Anatomy Problems in Horses

Of all the animals we inquisitive humans study, perhaps the ones we've had the most experience with are horses. After all, we're taught at a pretty early age about the way horses run, thanks to Eadweard Muybridge's animal locomotion photographs; and every child at school learnt how to draw the basic outline of a horse's body.  It's for that reason that we can identify abnormal issues pertaining to a horse's anatomy. So let's take a look at some of the major problems horses face with their anatomy, starting with their gait.

anatomy problems in horses

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If you've ever seen a horse kick its legs up apparently involuntarily, the animal may be suffering from stringhalt. Stringhalt is a neuro-muscular disorder, and although scientists aren't exactly sure what causes it, most believe it relates to some sort of trauma of the nerve. 

Fibrotic Myopathy

Often confused with stringhalt, fibrotic myopathy is caused by injuries, like torn muscles, to the horse's hind legs. This results in a sort of kick back as the horse walks. Thankfully, physiotherapy can usually sort out the problem. 

Locking Stifle

The locking stifle - or upward fixation of the patella - is an issue which can affect both the front and hind legs of a horse. It occurs when a horse extends its legs, locking the kneecap (or patella) over the stifles thighbone. This results in a more rigid gait. 

And it's not just the horse's gait which can be affected by anatomical abnormalities. There can also be problems in the body, such as:

equestrian anatomy problems

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Kissing Spine Syndrome

It may almost sound quite romantic, but Kissing Spine Syndrome is a serious problem. It occurs when the spinous processes in the horse's spine begin to touch each other. One cause of this is the sheer weight of carrying a rider, and Kissing Spine Syndrome can go on to cause other major problems, such as bone cysts, if left untreated. 

Sacroiliac Strain

The sacroiliac area of a horse pertains to its hindquarters, specifically the pelvis region. Usually the area becomes strained after an injury, and can lead to a horse showing signs of being lame, and dragging its hooves along the ground. If it continues, the horse's rear muscles can become underdeveloped, holding its tail to one side. 

But of all the areas that take a real beating, a horse's feet take the most. No surprise, then, that problems can occur, like: 

horse anatomy problems

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A familiar sight in racehorses is the appearance of sandcrack. Never has a name been more apt and illuminating. Hooves which are excessively dry tend to crack often, and even more so when exposed to some form of injury or trauma. Inflammation may also occur, alongside a bloody discharge and lameness. 

Buttress Foot

If someone were to ask you what buttress foot was, how would you respond? Well, if you said it's the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the hooves' coffin bone, you'd be right. Fractures and other such trauma can cause Buttress Foot - also known as Pyramidal Disease - and can lead to arthritis alongside an enlargement of the toe area. 

No matter how powerful we might think of them, horses are just as susceptible to anatomical abnormalities as the rest of us. Abnormalities such as these only serve to highlight the importance of giving animals a thorough and regular once-over, and reporting any issues to your vet - it'll make all the difference. 


A selection of equine veterinary charts are available to buy on our website.

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