How a Horse Works

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


Snowy Horse Rides!!!

snowy rideHello!

Have you had any snow this winter?

There has been rumours of snow in other parts of the country, but I’ve not had any yet. It certainly feels very wintery though – the mornings are frozen, with frosted fields and watercolour-painted skies. It’s beautiful but so very cold, cold, cold!!

Later in the mornings, the amber sun burns into a snow-coloured sky. Poetic, yes, but it really is that beautiful! I love the snow and am hoping there will be some soon. I think I’m probably being overly optimistic!!!

It’s one of my dreams to ride in the snow!! I thought I’d share some tips I’ve come across but, just to warn you, I’ve not had the opportunity to test them out. If you’ve ever ridden in the snow I’d be interested to know if they actually work!

1: It’s kind of common sense that you should only ride in the snow in a safe environment that you know well. Snow can be dangerous because it hides ruts, ditches, and ice. Never ride on roads.

2: Remember that, unless you live somewhere a lot colder than I do, snow is likely to be unfamiliar to most horses and they might be a bit spooky. Lead them out in it first, particularly if they don’t live out in fields, and progress gradually. It’s a good idea not to ride out alone. Take friends with you, either riding or on foot, and of course always tell someone where you are going and how long you will be.

3: Snow can be slippery so never forget this risk. You can do a slow trot and steady canter if conditions are right, but if uncertain stay to a walk. At least that’s what I’ve heard – I’m doubtful as to the safety of going any faster than a plod in the snow, but you’ll know best what’s safe for you.

4: Only ride out if the conditions are safe. Light powdery snow a few inches thick is good. Icy, mushy, and deep snow are all dangerous. Don’t ride if it’s snowing heavily, but you probably already know that!

5: Wear warm layers, including gloves, and give your horse a warm exercise blanket!! Actually, just do that even if there’s no snow!!! I don’t know about you, but in my last riding lesson I felt like I was turning to ice! Wear florescent reflective tabards like you would (should?!) for road riding, even if you’re not going on the roads. If the worst happens it’ll make it easier for an air ambulance to find you.

6: Cover the inside of your horse’s hooves with a thick layer of Vaseline, which should prevent snow from balling up in them and stop your horse from ending up walking on snow stilts! I’m really curious to know if this works!!

7: Riding through snow is harder work for your horse than normal riding. Give him breaks every now and then, but keep him moving so he doesn’t get cold.

If you’ve ever had the chance to ride in the snow please tell me about it! If not, you’ll just have to keep hoping for snow like me!!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!

See you soon!

Horse Daydreamer xxx