How Flexible is Your Horse?

A surprising thing about a horse is that its spine is almost completely rigid. The backbone of a horse was originally designed for a very different environment and activity than it needs in modern times. It amazes me that with the limited range of motion of the femur (hind thigh bone), along with the inflexibility of the spine, that our horses are able to lift their heavy bodies over big fences, or perform the lateral movements of a Grand Prix dressage test. When you see how awkward a horse is as it lies down, gets back up, or attempts to roll over, the stiffness of the back is apparent.

When you see an advanced horse that appears uphill, it is because it has lowered the haunches. The bulk of the spine remains fairly rigid. Where the pelvis is attached, the vertebrae are welded into a solid mass: the sacrum.

The tail and neck are the exception to flexibility in the vertebral column. The neck moves up and down freely, but is still limited in sideways movement.

Humans and dogs have spinal disks with a soft center.  The horse has disks that are made of tough fibers.

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