I’d promised myself I would keep on publishing articles regularly, no matter how busy I got with cases, horses and clients…Oops! Needless to say the past few months have been crazy busy and I haven’t written as many articles as I wish I had. Even more reason why I’m happy to be back with this little list that I made earlier this week as I was brushing layers and layers of mudd off Roo’s legs!
So let’s get into it, 9 fun facts about your horse’s body!
1.The suspensory ligament wasn’t always a ligament.
And when I mean not always, I’m not talking about thousands of years ago before it evolved into the ligament your horse has today. No,no,no. I mean earlier in your horse’s life. As a foal to be more precise. See when a horse is born, this ligament is actually still a muscle. It’s only after a little while, around 3 months old, that this muscle becomes more and more fibrous, becoming more and more like a ligament!
2. Your horse’s bones ossify at very different ages
The skeleton of your horse grows by stages, and bones ossification does not occur in one go, but slowly throughout the years. A general rule to help you remember in which order it happens is that bones ossify earlier in the distal part of the limb (lower down), then comes the upper part of the limbs and it finishes by the spine. So for example, the pedal bone ossifies right after birth, the canon bones around 1 year old, the knee and hock around 2 years old (although one of the bones of the hock will wait until 5 years old to finish growing) and the shoulder and pelvis around 4/5 years old. The latest parts of the skeleton to ossify are around the pole and the withers, past 7 years old!
3. The knee isn’t the knee, it’s the wrist
Yep, you read that right. What we commonly call the “knee” isn’t the anatomical knee of the horse. Technically it’s the joint of the carpus, or wrist on humans! The real knee is on the hind leg, just like us. Which makes sense when you think of it. So here’s how it actually goes: the “knee” on the front leg is the wrist, or carpus, and the actual knee is what we call the stifle! And whilst we’re at it, the hock is the equivalent of the human ankle 🙂
4. Your horse can produce up to 40L of saliva per day
Depending on what you horse eats in a day, it might need to produce a LOT of saliva. On average, a horse eating grass will produce 12L per day, but hay needs up to 4 times it’s weight in saliva to be digested, bringing the total to up to 40L of saliva needed in some cases! Another good reason to make sure your horse always has access to clean water!
5. The teeth of your horse never stop growing.
In a way. Let me explain: when your horse is born, he or she has baby teeth, just like us, that will be replaced gradually by the grown up teeth. But unlike us, those grown up teeth are very long and the major part of the tooth is hidden, tucked up neatly in the bones of the face and jaw, and the teeth that we see are actually just the tip of the iceberg. The reason for that is that horses eat in a grinding motion and actually wear their teeth down. All teeth come very long from the start so that this wearing down process can happen safely and that your horse will still have teeth at 25!
6. Your horse has super vision
I mean, that’s not entirely true, but compared to us, they can see a lot more. Because both of our eye are in the same frontal plan, we have what’s called binocular vision, which means that we use both of our eyes at the same time and this gives us a field of view of about 180°. Which isn’t bad. But horses have a field of view of about 340°. Yep, almost a full 360°! This is because their eyes are not on the same plan but on one side of the face each, making the horse’s vision both monocular and binocular, depending on where you’re placed.
7. Your horse is born with hoof protectors
I mean it’s not the scientific name for it. The actual name of what I’m referring to is eponychium. It’s also called golden slippers or fairy fingers. And it does kinda look like soft bendy fingers attached at the bottom of the hooves of a foal. These are here to protect the uterus and birth canal of the mare, and are made to fall very quickly after the birth so that the foal can walk and be on the move as soon as possible (oh the joys of being a prey animal!). It’s easy to imagine the damages a fully made hoof can do inside an organ with such a soft membrane as the uterus, so nature came up with this amazing hoof protector to make sure everyone stays safe, during the pregnancy and after the birth!
8. There is no muscle after the “knee” and the hock of your horse
This one always makes me laugh, because it make it sounds like your horse moves it’s legs without the need for muscles, which isn’t the case. It’s true that there is no muscle BODY after the knee (or should I say carpus now) and hock, only tendons. All the actual muscle bodies are above. This means that the superficial and deep tendons, you know the ones who tend to get damaged, have their muscle attachment far further up the leg! If you want one day I’ll write an article to explain their anatomy, which is fascinating. So yes, there is no proper muscle body after the knee or the hock, but don’t worry, your horse still has the ones from further up to keep his joints moving.
9. Your horse has a 28 metre long intestine
Between the small intestine, the caecum and the different parts of the colon, it all comes down to about 28 metres. And that’s without the stomach, the very first part after the stomach, and the very last part of the intestines. Think about it, 38 metres of tubes going round and round in the abdominal cavity! No wonder you get issues like colic! Taking care of your horses digestive health should always be on your top priority list. Once again, I will probably write something on the subject at one point!
That’s the end of this little list, hope you enjoyed it 😀 As always, don’t hesitate to pop me a message if you have a question about your horse or if there’s a subject you’d like me to cover!