A Brief Introduction to The Anatomy of The Horse


The Horses Body

This is intended only as a brief outline of the anatomy of the horse. You will see that there are a lot of bones and soft tissues that are liable to injury.
Within the horses body there are approximately 205 bones: 54 make up the vertebral column, [7 cervicals (neck bones), 18 thoracics (mid back bones), 6 lumbars (lower back bones), 5 fused sacral bones and 15-21 coccygeal (tail bones)]. In addition there are 36 ribs, 1 sternum (breast bone), 34 bones in the skull (including the inner ear), 40 bones in the thoracic limbs (front legs), and 40 bones in the pelvic limbs (hind legs). The arab has 1 less lumbar, 1-2 less thoracics and a couple less tail bones which pronounce their high tail carriage.
a horse skeleton
The muscles (smooth, cardiac and voluntary) within the horses body account for more than 60% of their bodyweight. The tissue most commonly thought of muscle is skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscles produce movement, maintains posture, stabilises joints and generates heat. There are approximately 700 voluntary skeletal muscles which attach to bones via ligaments and account for about one third of the horses body weight. 
horse muscles
A subluxation is a partial dislocation or a misalignment of a joint. When subluxations occur, the spinal nerves become compressed or "pinched" and the normal neurological path becomes  blunted by tight muscles choking the vertebrae. This causes an imbalance and inevitably puts a huge strain on the entire body. By the time the horse shows signs of pain the subluxation complex can be deeply rooted in the body. 
There are 7 stages to the vertebral subluxation (see below); sometimes all the phases can occur within a short period of time or they can fester for weeks or even months before pain is apparent. 
1 Misalignment
This is usually caused by trauma. The muscles will splint the traumatised area to prevent further injury and the gait may alter.
2 Neuropathy
This is when the IVF (Intervertebral Foramen) becomes compromised and the spinal nerve becomes compressed.
3 Kinesiopathy
This is where the joint stiffens. Swelling, scarring, adhesion formation, vascular (blood) stress and muscle atrophy (wastage) can happen. 
4 Dysfunction
The joints and soft tissues don't function as they should. Lameness or an altered gait may be seen.
5 Symptoms
Pain is present, the horse will display abnormal behaviour.
6 Degeneration
Disease and tissue destruction ensue.
7 Compensation
A subluxation which has caused muscle tightening will put extra pressure on the opposing (antagonistic) muscles. The body is in imbalance and other areas have to compensate for this. Again the gait may become altered, the compensating muscles are working harder and this is where the primary source of pain can become confused.

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