A horse’s skeletal system is comprised of 205 bones. Of these 205 bones 20 of them are in the four legs and there are 20 bones in each of the hind limbs of the horse making a total of 80 bones that comprise a horse’s legs.
Each of a horses legs are connected with other bones in their skeletal structure allowing the horse to flex its legs and carry its weight. The bones are aligned in such a way that horses legs absorb the shock of their movement without breaking down. Are horses like bones are connected with joints.
Types of Joints Horses
Synovial joints – the synovial joints in a horse are the joints that move and due to this are the ones most affected by injury and disease. Synovial joints are found in the horse’s knee. There are three different joints and multiple bones that comprise the knees of horses. the synovial joint is comprised of two bone endings and articular cartilage. Cartilage found in horses knee joint is smooth and made to withstand friction, it prevents breakdown due to your horses movement. there is also a synovial membrane which secretes it’s that lubricate the joints in the knees.
Cartilaginous joints – these are the joints in your horse that are less mobile and their level of Mobility depends upon which Bones we are referring to. Cartilaginous joints are connected with collagen fibers, hyaline cartilage and sometimes both at the same time. cartilaginous joints AR the ones found in your horses vertebrae.
Equine fibrous joints – the fibrous joints in your horse do not move. these are joints bound to bones and other tissue that hardens into bone as your horse ages. Fibrous joints are the ones found within your horses Skull.
How Horse Joints Work
When people refer to a horse’s joints they are almost always referring to synovial joints because these are the ones that are most prone to injury and disease causing issues with your horses Mobility.
These joints have you evolved in a manner that allows them to effectively absorb stress and shock induced by your horses movements. The two bones that are brought together by synovial joints have stability do to this joint structure.
These ligaments are constructed from very strong fibers that are attached to each side of the bone endings offering the stability needed for your horses to perform. A horse’s legs have numerous ligaments all designed to maintain support of your horses leg bones.
The synovial membrane is the outside portion of the joint capsule and it is comprised of a fibrous layer that lines the sides of the joint capsule. fluid is released from this structure which keeps the joint lubricated. synovial fluid also provides necessary nutrients that effectively remove waste from the horse’s hyaline articular cartilage.This fluid combines to allow your horse to perform pain free movements.
Common Equine Joint Problems
Synovitis – this is the inflammation targeting the delicate synovial membranes in your horse. Read more about hyaluronic acid’s role in synovitis issues.
Capsulitis – capsulitis is characterized by inflammation of the fibers found in the joint capsule. Capsulitis is usually comorbid with synovitis.
Equine osteoarthritis – osteoarthritis in horses usually occurs following a severe injury to the horses joint. if the injury is not treated and allowed to heal properly osteoarthritis can set in. It is characterized by joint swelling and pain and can lead to a progressive loss of the articular cartilage in your horses bones. Osteoarthritis is a permanent Affliction and it can create permanent lameness in your horse.
Horse joint issues are always accompanied by inflammation in the injured area which can lead to prolong soundness issues. these inflammation outbreaks are caused by free radicals, prostaglandins, and cytokines. these things attack the structure of articular cartilage and can lead to a degradation of the joint health in your horse and their ability to perform properly. If you see swelling and puffiness or your horse shows signs of pain and their joint areas a veterinarian should be sought to identify the cause and to implement a proper treatment plan. Your vet will likely add a equine joint supplement as part of the treatment plan. Always be sure to seek Veterinary advice and follow their treatment plan precisely if joint inflammation is found. For an in depth explanation on caring for your horse’s joints see our horse joint health article.
Fred is the editor of Equine Ridge. He grew up raising horses and has been riding, training, and competing for almost four decades. Fred started out performing on the AQHA and PHBA circuits. Fred trained other competitors in English and Western riding disciplines and today offers free riding lessons to youth who would otherwise not be able to afford lessons. When not working with horses he can be found backpacking or trying to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Email Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org