The Horse’s Heart
As horse people, it seems we often speak about a horse’s heart–but we’re not usually referring to the actual organ, itself. When we say a horse has a lot of heart, we’re speaking of that intangible quality that some horses just naturally have– such as superior athleticism, stoicism, or bravery.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the shen or spirit of an animal is housed in his heart and revealed through his eyes. This is easy to understand when it comes to horses. How many of us have looked into a horse’s eyes and instantly known just what kind of horse he was?
Both TCM and Western medicine recognize the great importance of the heart as an organ though. As horse caregivers, we may not think about the horse’s heart much, but perhaps we should. The heart has a remarkable ability to pump blood throughout the horse’s large body not only during periods of rest, but during the extraordinary feats that horses are often asked to perform. It’s truly an amazing organ!
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are a few interesting facts about the horse’s heart:
- An adult horse’s heart weighs approximately 10 pounds and is about the size of a large melon.
The average resting heart rate in a horse in a well-conditioned horse is typically between 32-40 beats per minute, while the heart rate at a full gallop can exceed 240 beats per minute.
- The output of each ventricle in an adult horse at rest is about 7-10 gallons per minute (25 to 40 liters).
- Horses generally have excellent heart health due mainly to their herbivorous diet.
- Contrary to widespread belief, horses seldom suffer from heart attacks. (see this article for more on that.)
- Horses do occasionally suffer from heart disease, though. The risk increases with age.
Heart Facts from a TCM Standpoint
In TCM, there are twelve major meridians in which chi or life energy flows. Each meridian is associated with an internal organ and connects that organ with the external body. Here are a few facts about and functions of the heart meridian:
- Regulates the nervous system, calming the mind and helping to balance emotions;
- Regulates heat in the body as well as sweat;
- The emotion most associated with the heart is joy;
- Opens in the tongue; and
- Due to its importance, the heart has a protector –the Pericardium.
Happy Heart Day!