Developing Powerful Horse Muscles With Carnosine

Table of Contents

Developing Powerful Horse Muscles With Carnosine

Table of Contents

Fédération Equestre Internationale

Horses, magnificent and powerful creatures, are the heart of many sports and riding disciplines. Their strength, agility, and grace are a marvel, but these qualities are not without their risks. The intricate network of muscles that powers these noble animals is both their source of strength and a potential point of vulnerability.

For horse riders, trainers, and enthusiasts in various fields of horse sports, an intimate knowledge of these muscles is not just academic—it’s a critical component in the health and performance of their equine partners.

Understanding the complexity of horse muscles goes far beyond mere anatomy. It’s about knowing how to develop these muscles safely and being able to prevent injuries before they occur. And to achieve this, we will look at a truly remarkable dipeptide called carnosine.


The Muscular Framework of Horses

Horses have three primary types of muscles: skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscles. This article will focus on the skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles are responsible for facilitating movement through the process of muscle contraction. These contractions enable conscious activities like walking, running, and jumping.

Keep reading if you’d like a comprehensive look into each muscle group and its importance. If not, skip down to the next section.


The Hindquarters

The hindquarters of a horse, a critical area for power and propulsion, consist of several important skeletal muscle groups. The most prominent among these are the gluteal muscles, including the gluteus medius and gluteus superficialis, responsible for the hind limb’s extension and abduction. These muscles give the horse the ability to gallop and jump powerfully.

Beneath the gluteals, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus (collectively part of the hamstring group) play key roles in flexing the stifle and extending the hip joint, crucial for forward thrust.

Related: Horse Stifle Injuries: Prevention, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

The gastrocnemius, or the calf muscle, is also significant in the hindquarters, contributing to the extension of the hock and flexion of the stifle, which is important for sprinting and sudden movements. These muscles work together to provide the strength and agility horses are renowned for, especially in demanding equestrian sports.


Shoulder Muscles

The most significant muscle in this area is the trapezius, which extends along the neck and shoulders and is responsible for elevating and stabilizing the scapula (shoulder blade). The deltoid muscles, though smaller, are vital for lifting the front leg and aiding in forward motion. 

Beneath these, the serratus ventralis supports the weight of the horse’s body on its forelimbs and helps in the lateral movement of the neck. The infraspinatus and supraspinatus muscles, located near the top of the shoulder blade, are key in stabilizing the shoulder joint and are essential for a range of movements, including reaching and extending the front legs. 

These muscles collectively ensure the agility, balance, and graceful movement horses are known for, making them essential in daily activities and competitive equestrian sports.


Fédération Equestre Internationale


Back Muscles

The back muscles of a horse are central to its strength, flexibility, and overall well-being, playing a vital role in supporting the spine and facilitating movement. The most significant of these is the longissimus dorsi, which is the largest muscle in the horse’s body. It extends from the neck to the pelvis, aiding in lateral bending, flexion, and spine extension. This muscle is crucial for carrying the rider and allows for the smooth, flowing movements that are essential in many equestrian disciplines.

Adjacent to the longissimus dorsi are the multifidus muscles, smaller but critical for spinal stability and mobility. These muscles help fine-tune the spine’s movements, preventing injuries by ensuring proper alignment and functioning of the vertebral column.

The latissimus dorsi, although primarily associated with the shoulder, also plays a role in the back movement. It assists in the downward movement of the back and is involved in activities where the forelimbs pull against resistance, such as when a horse is jumping or galloping.

Together, these muscles form a complex network that supports the horse’s spine, contributes to its powerful movement, and is essential for the horse’s ability to perform a wide range of activities, from casual riding to high-level competition.


Neck Muscles

The most prominent muscle in this region is the brachiocephalic muscle, which runs from the back of the skull to the humerus. This muscle is key in advancing the forelimb and extending the neck, allowing for a range of movements necessary in various equestrian activities.

Another significant muscle group is the splenius muscles, which are situated on the top part of the horse’s neck. These muscles are responsible for elevating and turning the head and neck, contributing to the horse’s ability to look and move in different directions smoothly.

The sternocleidomastoid, although less visible, is vital for lateral bending and rotation of the head. It works in tandem with the other neck muscles to facilitate intricate movements required in dressage and other disciplines that demand high levels of precision and control.

The complex of smaller suboccipital muscles at the poll (the area between the ears) is important for the fine-tuning of head position and subtle movements. These muscles are key in achieving the delicate balance and nuanced communication between horse and rider.

Together, these muscles not only contribute to the horse’s impressive range of motion but also play a vital role in its ability to perform tasks ranging from basic locomotion to advanced equestrian maneuvers.


Fédération Equestre Internationale


Core Muscle Groups For Each Discipline

Horse sports disciplines are diverse, each placing unique demands on different muscle groups of the horse. Here’s a breakdown of some popular disciplines and the primary muscle groups involved:

Dressage: Focuses heavily on the back, abdominal, and hindquarter muscles. Precision and control in movements require strong engagement of the longissimus dorsi, abdominal muscles for posture, and gluteal muscles for power.

Show Jumping: Primarily utilizes the hindquarters, back, and shoulder muscles. The gluteals and hamstrings provide the explosive power needed for jumping, while the longissimus dorsi and shoulder muscles (like the deltoid and trapezius) aid in balance and landing.

Eventing (Cross Country): Demands an all-around muscle workout, especially the hindquarters, back, and heart (cardiac muscle). The varied nature of cross-country courses means horses need strong overall muscular endurance.

Racing (Flat and Steeplechase): Relies heavily on the hindquarters, including gluteal and hamstring muscles, for speed and thrust and the heart for cardiovascular endurance.

Polo: Engages the neck, shoulder, and hindquarters muscles. Quick turns and rapid accelerations require strong neck muscles for steering and powerful hindquarters for speed.

Reining: Focuses on the hindquarters and back muscles. The quick stops and sharp turns characteristic of reining demand strong gluteal and longissimus dorsi muscles.

Endurance Riding: Emphasizes the heart and back muscles. Long distances require great cardiovascular endurance and a strong back to maintain posture over extended periods.

Vaulting: Utilizes the back and abdominal muscles. The horse’s ability to maintain a steady gait with a vaulter performing gymnastic movements on their back requires a strong and stable core.

Driving (Carriage Horses): Primarily uses the shoulder, back, and hindquarters muscles. Pulling a carriage demands strong trapezius and deltoid muscles in the shoulders, as well as the longissimus dorsi and gluteals.

Western Pleasure: Focuses on the back, abdominal, and neck muscles. Smooth, controlled movements require a strong core and neck muscles for precise head carriage.

Related: Muscle Recovery Supplements for Horses: How Do They Work?




How Tendons and Ligaments Contribute to Efficient Movement

Ligaments are tough, elastic bands of connective tissue that connect bones to other bones at joints. While tendons are robust, fibrous cords that attach muscles to bones. They play a pivotal role in movement by transmitting the force generated by muscle contractions to the bones, thus facilitating motion. Tendons also act as shock absorbers and energy storage systems, particularly in the legs, where they help in energy-efficient locomotion, such as during galloping or jumping.

Both ligaments and tendons are integral to the functioning of a horse’s muscles. Muscles generate the force required for movement, but without the stabilizing support of ligaments and the force-transmitting capabilities of tendons, efficient and controlled motion would be impossible.

The strength and elasticity of tendons complement muscle function, allowing for powerful, fluid movements, while ligaments prevent excessive movement, protecting muscles from overextension or strain. This synergistic relationship ensures that a horse can move gracefully, efficiently, and powerfully, whether during a competitive sport or a leisurely trot.

Now that you have a better idea of the muscular framework of a horse, as well as the importance of healthy tendons and ligaments, let’s look at a naturally occurring substance that helps protect and aid in their recovery.


Carnosine as a Natural Supplement for Equine Muscle Care

Carnosine is a dipeptide composed of the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine and is naturally found in high concentrations in horse muscles. This substance plays a significant role in muscle health and performance, particularly in athletic horses.

In the realm of muscle function, carnosine acts primarily as a buffer against acid buildup in muscles, a common issue during intense exercise. Muscles produce lactic acid during rigorous activities like racing or jumping, leading to fatigue and decreased performance. 

Carnosine helps to stabilize the pH level in muscles by neutralizing the excess acid, thereby delaying muscle fatigue and enhancing endurance. This buffering capacity is crucial for horses in demanding sports, where muscle endurance and resilience are key.

Beyond its role in muscle fibers, carnosine also contributes indirectly to the health of ligaments and tendons. By supporting muscle health and reducing fatigue, it ensures that muscles can effectively absorb and distribute the forces exerted during movement. This distribution of force helps in reducing the strain on ligaments and tendons, which are often prone to injuries due to overloading or imbalanced force distribution. 


Carnosine Supplementation with CARNOGEL

When we ingest carnosine directly, it’s broken down by digestive enzymes into its constituent amino acids — beta-alanine and L-histidine — before it reaches skeletal muscles, making oral carnosine supplementation an ineffective method for elevating muscle carnosine levels in humans. Due to the ability of transdermal carnosine to prevent declines in performance during sustained efforts and to aid in recovery from strenuous effort, this formulation is ideal for horses that engage in a wide variety of athletic endeavors (e.g. racing, show jumping, polo).

In cooperation with the Tartu Pharmacology Institute, Chemipower has proudly produced an equine gel, the main ingredient being carnosine, that can safely be applied directly to the needed muscle group. This targeted approach means the effect is stronger and therefore the results are more visible. 

It is a doping-free product and has been approved for use by all sports federations, regardless of the difficulty level and type of competition. 




In conclusion, the journey through the muscular framework of horses highlights these majestic animals’ extraordinary complexity and capability. From the powerful thrust of the hindquarters to the delicate precision of the neck muscles, each group plays a vital role in the horse’s athletic performance and overall well-being.

The introduction of carnosine offers a promising avenue for enhancing muscle health and endurance. This natural compound’s ability to buffer acid buildup and support muscle, tendon, and ligament health is a game-changer in equine sports and care. 

Carnogels’ specialized carnosine formula is designed to enhance muscle health, ensuring your equine athlete experiences improved endurance and vitality. Choose Carnogel for a noticeable difference in your horse’s muscular performance and stamina.