The equine front leg is arrange as such: shoulder blade,
upper arm or humerus, elbow, radius and ulna in the
forearm. In the horse's front leg the knee must move
forward in a straight line in order to create action
and stability to support and propell the body.
A common mis-thought is that the horse's hind leg starts
at the stifle. But it really starts at where the pelvis
joins the spine. You can think of the horse's patella as
being like the human kneecap.
Knees and Hocks
The horse's front leg is a lot like a human wrist and even
has the same seven bones in the same order. Six little flat
bones in a double row with the seven bone called the
accessory carpal bone that stands out at the back of
the horse's knee like our human wrist as a small prominent
"bump" on the back wrist. The horse's hind leg is like
that of the human ankle. It also has seven bones like humans
do. The point of the hock is a little like our heel and both have
an Achilles tendon. Our human calf muscle is very much like a
horse's muscle above the hock (in the gaskin area).
The cannon bone (front and rear) is located below the horse's
knee. Think of the horse's hoof as your middle finger with
the hoof wall like that of our fingernails. The cannon bone
is supported by small splint bones on either side with the
main third metacarpal the main support structure.
The horse's rib cage is more flatter than round. The thorax
(chest) should be deep from the breastbone to the spine to
give room for lung capacity. The shoulder blades move back
and forth along its sides so that they allow for greater
front leg movement and proper execution of traveling endurance
Head and Neck
There are seven bones in a horse's neck and same bones in the
human neck. The neck should be very mobile and the horse's
head should move as a pendulum, swinging up and down or side by side.
The horse's needs to have a nicely balanced neck so he change
direction or slide to a stop. He needs to turn his head to view
large areas, especially to look around for predators. The neck
is also used to reach the ground to graze. A long neck enhances
the speed of a galloping horse. He pushes his neck out a far as
possible while the neck muscle creates a fixed point from which
it contracts and then relaxes with each stride of the front leg.
This allows for the front legs to reach out further forward
and generates speed. The hind legs are what drive the
propulsion power of the horse but the front legs pull the body
forward at all the gaits. So that the long neck horse has an
advantage over a short necked horse. They are also more
comfortable to ride.
Balance Is Key
A horse with good conformation will perform with a balance of
stress on the leg joints. Proper leg angles and equal
weight bearing on the various parts means that stress will
be minimized and all the conneccted tendons will remain strong.
The lubrication of all the sacs will function correctly so that
the joints remain sound. The exact opposite can be
expected of the poorly conformed horse hampering his ability to
be an athlete.
The muscles of the horse and their shape and strength depend
upon the way the bones are formed (inherited) and by how fit
the the horse is. The overall appearance of the horse is a combination
of the horse's bone and muscle structure.
Custom PS-ISH #503-P
Dark Bay w/Mohair
ISH Manufactured by the Peter Stone Co.
Customed by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises
Some of the long bones in a horse support and protect
the chest cavity. Others support and move the legs.
Block-shaped bones in the knee and hock absorb concussion.
All bones are held together by bands of tissue called
ligaments. The horse's bone structure is determined by
genetics and influenced by nutrition. The equine
conformation depends on the shape of the vertebral column.
The horse's backbone is what holds the entire skelton
together and all the extending structures attach to the
spine. Arabian horses have one less lumbar vertebrae
than all other horses in the loin area.
The hind legs are attached to the spine via the pelvis
which is actually a kind of girdle of fused bones. They
are really six bones joined together in early adulthood.
It is the various large muscles when attached to the
pelvis that give the hindquarters their shape. The loin
muscle aligns from the pelvis. The pelvis is never totally
upright but instead is slightly slanted and varies by breed
and by the individual animal. The degree of the angle will
influence the shape of the rump and the conformation of the
The lumbosacral joint allow the horse's pelvic and hindquarters
to rotate forward so the so hind legs can reach under his belly
and give him a long stride. The back bone is a kind of hinge
that allows the horse to tuck his hindquarters underneath
himself and balance to go down a hill or to "collect" himself and
place more weight on his hind legs.
When the vertebrae bodies from front to back are long and
create a long wither area then the top of the shoulder blade
lies farther back than when they are short. When the
vertebra bodies are short (the bones taking up shorter space
in the spine) then the top of the shoulder blade will lie closer
to the base of the neck. The shoulder will be more upright
and result in more concussion and impact for the whole front leg.
There are three types of joints in a horse. Those that
are moveable and held together by ligaments. The slightly
moveable which are held together by cartilage and have very
range of movement. The immovable joints such as where the
bones of the skull meet and fuse tigether ti create a solid
structure. Moveable joints have synovial fluid inside the
lining of the joint capsules. Because these joints have so
demand placed upon them for movement they are most likely
to be injured due to improper angles and hard work. Those
joints held together by ligaments determine the strength and
service of all the leg joints. The angle of these joints can
vary with each horse. When the angle of the stifle joint, as
an example, is more than 140 degrees the horse will have a
straight stifle and hock referred to as a post legged horse.
This conformation fault is noted by looking at the side profile
and noting that the hock is nearly under the stifle instead of
being in line with point of the buttocks. It can hinder the horse
from athletic ability and horses can pull the patella out of place,
locking the stifle joint. If the of the stifle is 100 degrees
the stifle and hock joint are overbent creating a condition called
sickle hocks. This is easily noted by side profile of the
lower leg at
an angle with the feet to far under the body.
Parrs Dream Doll Manufactured by the Peter Stone Co.
Rio Rondo Enterprises