The realization of the vast range of physical evolutionary changes that occurred in the horse began in 1825 with the first fossil discovery of the form of ‘Eohippus’, or Hyracotherium- a Tapir-like creature- as it was initially documented by renowned French Palaeontologist, Baron Georges Cuvier. This original mammal had a short neck, a “low wither” and “it articulated more tightly in the last lumbar,” meaning it had a smaller range of motion at the base of the spine than in today’s horse. (The Evolution of the Horse, Deb Barnett, 2008). You will be able to see this range of motion when your horse is happily bucking away in the field or in some special cases…with you on its back!! What a beautiful thought- that the horse we know and love today started off as something no bigger than the size of a dog. What development. The growth that this species has undergone has been immense, both in size and physical ability. This early species also had five toes, unlike ‘Equus” that we know today, with just the one ‘hoof’.
There were not just one or two skeletal variations in the family known as ‘Equid’. In 1872, T. H. Huxley, a sidekick and subscriber of the theories of Charles Darwin, summarised that there had been many significant findings of similar successive species in America, Europe and Asia, that had small morphological or physical differences which all seemed to add up to large variations over time. This meant that even though bones of ‘Equid’ were found worldwide, they all had to belong to the one family. (Barnett, 2008). This finding is so important for the anatomy of the horse in 2016. For example, look at the difference between taller, more slender-legged thoroughbreds in Europe, with shorter, thicker boned racehorses in Australia. This difference is due to the fact that the horses travel on a different ground- Australian soil being firmer in most cases than the softer, deeper ground that UK thoroughbreds travel on. So it is safe to say that the Anatomy or the physical attributes of the horse are constantly morphing and adapting to its surroundings.
It is also fair to say then, that a horse in colder weather will carry a different shape to a horse in a warmer climate. For example, look at the effects around the Wither or around the barrel from either lusher grass during autumn and winter or perhaps even extra hard feed. The changing shape of the horse coupled with a physical need to be able to stride freely, particularly in racing or eventing is exactly what led Peter Horobin to create, with like-minded professionals, the StrideFree tree and the beautiful saddles that go with it.
Just like it has done throughout evolution, the shape of your horse today is constantly changing and Peter saw a need to provide riders with better alternatives for their horses, so that no matter what discipline you choose to ride in, you will always be reassured that your horse is wearing a saddle that adapts to its shape and movement through flexibility and the ease of getting the saddle specially fitted to your horse as and when you need it.
Over the next few weeks, we will dive further into how the age of the horse versus the type or amount of work it does will affect its shape and muscle structure. The conclusion we will achieve is that your horse is constantly changing shape all the time and your tack should change to fit your horse too.
So jump on board and join us this month to discover more about the changing Anatomy of your the Horse.