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Basic Horse Anatomy


horse anatomyKnowing the basic anatomy of a horse is all part of being a good horseman. You need to understand where your equipment is going and what part of your horse is hurting so you can describe the problem succinctly to your veterinarian.

Head and Neck

Chin Groove: This is an area located just behind the lower lip. It is where the curb chain of the bridle will rest when the horse is wearing the bridle.
Crest: This is the upper portion of the neck and is easily identified as it is where the mane grows.
Muzzle: The portion of the face that has the chin, mouth and nostrils.
Neck: The neck starts at the poll and ends at the withers, connecting the head to the shoulders.
Poll: The section of the neck just behind the ears where the skull connects to the spine.
Throatlatch: The location just under the jaw where the windpipe meets the jaw. 
Withers: The top of the shoulders, the highest point of which is used in measuring height.


Back: The top portion of the horse where you place the saddle. It stretches from just behind the withers to the end of the thoracic vertebra.
Barrel: The main bodily area of the horse in which the ribcage and internal organs are located. It sits beneath the back.
Belly: The lowest portion of the barrel, directly opposite the back
Breast: The front most portion of the horse, otherwise known as the chest
Croup: Beginning at the hip and extending to the dock, the croup is the top portion of the horse at the hindquarters.
Dock: The location where the tail connects to the end of the horse
Flank: The area where the barrel meets the hind legs. It is located just behind the ribcage
Girth: Usually the location where the ribcage is at its largest, the girth is where you place the girth of the saddle. It is located just behind the elbow.
Hindquarters: The power in the hind legs, the hindquarters are located behind the barrel and above the stifle.
Loin: The area between the last rib and the croup.
Shoulders: The location where the front legs attach to the barrel of the horse. It consists of the scapulae and surrounding muscles.
Tail: Consists of two parts, the living tail which houses the coccygeal vertebrae, muscles, and ligaments, and the long hairs that grow from it.


Cannon: The longer portion of bone between the knee or hock joints and fetlock joints on all four legs.
Check Ligaments: The system of ligaments that allow the horse to sleep standing up by locking in place.
Chestnut: A callous that forms on the inside of each leg.
Coronet: A ring of soft tissue located just above the hoof.
Elbow: A joint of the front leg, located where the belly of the horse meets the front leg.
Fetlock: The "ankle" of the horse, located just below the cannon.
Forearm: The forearm is the location of the fused radius and ulna in the front leg between the knee and elbow joints.
Gaskin: Similar to the human calf muscle, and located on the hind legs between the hock and stifle.
Hock: Located on the hind legs, it is the large joint that is equal to the human ankle and heel.
Hoof: The foot of the horse.
Knee: The large joint in the front legs, located above the cannon bone.
Pastern: The area located between the coronet and the fetlock.
Splints: Small bones found on each side of the cannon bone in all four legs.
Stifle: The joint located between the femur and tibia, similar to the human knee.


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