To truly understand a horse and be able to form a partnership that brings out the best in them, we need to know how their bodies work. Through learning about equine anatomy and physiology we will become better aware of how best to care for and ride them.
Horses have 12 body systems which, while independent, also interact with each other. These systems have been shaped by millions of years of evolution to suit horses’ niche of their intended role in nature.
1. Integumentary System
The integumentary system includes the skin, hair, whiskers, hooves, and glands. It works to protect the horse from the external environment, regulate body temperature, and sense pain or pressure.
2. Skeletal System
The skeletal system includes the bones, of which horses have about 205. It gives structure, protects vital organs, and supports the softer parts of the horse’s body.
3. Muscular System
The muscular system consists of the muscles, and together with the skeletal system forms the larger musculoskeletal system. It works to create and allow movement, both of the body and inside the body.
4. Fascia, Tendons, & Ligaments
The fascia, tendons, and ligaments are sometimes considered part of the muscular system, but are not muscles themselves. They work to join bones together, connect muscles to bones, and generally hold the horse’s body together.
5. Digestive System
The digestive system includes the horse’s mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. It digests food, breaks down nutrients for absorption, and expels waste.
6. Respiratory System
The respiratory system includes the nostrils, trachea, bronchi, lungs, and alveoli. It allows the horse to breath, oxygenates the blood so the horse’s body can function, and removes carbon dioxide.
7. Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system involves the horse’s heart, blood vessels, and blood. It is one of the most important systems because it’s responsible for moving blood around the body along with nutrients, waste, and gases.
8. Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is in some ways similar to the cardiovascular system and involves vessels, nodes, and lymph fluid. It works to return body fluids to the blood, filter pathogens or foreign particles, and create disease-fighting white blood cells.
9. Nervous System
The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and neurons. It sends information about both the external environment and inside the body to the central nervous system in the brain, and then influences the horse’s reactions to this information.
10. Endocrine System
The endocrine system includes the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, pancreas, adrenal glands, and ovaries (female) or testes (male). It creates hormones to regulate various processes in the horse’s body.
11. Urinary System
The urinary system involves the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. It works to removes waste products, and maintain the correct balance of water and electrolyte salts in the horse’s body.
12. Reproductive System
The reproductive system involves the internal and external genitalia of both mares and male horses. It works in different ways in each gender to ensure (unless humans interfere and prevent it) that foals will be born to continue equine existence.
Researching for this blog article has involved a lot of flashbacks to the GCSE science that I’d forgotten! Maybe I would have remembered better if my teachers had used horses rather than humans as the examples! I find it interesting now though to learn more about how horses work so I can come to understand them better.
Horse Daydreamer x