Horses are magnificent animals, and their enormous size is fascinating to study. There are so many similarities between humans and horses that it’s uncanny. Have you ever considered the many systems that work together in an equine? Once you learn a few things about their framework and overall bodily functions, it certainly helps to appreciate them even more and enhance your ability to care for them.
The Skeletal System
Most living things have a skeletal system, and the horse is no different. The human body has around 206 bones; strangely, the horse has about 205. So, while they’re much larger than you, they have less in their skeletal makeup.
However, their remarkable structure and the long and slender nature of their bones makes a big difference. From birth, the skeletal system continues to grow. Horses reach maturity between 4-6 years of age.
Their backbone is flexible and robust, as equines are built for agility and speed. It’s no wonder they thrive in labor intensive situations or in competitions. The backbone starts at the base of their skull and runs down to their tail. Ironically, their tail is formed by a series of fused vertebrae called the coccygeal. Equines use their tails to help them balance, communicate and even swat away those pesky flies.
Their ribcage is much like yours as it’s an enclosure that protects the vital organs like the heart and lungs in the chest cavity. You would think that such a large animal would have more ribs than a human, but horses have 18 ribs, whereas humans have 24. The significant difference has everything to do with the flexibility of the ribcage. This elasticity allows them to fill their lungs to a great capacity when exercising, which is necessary to ensure they have proper oxygen.
The most significant bone in their body is the femur, which is part of the horse’s hind limbs. Another ironic fact is the front limbs have a structure similar to that of a human arm, while the hind limbs are more like a human leg. So, there are many similarities structurally between horses and humans that can’t be denied, but horses average 900-2,000 pounds, while humans are a great deal smaller.
The Digestive System
Equines are herbivorous, and their digestive system is adapted to eating plants. They use their hindgut to ferment their food, which means the large intestine, cecum, and colon, are all necessary components in their digestive process. Good bacteria in the cecum are essential to help break down the fibrous materials found in plants.
The small intestines absorb all the nutrients from their food, while the large intestine forms fecal matter for elimination. Ironically, the horse’s stomach is relatively small, making them more susceptible to digestive issues. Humans have a larger stomach that can expand four times its original size, but the small nature of the horse’s gut allows them to graze continuously. Keeping them on a well-balanced diet is the key to forgoing any digestive problems, though they must be monitored carefully.
The Respiratory System
Horses can’t breathe through their mouth as they’re nasal breathers. The only intake of air they have is through their nose. The inside of the nasal passages is warm and moist, so they help filter the air of toxins before it goes to the lungs. During exercise, their respiratory system allows them to get sufficient oxygen while removing carbon dioxide, and it’s done all through those two small nostrils.
The large and elastic lungs are filled with gas that helps aid in respiration. One of the most powerful muscles in the chest is the diaphragm, which helps separate the abdomen from the chest, as well as enhances breathing. When equines are used in athletic events, their safety must have a proper respiratory function. Any horse with compromised lung function cannot be used for labor or racing, as it’s dangerous.
Caring for horses can be quite complicated, as even the air quality in barns must be kept at a certain level, as it can directly impact their overall respiratory health. Since this animal is so large, the respiratory system is imperative for overall health and wellness.
Understanding Remarkable Equines
Horses are fascinating creatures, but most people don’t realize how much they’re like humans. Though you look and move quite differently, the fact that the number of bones and some of the structures have similarities is uncanny.
The anatomy of the horse contributes to its remarkable abilities. Knowing about their skeletal, respiratory, and digestive systems helps us to be better caregivers for the horses we have here at Oak Haven Acres. When you understand the inner workings of the equine and the overall management of their health and well-being, you optimize their life and performance.