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Dogs and horses: Shoulders and Hind-ends

So this one is for all you anatomy nerds. And don’t worry if you’re not too into your anatomy this is a super short and simple look at the muscle of dogs and horses.

Let’s take a look at the shoulder and hind-end anatomy of dogs and horse's focusing on their differences and how that alters our fitness goals and programs for our pets.

In this blog we will cover:

  1. Dog shoulder anatomy

  2. Dog hind-end anatomy

  3. Horse shoulder anatomy

  4. Horse hind-end anatomy

  5. Differences in training

Dog shoulder anatomy:

Superficially we have the trapezius, deltoids, triceps and bracialis with the rhomboids, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major/minor and biceps sitting deeper as you can see in the 2 images below.

Dog Hindend anatomy:

Superficially we have the superficial gluteal, middle gluteal and biceps femoris with the rest of the hamstrings (semimembranosus and semitendinosis) and quads sitting deeper. You can see these in the 2 above images.

Horse shoulder anatomy:

In our horses the supraspinatus and infraspinatus and biceps all have superficial portions unlike in the dog where they are fully covered and are deep muscles. You can see the differences in the 2 images below.

Horse Hindend anatomy:

Unlike in the dog in horses the semimembranosus and semitendinosus can be seen superficially and only the quads sit deeper. See above images.

Differences in training:

So horse's tend to have much more prevalent and easily felt shoulder and hindend muscles. This isn’t surprising, if you compare a race horse to a racing greyhound for example, you can see the definition in horse's muscles much more easily than in dogs.

What does that mean for our training? Simply it will be easier to see and assess our horse's muscle mass than it is our dogs. Which also means we have to be more mindful of our pets weight. If its harder to see the muscle mass we have to be sure we are measuring changes in muscle and not just fat coverage. This is where body condition scoring can help us.

Take a look at how body condition scoring can help here:

Changes to our pets fitness programs come primarily for the different functions of our pets muscles. Luckily for us there aren’t too many differences. The main differences are in the position of the gluteal muscles. This muscle group is much bigger in horse's than it is in dogs. You can find out more about hindlimb muscles here :

When it comes to changes in programs the major change I like to make is focusing more on hip and stifle extension in dogs and more on overall stride length in horses. This is because in horses due to the reciprocal mechanism the hock and stifle move together but this isn’t the case in dogs. I also like to focus on the pet's job so to speak for example if we want our pets to jump we need to focus on the hamstrings and quads more than in a pet who we just want to have high endurance.

For more infor on how to create a full program for your dog or horse check out this blog:

So overall changes in anatomy between dog's and horse's shoulders and hind-ends are fairly slim and don't much impact their conditioning programs, unlike their chosen sports.

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