How to avoid common mistakes while drawing horses

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Astralseed's avatar

Digital Art Week

Hi everyone,
Today I'll be writing about how to avoid common mistakes while drawing horses.  
If you're not used to drawing horses, or you haven't studied their anatomy extensively, you're likely to make one or more of these common mistakes.  Let's learn how to avoid them so that your horse doesn't end up an eccentric mess like this guy below.  

(gif by ThetaDonaldson)


This kind of applies to anything you intend to draw and not just horses, but I can't stress this enough so I felt the need to include this here.  
When I talk about using references, I mean work from photos or real life.  Please don't use other artists art as references, you'll merely learn to copy/make their mistakes.  

Here are some great horse stock artists to get you started:
:iconvenomxbaby: :iconcolourize-stock: :iconchunga-stock: :iconlumibear: :iconequine-resource::iconfillyrox:


I've seen a fair few drawings of horses with tiny nostrils. (Anime horses, I am looking at you!).  While drawing nostrils is pretty straight forward, it is worth noting that a horse's nostrils are larger than the horses eyes.  That means it's a fairly sizable orifice.  Don't let your horse's lungs collapse because you gave them itty bitty nostrils, let them breathe!

Look at that nose!  How many marbles do you think could get lost in there? 


Horse eyes are fairly straight forward, but many people draw circles for pupils.  If you want to go for something more cartoony, circular pupils work fine, but if you want to go more realistic, horse pupils are oval.  

Blue Ice by GeodeLady


Horse ears look very weird when they are improperly placed.  Thankfully there's a simple trick to placing them correctly.  Horse ears are on the top of the head on either side directly behind the skull.  A simple way to line them up properly is to draw a line extending the back of the cheek all the way up.  Ears should be placed directly behind that line.  Not a few centimeters behind that line, but directly behind it.  

Earline by Astralseed


The barrel is the mid-section of the horse; the back and belly.  Horses have bellies that are evenly rounded and backs with a slight dip.  If you're used to drawing canines, you'll want to be aware of giving the belly proper roundness.  If you're used to drawing felines, you'll want to be aware of giving the back a slight dip.  

Look at this round belly!


Horse legs are probably the hardest part of a horse to draw correctly.  While legs seem pretty simple, the proportions on horse legs can throw you for a loop.  You'll likely feel like this while drawing horse legs:

Don't worry, this is perfectly normal!  Embrace your inner masochist and push forward!

The front legs are generally fairly simple and most people draw these correctly.  When it comes to the back legs however, be prepared to pull your hair out.  The best advice I can give is to use lots of references and really study how horse legs work (please don't be one of those people who draws them bending the wrong way... Anime horses, I'm looking at you!). 

Just like anything else it can help significantly to break the horse's legs down into basic shapes as well as marking out joints to help you figure out range of motion.  Here are also some tutorials which might be able to help you work out the mystery of drawing horse legs.

Horses' legs tutorial by branka42 Fargo's Equine Leg Tutorial by Fargonon Foreleg Anatomy Tutorial by Ungnome 

If you can't get past this point, slap a big bush in front of your horse or strap some rockets on its body in place of giving it legs.  Be proud of yourself for trying!


I often see drawings of horses where the artist completely forgot that horses actually have chests.  While horse chests aren't generally very wide, when you forget to add it to your drawing it makes it look very weird.  Legs are suddenly oddly connected to the neck but not, there's a weird void just throwing the whole piece off.  
Always remember to give your horses tiddies! 

Look at these handsome boof chests!

KM Old TB stand front view by Chunga-Stock Horse stock - TB front view by Chunga-Stock GE Arab white little leap head tossedup front view by Chunga-Stock 


Hooves often baffle even the more experienced equine artists.  Weird clunky things where the wrong angle can either make or break how it looks.  An extension of the horses legs, no wonder hooves can be a headache to draw as well.  Do not fear, there are some great tips for drawing hooves available.  

Hoof mini Tute by sealle Basic horse hoof tutorial by pookyhorse tutorial - horse hooves by m-u-h-a 

If all else fails, hide your hooves behind some grass or the like, or just scratch the whole leg idea and give them rockets for legs.  We all know that horse legs are fake anyway.  

In closing

In closing I just want to say that using references can make a world of difference.  If you are stumped take a break from drawing and spend a little more time studying how that part of the horses body moves or looks.  
Practice makes perfect, so don't be worried if you have to keep at it before you start being able to draw horses the way you want.  

© 2019 - 2022 Astralseed
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PeachRosewing's avatar

Thank you! This is very helpful!