I've Been Studying Horse Anatomy

I have been riding MJ for my riding lessons, walk, trot, halts and turns. I have also been riding my Home Horse with Shannon's help every Sunday, and last Sunday I made it to 22 minutes riding my Home Horse!!!! But there has been nothing new, nothing exciting and certainly nothing ground breaking in my riding this summer. Riding in the summer heat can get boring for me.

However I have been buying a lot of books on Horse Anatomy, weighty tomes that help me get weight bearing exercise, moving stacks of heavy books back and forth across my bedroom. I have vet school books, books by veterinarians, and books by anatomists full of anatomical pictures of horses, right now I own 18 books on general Horse Anatomy. Why so many? Well horse anatomy is complicated and it is impossible to get every single detail within 200 or so pages. Also the anatomical drawings and descriptions of dissected horses and every horse is different, with different breeding, training, conformation and veterinary histories. No two books show exactly the same thing horse-wide in the pictures because horses are not identical.

I also am using the “3-D Horse Anatomy” computer program by Biosphera, with which I can isolate systems, rotate the picture, go down layers, magnify a particular area and see the lay of the individual muscles (roughly). This program is not totally perfect but it is excellent for enabling me to see how the horse hangs together.

Right now I am concentrating on the horse's forehand, basically the part of the horse that carries my weight, the neck muscles at the base of the neck that also go back down the spine, shoulder muscles and the muscles that I sit upon when I ride a horse. Some of these muscles link up to the nuchal and supraspinus ligament, the nuchal part forms the crest of the neck and the supraspinous part goes under the saddle back to the end of the croup. The “sling muscles” of the scapula (shoulder blade) and sternum (breast bone) bear the weight of the horse's head, neck and the front of the horse's back, not bone to bone but a sling of muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints that absorb the shocks when horses move and carry the weight of the horse's forehand and the rider. There are MANY muscles that support my weight when I ride a horse. There are layers of muscles that carry us, in places there are 4 layers of muscle under us (plus ligaments and bones.) Someday I might even learn all of them.

As I wrote earlier it is COMPLICATED!!!!!

These multiple layers of shoulder and back muscles is why people have to refit or even buy a new saddle as training progresses. As these muscles get stronger many of them become thicker, and when 4 layers of muscles get thicker it all adds up and the saddle suddenly becomes too tight in front, irritating the horse and interfering with the muscles and the shoulder blades as they try to move under our weight. The saddle that fits the horse perfectly at the start of training will most definitely not fit the horse perfectly when the horse is fully trained. The rider also has to adapt their position because the horse is thicker and wider between the rider's legs and the saddle sits differently on the horse's back.

To my great surprise studying horse anatomy is cheering me up! My brain is happy, it has a lot of new stuff to learn, leisure to learn it, and multiple sources of information to compare. The part of my brain that likes looking at pictures (horses!) is delighted and looks forward to doing this every single day. Some days, like when I ride a horse or ride my Home Horse, I get too tired to carry the books and look at multiple pictures, those days I just look at the 3-D horse anatomy program. Every day I notice something new, and everyday I spend trying to follow a muscle from front to back or vice versa.

I no longer sit around being BORED, desperately looking for any type of amusement that can hold my interest. I go into a studying trance, losing track of time, and forgetting all the world-wide chaos swirling around us.

This is a hobby that I hopefully will be able to enjoy through my old age.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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