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Design

How to Draw Animals: Horses, Their Anatomy and Poses

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This post is part of a series called How to Draw Animals.
How to Draw Animals: Dogs and Wolves, and Their Anatomy
How to Draw Animals: Big Cats, Their Anatomy and Patterns

Running horses are beautiful and graceful creatures. However, they can be one of the hardest animals to draw. I will show you how to draw this majestic creature, referencing their basic anatomy to make sure you create a natural pose. You'll also learn about horse gaits to draw realistic and dynamic poses.


1. The Skeleton of a Horse

Step 1

A skeleton is the base for a whole body, so we need to learn it to understand the animal's movement and poses. But don't worry, you're not supposed to count the ribs. Just take a good look at this.

drawinghorse_1-1_skeleton

Step 2

Use the skeleton to see the basic structure of every pose. Remember all the joints (circles) and bones (lines), their placement and proportions between them, and you're able to draw every horse!

drawinghorse_1-2_skeleton_simplified

Step 3

It's important to remember that hooves aren't feet - they're fingers. Actual feet start at the joints that looks like knees and elbows to us. So, a horse doesn't have a knee in the forelegs - it's a wrist!

drawinghorse_1-3_feet

Step 4

A pony is a horse too. Just remember it has a shorter neck and legs - the rest stays the same.

drawinghorse_1-4_pony_skeleton

Step 5

A foal is the opposite to a pony - just look at its unproportionally long legs!

drawinghorse_1-5_foal_skeleton

2. A Look at Horse Poses

Now you know how to draw a stationary horse, but let's be honest - it's boring. To bring a pose to life you need to understand how horses move, and, more importantly, how they don't. If you guess the pose, you may accidentally confuse trot with gallop, making the picture unrealistic, no matter how much time you have spent on drawing the muscles and light reflexes.

Step 1

A "walk" is first and the slowest horse movement. In this pose a horse is standing on the ground with three feet, while one foot is raised. It's a four-beat gait (four knocks can be heard).

drawinghorse_2-1_walking_animation
drawinghorse_2-1_walking_frames

Walk

Step 2

Trot is a kind of gait that horses use for long distances. In this pose a horse moves its legs in diagonal pairs, in a two-beat rhythm.

drawinghorse_2-2_trot_animation
drawinghorse_2-2_trot_frames

Trot

Step 3

Canter is faster than a trot, but slower than a gallop. It's a three-beat gait, and a horse uses one of its hind legs to move the others forward.

drawinghorse_2-3_canter_animation
drawinghorse_2-3_canter_frames

Canter

Step 4

A gallop is very similar to canter, but it's faster and uses a four-beat rhythm. Also, there's a mistake that used to be done by masters of painting. Do you remember painted horses in gallop, with all the legs stretched in the air? It doesn't work like this. When a horse is extending its legs, at least one of them stays on the ground. The "suspension" phase happens when all the legs are bent under the body.

drawinghorse_2-4_gallop_animation
drawinghorse_2-4_gallop_frames

Gallop
drawinghorse_2-4_gallop_canter_difference

The difference between canter and gallop
drawinghorse_2-4_gallop_mistakes

Don't ever draw this pose

Step 5

A very cool, yet a bit uncomfortable pose for a horse is prancing. This pose is very hard to maintain for a longer time, and it works like a jump of excitement for a horse. To draw it naturally, you need to place the hind legs at a correct angle.

drawinghorse_2-5_prancing_pose

Step 6

Horses are able to sleep in standing position, but it doesn't mean they can't lay down. Actually, they need to lay down to take a real rest. They usually lay on one side, with legs bent, but they can also sleep "flat", with whole body relaxed.

drawinghorse_2-6_laying_pose
drawinghorse_2-6_laying_pose2

Step 7

Horses look very gracefully when jumping. Also, when a horse is being suspended in the air, its pose is perfect for a flying Pegasus.

drawinghorse_2-7_jumping
drawinghorse_2-7_jumping_frames

Step 8

So, that was all about the poses. You can now choose your own for your picture.

drawinghorse_2-8_pose_done

3. The Muscles of a Horse

Step 1

Muscles give shape to the body, so you need to learn them too. Unfortunately, a horse's muscular body can be seen very clearly under the skin, so if you'll want to skip this step, your horses will never look realistic.

If you want to draw a horse quickly, here comes a simplified scheme. It will let you draw a good shape of the body without diving into details.

drawinghorse_3-1_muscles_simplified

Step 2

Here comes a more complicated structure. It's all you need to draw a believable body. You may think you won't ever need it, but without them the skin would be flat.

drawinghorse_3-2_muscles
drawinghorse_3-2_muscles_back_front

Step 3

Add muscles to your pose.

drawinghorse_3-3_muscles_done

Step 4

Next thing is the skin. It covers the muscles, hiding the sharp borders between them. The bulges of muscles under the skin reflect the light individually, making the body surface irregular and full of depth.

drawinghorse_3-4_skin

Step 5

Horse breeds can be divided into hot-bloods, cold-bloods, and warm bloods. Hot-bloods are slim, long-legged and nobly looking (think Arabian horses), fast and intelligent. Cold-bloods are typical draft horses (like these from Skyrim) - big, heavy and muscular, but also slow-thinking and gentle. Warm bloods are a mixture of both.

drawinghorse_3-5_blood

Step 6

Erase the lines of muscles that touch each other.

drawinghorse_3-6_skin_done

4. Draw the Hooves of a Horse

Step 1

Hooves are, in fact, a horse's nails. Horses are odd-toed, which means their hooves aren't split. Drawing split hooves is permissible only if your horse is going to be a unicorn.

To draw a hoof from the side view, draw a line extending the leg's length. Then draw a rhombus touching the line with one corner.

drawinghorse_4-1_hooves

Step 2

Cover the rhombus with a kind of cap.

drawinghorse_4-2_hooves

Step 3

Create an outline over these shapes.

drawinghorse_4-3_hooves

Step 4

Add a bit of hair and draw a rough texture of a nail.

drawinghorse_4-4_hooves

Step 5

To draw a hoof from the front, draw a rounded, slightly tapered shape at the bottom of the line.

drawinghorse_4-5_hooves

Step 6

Cover it with a cap.

drawinghorse_4-6_hooves

Step 7

Create the outline, as before.

drawinghorse_4-7_hooves

Step 8

Add the hair and textures. It's done!

drawinghorse_4-8_hooves

Step 9

Drawing a hoof from the back is equally easy. Start with the same rounded shape like before, but this time make the cap big and falling.

drawinghorse_4-9_hooves

Step 10

Create the outline.

drawinghorse_4-10_hooves

Step 11

Again, add the hair and texture.

drawinghorse_4-11_hooves

Step 12

My horse now has hooves.

drawinghorse_4-12_hooves_done

5. Draw a Horse Head

Step 1

To draw a head from profile, start with three circles - one for the main part of the skull, one for the muzzle and one for a nostril.

drawinghorse_5-1_head_profile

Step 2

Connect the circles and add an ear.

drawinghorse_5-2_head_profile

Step 3

Divide the "muzzle" circle into three parts to draw the lips.

drawinghorse_5-3_head_profile

Step 4

Draw a nostril inside the "nostril" circle and draw two lines from the nostril to the ear.

drawinghorse_5-4_head_profile

Step 5

Draw a line laying on the two muzzle circles, then divide the main circle into halves with a line parallel to it.

drawinghorse_5-5_head_profile

Step 6

Divide the upper half into halves again. Use the guide lines you've just created to place the eye. If you're drawing a foal, make the eye bigger.

drawinghorse_5-6_head_profile

Step 7

Now you can sketch the details, including the muscles under the skin. Remember the cheeks are flat, not really round.

drawinghorse_5-7_head_profile

Step 8

To draw a horse head from the front, start with an oval and a circle.

drawinghorse_5-8_head_front

Step 9

Add the nostrils, using a guide line across the circle.

drawinghorse_5-9_head_front

Step 10

Connect the oval and the circle, add the ears and the forehead.

drawinghorse_5-10_head_front

Step 11

Add the eyes, using guide lines splitting the oval to fourths.

drawinghorse_5-11_head_front

Step 12

Add the details, using the head anatomy for more realistic look.

drawinghorse_5-12_head_front

6. Draw Horse Eyes

Step 1

Draw a circle and divide it into four sections. Cross it with a line to cut it in half, then add another line just above it.

drawinghorse_6-1_eyes

Step 2

Draw a lemon shape using the guide lines.

drawinghorse_6-2_eyes

Step 3

Draw the eyelids.

drawinghorse_6-3_eyes

Step 4

Draw the eyelashes. They should be straight and dense.

drawinghorse_6-4_eyes

Step 5

The pupil should be horizontal, but most likely it won't be visible at all from distance, since horses have rather dark, brown eyes. If you're drawing a whole horse and the eye is just a detail, draw it all black. You'll need to add the pupil only if the eye is blue.

drawinghorse_6-5_eyes

Step 6

Draw and shade the area around the eye. It's very important for its overall shape. Also, add a shine to the eyelashes to make them stand out.

drawinghorse_6-6_eyes

Step 7

To draw an eye from the front, start with a vertical ellipse and proper guide lines.

drawinghorse_6-7_eyes

Step 8

Add the eyelids.

drawinghorse_6-8_eyes

Step 9

Draw the eyeball covered with upper eyelid.

drawinghorse_6-9_eyes

Step 10

Add the eyelashes.

drawinghorse_6-10_eyes

Step 11

Draw the pupil.

drawinghorse_6-11_eyes

Step 12

Add a final polish to the eye.

drawinghorse_6-12_eyes

7. Draw Horse Ears

Step 1

To draw a horse ear, start with a circle (or a half of it, if it's a front view), then divide it into four parts and use them as guide lines.

drawinghorse_7-1_ears_front
drawinghorse_7-2_ears_side

8. Draw a Horse Muzzle

Step 1

A horse's nostrils are quite big, they also can open wider when there's need for more oxygen. The easiest way to draw them is to remember they shape - they look like a 6 number or a reversed comma. So, always start with an oval and place the "6" (or reversed 6) inside, adjusting the 6's roundness to a needed size.

drawinghorse_8-1_nostrils

Step 2

When drawing the muzzle, emphasize only the lower lip and leave the corner falling. Don't forget about whiskers too - horses have a lot of them!

drawinghorse_8-2_lips

Step 3

It's my horse with his head added.

drawinghorse_8-3_head_done

9. Horse Hair

Step 1

A horse's mane grows in a straight line. The strands are usually consistent in length, and they're dense enough to cover one side of the neck.

drawinghorse_9-1_mane

Step 2

A horse tail is actually much shorter than it seems. There are long strands of hair growing out of it, and they can be moved only with the tail.

drawinghorse_9-2_tail

Step 3

Very long hair covering the hooves is called feathering. It's characteristic for draft horses.

drawinghorse_9-3_feathering

Step 4

Wind makes the mane fabulous!

drawinghorse_9-4_hair_done

You're done!

That was a long course, but I'm sure now you're a horse expert!

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