Equine bones / skeleton
- A horse has 205 bones – one fewer than the rider!
- The ribcage is the largest structure of the horse’s skeleton.
- Horses do not have a clavicle or collarbone. The front legs are only attached to the rest of the skeleton by muscle, tendon and ligament.
- The horse’s “knee” (carpus) is made up of 10 bones and is actually equivalent to our wrist.
- The hindlimbs contain 19 bones whilst the forelimbs contain 20 bones.
- The horse’s spine contains 54 bones.
- The skull consists of 34 bones.
- The longest single bone in the horse is the femur which joins the pelvis to the tibia.
- Around 12% of the total live weight of a horse is made up of bone – 60kg in a 500kg horse
- The largest single bone by area is the pelvis.
- The smallest bone in the horse’s body is the stapes – a bone within the ear.
- A horse’s bones adapt to loading. When a horse is turned out to pasture from being trained there will be some loss of bone strength over time. Horses only require very short periods of daily limb loading to increase bone strength. The harder the bone is loaded the more it adapts by laying down more bone.
- Sore shins or dorsal metacarpal disease occurs when the rate of loading is greater than the rate at which new bone can be laid down.
We have lots of articles and information about equine bones including:
- Article – Equine Musculoskeletal Practitioners – Which therapist and why?
- Article – Roadwork – Some things to consider!
- Podcast – Stress – is it always a bad thing?