Anatomy And Training

A brief insight into the anatomy of the horse…

The Shoulders and Forelimbs

(The key points of the shoulder are shown on picture 1)


The shoulders carry 60% of the weight of the horse. Tendons in the digits and the suspensory ligament in the pastern work with the shoulders to provide shock absorption. This is invaluable for competitive jumping but also leaves the shoulder vulnerable to injury. Landing after a jump requires an intense effort from all shoulder muscles. Excessive jumping will therefore overload the cushioning provided by the ligaments and tendons in the forelimbs potentially causing an overuse injury.

Diagram of horses upper anatomy
Diagram of horses upper anatomy


The pectoral muscles (shown in picture 2) act as a brake on the extension of the arm as it descends. They are involved in simultaneous stretching and braking and can therefore be subject to unexpected elongation. Excessive dressage schooling can therefore leave the horse very sensitive and painful in the chest region

Working in an outline

Working with the neck lowered strengthens the abdominal muscles and relaxes the top line. It places extra load on the forehand consequently lightening the load on the hindquarters. This overloading of the forehand results in a raising of the chest between the two forelimbs. The development of the pectoral and serratus muscles contributes to improved support of the forelimbs and makes the horse lighter on the forehand when the neck is returned to its normal position.

Because working in an outline develops the majority of the shoulder muscles it would therefore be of benefit to any horses competing in jumping or dressage. However, excessive work in this position should be avoided as it places an overload and increased pressure on the joints, ligaments, and tendons of the forelimb.

Diagram of horses lower anatomy
Diagram of horses lower anatomy

The Hindend and Hindlimbs

The musculature of this area is involved in propulsion of the horse. Incline and decline work on a slight slope will aid the development of back and hind end muscles. If your horse participates in endurance events such as cross country where slopes are involved it is important to also practice ascent and descent work at home. This should however be limited and only done in walk and canter as trotting excessively up hills compromises the pelvis joint.

The two main hamstring muscles in the hind end (shown in blue on picture 1) will often be tight and sore on the horse as they are the main deceleration force when a horse slows down or comes to an abrupt stop.

Give your horse a helping hand

Advanced mobility supplements such as Complete HA include all the key ingredients for maintaining long term joint and soft tissue health through both training and competitive work. Just as human athletes will support their training regime with nutritional supplements, horses are dependent on their caring owner to provide the tools for repairing every day joint and soft tissue wear.

Choosing supplements that include glucosamine for horses might seem unnecessary in a horse with no existing problems, but a heavy workload or competition is physiologically stressful, and feeding a high strength glucosamine based supplement allows the body to repair itself more easily and slows down any accelerated degeneration of the joint tissue.

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