!"

Eyes

Very truly, a window to the horse's soul. A relaxed Beloved has "soft" eyes....almost sleeping-sort-of eyes. Blinking - indicates ease / no drama. Wide eyes? Drama lurks. If you see "the whites" of the horse's eyes you ought take caution . . do what you can to eliminate his stressors . . .he just might blow!

Mouth

Best case scenario you see Beloved licking his lips, chewing, yawning, maybe even salivating- or a droopy lower lip. These are all indicators of an easy-going scene. Horse's only breathe through their nostrils, so if Beloved's is open for some reason (other than eating or yawning) you may want to jump ahead to the course section entitled "When to Call the Vet."

Top-line

This describes the area along the horse's spine from the base of the neck, along the back and up and over the croup. When the top-line is tight and contracted, Beloved is Be-Bothered, excited, or amped up. A soft, extended top-line indicates everything's cool and y'all can mind your own:) Pfew.


Tail

. . A sort of flag and a great indicator of mood! (Or fly infestation) A swishy, cranky tail action says the poor horse is irritated. You'll likely see correlating expressions in the ears, eyes and top-line. Or maybe he really is just swatting flies. Again, step back and look at what the other parts are doing and piece it together before Lady Love gets back with her finger about to wag.

If that tail flag is a'flyin' you're safe to venture that he's excited, showing off even!!

Clamped down or tucked between his hind legs? Beloved is frightened, or cold - or otherwise trying to protect himself. Better see what's what.


Feet/Footwork

Quiet feet can indicate a quiet mind, so let's hope it's one of those times.

Pawing the ground while on the cross ties? Ehem! Beloved is trying to tell you something . . ie "Enough already, can we move on now?"

See a hind leg cocked ... one hoof off the floor? This can mean one of two things: a) Beloved is taking a load-off and is at rest (good thing) or b) he's threatening to kick out any nano-second.

Again . . look at other body parts for indicators of ease - or tension - and you'll piece it all together.


Other body parts to get acquainted with:

Let's highlight the "withers" and "shoulder" - these are considered the "relationship zones" on the body of the horse. Rather than introduce yourself at the horse's head . . . make your way to the shoulder area and try connecting there.

Like these two:


A few other parts notes here:


Below are Beloved's hooves. There should be 4 healthy ones supporting his massive structure. Some horses sport "shoes" (see shiny strip at hoof base) and some go barefoot. In either or any case . . the horsewoman's adage says "No hoof, no horse" - meaning these toes are yet another vulnerable spot that needs regular attention.

You'll score big points if you notice Beloved is missing a shoe. Even more points if you find it in the pasture and get the farrier out to tap it back on ASAP.

(The farrier's visit is pretty cool to watch btw.)



If you've got a handle on the material so far, let's move on to the next section.