Horses are unique animals, and if you own horses or you are simply fascinated by them, then you might be looking to find out more about their anatomy and how they function. It would seem that these animals have the perfect body design, and their general anatomy is really interesting.
In this article, we are going to explain the basics of horse anatomy that every horse owner should be aware of. We are going to look at everything from their various body parts to their hooves, so you can find out everything that you need to know. Just keep reading to find out more.
Horse Body Parts
The hoofs are capable of much more than providing support for the horse, and they also act almost like a pump at the same time. The bottom of the hoof is hard to the touch, but it will be flexible enough to give when the horse is walking. When your horse walks, the blood that has been forced down the leg will then be forced back up towards the heart.
The front legs of the horse will carry most of the weight, and the back legs will work to drive the animal forward. Horses will be able to carry a rider on their back, just behind the withers, but a saddle is used to distribute the weight evenly over the weight bearing ribs. If the saddle is placed too far back, it can become painful for the horse.
The horse’s tail can make a great fly swatter, but it can also be used as a way to communicate. Horses will actually raise their tails when they are on alert, and they will also hold their tails high during the mating season, as this can help to attract the attention of a mate.
There are around 205 bones that will make up the skeleton of a horse, and various things can ensure a healthy bone structure, like proper nutrition during pregnancy and during the early years of a horse’s life. Otherwise, bone growth can be stunted. Too much of these nutrients can even cause the bone to grow too rapidly, which can cause damage to the joints. So, it is really important to get the right balance.
The neck of the horse is the most flexible part of the spine, and horses with longer necks will actually be slightly faster than those with shorter necks. Interestingly, when it comes to the skull of the horse, there are bars in the horse’s mouth, and this is part of the jaw that will have no teeth.
The majority of the weight will be best carried directly behind the withers, as this is the area that will have the support of the rib cage, as well as the shock absorbing structure of the knee bones in the front legs. Interestingly, the front legs are not actually attached to the rest of the skeleton. This is because the shoulders will instead be held close to the body through layers of muscle.
There will be limited flexibility when it comes to the lower spine, and poor conformation of the back legs will force the lower back to absorb more shock than it is capable of. Over time, this is something that can lead the vertebrae to fuse together. As well as this, putting extra weight on the loin area will put stress on the lower back, which can cause more bone damage and stress to kidneys.
The unhindered lower back will allow the horse to reach even further with their back legs when they are running, which means that they are able to gain more speed. So, they can put more weight on their back legs when they are doing fast turns.
Within the horse’s skeleton, the bones will be held together by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. When the structure of the skeleton is properly proportioned, the joints will work smoothly. The better proportioned the skeleton is, the better the athlete the horse will be.
With that being said, not every horse is going to have perfect conformation. There are lots of horses with conformation faults that can still make great horses. You should keep in mind that not all horses are able to perform in physically demanding athletic competitions and working environments. So, with the right amount of nutrition and exercise, they can still go on to live a long and productive life.
Horse Hoof Anatomy
The wall of the hoof is actually made up of horny tissue, and the hoof will keep growing throughout the life of the horse. The wall of the hoof does not contain any nerves of blood vessels, and it grows off of the coronary band that sits above the hoof.
The hoof is both thick and hard, but it is also pliable. The wall is the thickest at the toe area, and it will be thinner at the heel area. Ideally, it should have a rounded toe and a wide heel base. If the heel is narrower, it could be an indication of navicular disease.
The hoof will become softer if it is wet, and it will dry out in drier conditions. Horses can consume a small amount of vegetable oil in their diet, which will help to keep their hooves strong and moisturised.
There is a coffin bone, which is the toe bone of the horse’s foot, and this bone is shaped like a small hoof that has flared sides. This bone will rotate downward in order to pierce the sole of a foot with a horse that is suffering from its founder.
Interestingly, the hoof actually acts as a kind of second heart for the horse. With every step that the horse takes, the hoof will expand and contract in order to force the blood back up the legs of the horse and towards the heart. This is why it is really important to keep horses active, because a lack of movement will cut down circulation.