Level 4 Equine Anatomy and Physiology


Full course support

Our dedicated student support tutors are available to assist you throughout your studies. Keep in touch with fellow students too!

Learn while you earn

Continue to work full, part time or volunteer!

Module / Unit Details

An understanding of micro and gross anatomy of the structures of the horse is needed to appreciate their physiological function and aid comprehension of the interaction between the horse’s organ systems.

Physiology is the study of the physical and biochemical functions of living organisms.  An understanding of physiological principles underpins future units.  Equine Anatomy (Unit 1) is a pre-requisite to the Equine Physiology unit because a good baseline understanding of micro and gross anatomy is needed to appreciate how the various organ systems function and how they interact, communicate and integrate with each other.   The unit covers the basic principles of cellular energy production and explains how fuels are turned into the building blocks for muscle contraction.

Module 1 Equine Anatomy - Learning Outcomes

Recognise the basic structure and function of mammalian cells and tissues

 Mammalian cells: cellular structure and function, components of a cell and their functions – nucleus, cell division – mitosis.

Mammalian tissues: tissue typesepithelium, connective tissue, nerves and muscle. Adaptation to function and distribution in the body.

Demonstrate an understanding of equine structural anatomy

 Structural anatomy:  skeletal anatomy and the function of bone and joints. The structure of bone and bone formation. Location and function of the major muscles, tendons and ligaments. The structure and function of the foot.

 Appraise the anatomy of the horse’s body systems

 Body systems: the anatomy of the nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, urogenital and sensory systems.  The integument.

 Evaluate equine conformation

 Conformation:  basic principles of the evolution of Hyracotherium to Equus caballus. Good and poor conformation in a range of different horses and how they relate to performance. Ageing by dentition.

Module 2 Equine Physiology - Learning Outcomes

Demonstrate knowledge of basic physiological principles

Physiological principles: Fundamentals of physiology and biochemistry including SI units, atomic structure and bonding, elements and compounds, chemical reactions, partial pressures. Organic molecules: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, phospholipids and enzymes. Cell membrane structure and function. Movement of substances, diffusion, facilitated diffusion, osmosis, active transport, endocytosis and exocytosis. Concepts of homeostasis, the internal environment, control mechanisms and how they apply to the principal body systems.

Describe and explain the functions of the systems of maintenance

Systems of maintenance: Circulatory system – the need for a circulatory system, the heart- function and control. Respiratory system – mechanics of breathing, ventilation and gas exchange, blood gas transport and regulation of blood gases, cellular respiration and metabolism. Digestive system – prehension and eating, digestion, absorption of nutrients, gastrointestinal motility, the liver, appetite. Osmoregulation and renal excretion – function of the nephron, control of osmolarity, fluid, acid-base and electrolyte balance, excretion of urine.

Describe and explain the functions of the systems of information and control

Systems of information and control: Intercellular communication – neural and endocrine communication, cellular messengers and receptors, membrane potentials. Nerve function – passive and active transmission, synaptic communication. The nervous system – central and peripheral nervous systems, the autonomic nervous system, sensory organs. Endocrinology – major endocrine organs, their hormones and the role of these hormones. Thermoregulation.

Adaptation of muscle types to function, neuromuscular junction, excitation-contraction coupling.

Describe the major metabolic pathways

Major metabolic pathways:  equine digestive physiology, organic compounds, carbohydrates, monosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides, starch, glycogen, cellulose, lipids, fatty acids, alcohols, proteins, amino acids, fibrous proteins, globular proteins, nucleic acids, denaturation of proteins.  Aerobic and anaerobic cellular respiration, glycolysis, tricarboxylic acid cycle cellular respiration, glycolysis, electron transport system, energy from lipids, energy from protein.

Course Details


TOCES Higher Education Short Course 1 and 2

Academic Level: Higher Education Level 4
Number of units/modules: 2
Study Hours per Unit: 150
Total Hours:  300
Course Duration:  Maximum of 18 months to complete course requirements
Study Week Requirements: Optional Higher Educational Study Week

This is a TOCES Certificate course. You will be awarded a graded TOCES certificate upon completion of the course. This will be of value to prospective employers as well as to you personally as it reflects your commitment to study. Please note that although TOCES Certificate courses do not result in a validated qualification, the course material is of the same high standard as our validated programmes through BTEC, the BHS and City and Guilds.

As with all TOCES programmes, you will receive detailed study material – each module comprises two work assignments which are completed at home and sent in for tutor assessment and feedback.

The first assignment in each module are formative work assignments designed to prepare you for the second assignment, a summative work assignment which contributes towards your overall grade. The overall grade of your qualification will reflect the grades achieved in your assignments. You will receive a TOCES certificate on successful completion of the course.

For all programmes you must be:

  • enthusiastic!
  • prepared to work hard
  • disciplined enough to set aside time to study
  • prepared to undertake independent study
  • at least 16 years old

While not compulsory, applicants under the age of 21 should hold one of the following:

  • BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Horse Management or a related area
  • AVCE/Advanced GNVQ in an appropriate vocational area
  • GCE Advanced level profile which demonstrates strong performance in a relevant subject or an adequate performance in more than one GCE subject. This profile is likely to be supported by GCSE grades at A* to C
  • Other related Level 3 qualifications
  • Access to Higher Education Certificate awarded by an approved further education institution


  • Non-UK qualifications of a comparable level to those listed above
  • Overseas students whose first language is not English must hold a minimum of level 7 International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Further information can be gained from www.ielts.org.

Mature learners (21 years and above)
Mature learners may present a more varied profile of achievement that is likely to include extensive work experience (paid and/or unpaid) and/or achievement of a range of professional qualifications in their work sector.



How much work is involved?
It is estimated that, including attendance at Study Weeks, each module involves an average of 150 hours study. To calculate how long a programme will take to complete multiply the number of modules by 150 and divide by the number of hours you feel you can spare each week. Although distance learning is a very flexible mode of study you must complete the course requirements before the course completion date. The more time you spend on additional research, the more likely you will be to attain high grades.

Modules generally consist of one Formative and one Summative Work Assignment. Project work and independent research are integral to most modules.  You will receive detailed tutor feedback for each Formative Assignment. Each Summative Assignment is graded and counts towards your overall qualification. Formative Assignments do not count towards the qualification grade and in some instances are optional.

You are also required to undertake independent research and read around the subject areas to increase your depth of knowledge and demonstrate the ability to analyse, disseminate and evaluate information.  We do not specify how many hours each assignment will take – this is included within the 150 hours and is individual to each student.

How long do the courses take?
We appreciate that our students have work, family and equine commitments so do not set rigid time limits. However a maximum completion date is calculated on enrolment.

Time taken depends on:

  • How much you know already – you will find some modules easier and more interesting than others
  • Work commitments
  • Family commitments
  • Equine commitments
  • Your dedication and motivation

To maintain a steady rate of work through an HE programme you should allocate at least ten hours per week to your studies. If you cannot find ten hours in a week you must appreciate that it will take longer to complete the Course and extra costs will be incurred after the maximum completion date if an extension is granted.

Can I work through the programmes in less time?
You can work through the programme at a faster rate than estimated here if you are able to devote more time to your studies. However, we do not encourage students to work through quickly at the expense of the quality of their work. You will also need to attend the correct number of study weeks and your payment status must reflect the rate at which you work through the programme.

Enrolment and Fees

Enrolments are accepted for all courses anytime throughout the year.  Following enrolment, you will receive access to online course information and course material.

TOCES Higher Education Short Course


Full Payment

  • Online access to all course materials
  • Tutor support
  • Printing and postage fees additional (optional)
Enrol now

Payment options:

Visa Credit and Debit payments supported by Worldpay Visa Electron payments supported by Worldpay Mastercard payments supported by Worldpay Maestro payments supported by Worldpay Worldpay Payments Processing


The Open College of Equine Studies
33 Pages Lane
Lower Green
Bury St Edmunds
IP28 6NJ

Registered Office:

The Open College of Equine Studies
Eldo House
Kempson Way
Bury St Edmunds
IP32 7AR
Company No. 04354226