Identify the Parts of a Horse

Ever wondered what flexing at the poll meant, or where exactly were the withers and forelock? Then this is the article for you! Equine external anatomy & parts of a horse will serve as a quick reference guide for you.

parts of a horse

Horse Parts: Terms Definition

back: the area where the saddle sits, beginning at the end of the withers, extending to thelast thoracic vertebrae (in common speech usually includes the loin, though technically this is incorrect)

barrel: the body of the horse, enclosing the rib cage and the major internal organs

buttock: the part of the hindquarters behind the thighs and below the root of the tail

cannon or cannon bone: the area between the knee or hock and the fetlock joint sometimes called the “shin” of the horse

chestnut: a callosity on the inside of each leg

chin groove: the part of the horse’s head behind the lower lip and chin, the area that dips down slightly on the lower jaw; area where the curb chain of certain bits is fastened

coupling: see “Loin” below

coronet or coronary band: the ring of soft tissue just above the horny hoof that blends into the skin of the leg

crest: the upper portion of the neck where the mane grows

croup or rump: the topline of the hindquarters, beginning at the hip and stopping at the dock of the tail; sometimes called “rump”

dock: the living part of the tail, consisting of the coccygeal vertebrae, muscles and ligaments; sometimes used colloquially to refer to the root of the tail, below

elbow: the joint of the front leg at the point where the belly of the horse meets the leg, comparable to the elbow in humans

ergot: a callosity on the back of the fetlock

face: the area between the forehead and the tip of the upper lip

fetlock: sometimes called the “ankle” of the horse, though it is not the same skeletal structure as an ankle in humans; comparable to the “ball” of the foot or the metacarpophalangeal joints of the fingers in humans

flank: where the hind legs and the barrel meet, specifically the area right behind the rib cage and in front of the stifle joint

forearm: the area of the front leg between the knee and elbow

forehead: the area between the poll, the eyes and the arch of the nose

forelock: is a part of a horse’s mane, that grows from the animal’s poll and falls forward between the ears and onto the forehead

forequarters: the foreleg, shoulder, and adjacent lateral parts of a horse

frog: the highly elastic V shaped structure on the underside of the hoof, which normally makes contact with the ground every stride, and supports both the locomotion and circulation of the horse

gaskin or ‘second thighs’: the large muscle on the hind leg, just above the hock, below the stifle, comparable to the calf of a human

girth or heartgirth: the area right behind the elbow of the horse, where the girth of the saddle would go; this area should be where the barrel is at its greatest diameter in a properly-conditioned horse that is not pregnant or obese

hindquarters: the large, muscular area of the hind legs, above the stifle and behind the barrel

hock: the large joint on the hind leg equivalent to the ankle of the human foot

hoof: the foot of the horse

hoof bars: the inward folds of the hoof wall, originating from the heels at an abrupt angle

hoof sole: covers the whole space from the perimeter of the wall to the bars and the frog on the underside of the hoof, and has a whitish-yellowish, sometimes grayish color

hoof wall: the tough outside covering of the hoof that comes into contact with the ground and is, in many respects, a much larger and stronger version of the human fingernail. The walls are composed of three distinct layers: the pigmented layer, the water line and the white line.

knee: the large joint in the front legs, above the cannon bone, equivalent to the human wrist

loin: the area right behind the saddle, going from the last rib to the croup

mane: long and relatively coarse hair growing from the dorsal ridge of the neck

muzzle: the chin, mouth, and nostrils of the face

pastern: the part of the leg of a horse between the fetlock and the top of the hoof

poll: commonly refers to the poll joint at the beginning of the neck, immediately behind the ears

root of the tail or root of the dock: the point where the tail is “set on” (attached) to the rump; sometimes also called the “dock”

shoulder: made up of the scapula and associated muscles, runs from the withers to the point of shoulder (the joint at the front of the chest); the angle of the shoulder has a great effect on the horse’s movement and jumping ability, and is an important aspect of equine conformation

stifle: corresponds to the knee of a human, consists of the articulation between femur and tibia, as well as the articulation between patella and femur

tail: the long hairs which grow from the dock; may also include the dock

throatlatch: the point at which the windpipe meets the head at the underside of the jaw, corresponding to where the so-called part of a bridle goes

white line: the inner layer of the hoof wall; it is softer and fibrous in structure and light in color. From the underside of the healthy hoof, it is seen as a thin line joining the sole and the walls.

withers: the highest point of the thoracic vertebrae, the point just above the tops of the shoulder blades, seen best with horse standing square and head slightly lowered; the height of the horse is measured at the withers.

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