Horse Anatomy Stifle Hip And Pelvis Explained!

Last Updated on May 25, 2022

The skeletal system of a horse is very complex, and horse anatomy stifle hip and pelvis is one of the hardest working areas of the body. Let’s take a look at these incredible structures in more detail!

Why Is Horse Anatomy Stifle Hip And Pelvis Important?

The hind limb of a horse is an incredibly powerful and versatile part of the horse’s body. The hind limbs carry around 45% of the weight of the horse and are commonly referred to as the powerhouse of the horse. This is because the hind legs are responsible for propelling the bodyweight forwards and upwards, enabling the horse to run, gallop, jump, and carry out all the other athletic activities they are famous for!

A horse’s hind legs are also what enable it to sleep and rest without laying down. The hind legs have a clever system of ligaments, that lock the joints into position even when the horse is relaxed. This is called the stay apparatus and means a horse will not fall over even if he is asleep standing up.

Why Is Horse Anatomy Stifle Hip And Pelvis Important

When a horse does this, you will normally see one hind leg locked into position, while the other is rested in a relaxed position. Sleeping standing up is a vital survival strategy developed by horses that lived in the wild, enabling them to escape from predators more quickly than if they were laid down.

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Horse Hip And Pelvis Anatomy

The pelvis of a horse attaches the hind limbs to the spinal column. At the top of the pelvis is the sacroiliac joint; this is a relatively stable joint with very minimal movement. It is here that the ilium – one of the bones of the pelvis – attaches to the sacrum, which consists of 5 fused vertebrae within the spinal column.

At the lower end of the pelvis is a large ball joint, that connects the femur to the pelvis. This joint is called the hip joint, and follows the same basic anatomical pattern as the hip in humans.

The hip joint in a horse is able to extend forwards and backward easily but does not have much sideways movement. It is stabilized by a series of ligaments that keep the joint in place.

From the hip joint, we have a large bone that extends downwards, called the femur. This is equivalent to the thigh bone in humans. The femur is a very large, strong bone – horses rarely suffer from femoral fractures, as this bone is very hard to break.

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Horse Anatomy Stifle Hip

Horse Anatomy Stifle Hip

 At the bottom end of the femur, we have the horse’s stifle joint. This joint connects the femur to the tibia and fibula. The stifle joint of a horse is comparable to the knee joint in humans.

On the surface of the stifle joint is a small bone called the patella, which is the same as the human kneecap. The function of the patella is to allow soft tissues such as ligaments to run smoothly over the surface of the stifle joint. The stifle also contains a complex system of lateral ligaments that help to stabilize the joint.

The stifle is a very complex joint in the horse, with a large number of ligaments, synovial sacs, and other supporting structures. This joint has a strong and powerful movement, enabling the horse to lift the hind leg up underneath the body or extend it out backward. The stifle has very little sideways movement.

Stifle problems in horses are more common than the hip, pelvis, or femoral problems, but still uncommon when compared to problems of the joints of the lower hind leg. The most common medical issues that occur in the stifle are tears of the ligaments within the stifle or damage to the cartilage of the joint. Diagnosis and treating stifle problems in horses can be difficult, but luckily they are quite rare.

Below the stifle, the tibia and fibula extend downwards and end at the next joint – the hock. The hock of a horse is a very hard-working joint, which provides the power and flexibility for a horse to run and jump.

Summary – Horse Anatomy Stifle Hip And Pelvis

So, as we have learned in our review of horse anatomy stifle hip and pelvis, these large joints are key to the athleticism of a horse. The strong bones in the horse’s hind legs are capable of propelling them at high speeds, with the help of the flexible joints of the stifle and hips. These are aided by a complex system of ligaments, tendons, and muscles, creating the wonderful equine athletes that are so admired all around the world.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on horse anatomy stifle hip and pelvis! Do you find it difficult to understand how all these complex bones and joints come together? Or maybe you’ve got a great way of remembering where all the different bones in a horse’s skeletal system are? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!


What Part Of A Horse Is The Stifle?

The stifle is a major joint in the hindleg of a horse. This joint is where the femur - the main bone leading from the hip - joins the tibia and fibula. The stifle of the horse is equivalent to the knee joint in a human.

How Do You Tell If A Horse Has A Stifle Problem?

If a horse has a stifle problem he will be lame on one or both hindlegs. He may also be reluctant to move, or have an abnormal gait. A horse with a stifle problem may be reluctant to pick up or flex his hind leg.

How Do You Fix A Stifle Problem In Horses?

To fix a stifle problem, you will firstly need a veterinary diagnosis. Your veterinarian can then advise you on the best course of treatment. This may be a period of rest, medication, or surgical treatment.

Can A Horse Recover From Stifle Problems?

Whether a horse will recover from stifle problems depends on the cause of the problem and whether it is treatable. Unfortunately, many lameness problems in horses tend to recur when the horse returns to ridden exercise.