The semispinalis capitis and splenius muscles of the horse were analyzed for gross morphology, microarchitecture, fiber length, and fiber type. Although these two muscles are similar in size and anatomical position, they are very different from one another in structural design and histochemistry, implying diverse functional roles in the animal's behavior. The histochemical staining profile was limited to two fiber types: slow oxidative and fast glycolytic. The splenius muscle has simple architecture, long fibers, and a 60/40 ratio of SO to FG cross-sectional area. The semispinalis capitis has complex architecture with short-fibered, concentric compartments dorsal to its central tendon and longer-fibered compartments ventrally. The entire dorsal region has an increasing gradient of slow oxidative fiber percentage from caudal to cranial (58–71% SO). In contrast, the ventral region has a decreasing gradient of slow oxidative fibers from caudal to cranial (48–67% FG). These patterns can be interpreted within the context of the cervical musculature during locomotion and posture to indicate the functional advantages of this organization. J. Morphol. 251:182–194, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.