The Framework of Your Horse
 By Saferaphus   •   15th Jul 2017   •   369 views   •   0 comments

When we think of ‘the parts of the horse’ we’re likely to think of those illustrations that show where parts like the poll, pastern, and hock are. But, all of those parts are also made of other things, and form the framework on which our horses are built. There are four basic types of tissue that make up a horse’s body: connective tissue, epithelial tissue, nerve tissue, and muscle tissue. Each tissue type is made of cells that have a similar role.

Bones are made up of connective tissue comprised of calcium and other minerals, proteins and vitamins. Horse's bones are similar to ours and other mammals in that respect. A horse has around 205 bones, depending on the breed. This is almost the same as our skeleton with 206 bones. There are several types of bones. Flat bones enclose the horse’s internal organs. These are the ribs and other small bones in the horse’s abdominal area, and it’s head. The upper legs are mainly made of long bones, such as the cannon and foreleg. Short bones are shock absorbers, and these are found in the joints such as hock, knee, and pastern. The spine is made up of irregular bones, from the top of the neck to the tip of the tail. And there are sesamoid bones. These small bones are embedded in tendons and with the hooves. Bones may seem like hard structures, but as we know, they can break and heal, reform and bend. They can do this because they have their own blood flow and produce living cells.

Tendons and Ligaments
Holding all the bones together, along with muscle tissue, are the tendons and ligaments. These are made up of relatively strong, fibrous, slightly stretchy material. Ligaments are like guy wires between bones. Tendons attach the muscles to the bones. News of a tendon or ligament injury can make a horse owner’s heart drop out. These injuries can take a very long time to heal. Sometimes they don’t heal very well at all and leave the horse with a permanent unsoundness. This is because, unlike bones, tendons and ligaments don’t have their own blood supply. And, it’s almost impossible to immobilize a horse long enough for the healing to fully take place. Unfortunately, crutches and wheelchairs can’t help a horse stay off of a limb like they can a human's. Sadly, once these structures are injured, they are more like to become injured again.

Horses have lots of muscles. There are sixteen muscles in the ears alone! There are three types of muscle. Over 700 of these are skeletal muscles that help give the horse strength, allow movement and hold the bones together. Smooth muscles help the horse do involuntary movements like blink and digest food. And the cardiac muscles are the muscles of the heart. These muscles automatically contract for the entire lifetime of the horse. A horse’s body mass is approximately 60% muscle. Horse muscles are relatively stronger than ours because horse muscle has more mitochondria. Mitochondria are components of a cell that process oxygen and produce energy.

Another type of connective tissue is your horse's cartilage. Cartilage is the smooth, slightly shock-absorbing padding between the bones and the joints and makes up softer areas of the skeleton like the areas, muzzle, discs between the vertebrae and internal structures like bronchial tubes. Like tendons and ligaments, it is hard to grow more cartilage, because it has no blood supply. This is why arthritis can't be healed completely.

Epithelial Tissue
There is epithelial tissue on both the inside and outside of your horse. This is the tissue that makes up the skin, and the soft structures of the body such as blood vessels, glands, lungs, digestive system, and eyes. So these tissues, depending on what organ they make up may have the job of protection like the skin, absorption, such as the stomach and intestines, or secretion, such as glands.

Fat, also called adipose tissue, is another connective tissue. Fat tends to deposit under the skin, but it can also sit around the internal organs. Too much fat is not healthy. But, a horse does need some fat for energy storage, help absorb certain nutrients and to help the body maintain an even internal temperature.
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