How Important is the Skeleton?

Halloween is quickly approaching so it’s the perfect time to discuss skeletons- horse skeletons that is!

If you can understand equine skeletal anatomy, you’ll have a good grasp on the framework of how the horse’s body is built, in turn making it easy to understand your horse’s abilities and limitations.

Horses have about 210 bones in their body that provide structure, give rise to joints to allow for movement, and offer protection to vital organs.

The horse skeleton contains a similar number of bones to that of a human. Almost all horses and ponies have the same skeletal structure with the exception of Arabians. Most horse breeds have 18 ribs while the Arabs have 17. Most horses have 6 lumbar and 18 tail vertebrae while Arabs have 5 lumbar and 16 vertebrae in their tails.

The average horse has:

37 in the skull, including 3 small bones in each ear (auditory ossicles),

2 branches of mandible (lower jaw)

54 vertebrae (7 cervical, 18 thoracic, 6 lumbar, 5 sacral, 15 – 20 coccygeal),

36 ribs (some breeds i.e. Arab, have less – 17 pairs),

1 sternum,

40 forelimb

40 hindlimb (including pelvis)

What Does the Horse Skeleton Actually Do?

The horse skeleton, much like the human skeleton, provides a frame work for the body, the joints are for movement and most important it provides protection for vital organs and structures.

Although it is easy to think of bone as hard and inflexible, this is not so. The skeleton has evolved to suit the horse’s natural lifestyle and has the ideal amount of rigidity, flexibility and ability to move, rarely going wrong in the wild horse. However, the domesticated horse’s skeleton often suffers from lack of exercise, which ‘stiffens’ and weakens it, or from the demands of excessive performance, which over-stresses and causes injury to it and it’s associated structures, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

If you think your horse is suffering from lack of exercise and a stiffening skeleton, it might me a good idea to look into a horse chiropractor. To start with the basics, using Posture Prep on your own may alleviate some of the issues. Always check with your vet first!