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Identifying Horse Parts and Markings

If you hang around a stable for any length of time, you'll notice that horse people have a language all their own. This language — which sounds like a foreign tongue to the uninitiated — is what horse people use to describe the intricate details of the horse's body.

Checking out the parts

Nature made horses to be virtual running machines that can reach speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour. The equine body is an impeccably designed combination of muscle and bone in an elegant and graceful package.

People who spend time around horses not only begin to appreciate equine anatomy but also come to understand it. Horse people talk about their horses' bodies the way mechanics talk about cars. In the equine world, if you want to keep up with such conversations, you must know the lingo and the blueprint. Here are some parts of the horse you need to know (see Figure 1 for more.):

  • Withers: The area on the horse's back just after the neck but above the shoulders
  • Fetlock: The horse's ankle
  • Forelock: The hair between the horse's ears that falls onto the forehead
  • Hocks: The elbow-like joint of the horse's back legs
  • Muzzle: The area of the horse's head that includes the mouth and nostrils

Figure 1: The parts of the horse work together to build a virtual running machine.

Have you heard the expression, No hoof, no horse? Well, it's true. Without healthy hooves, horses can't function well. Becoming familiar with the parts of the horse's hoof (see Figure 2) gives you intimate knowledge of this most important part of the equine body. This knowledge helps you take better care of your horse's tootsies, too.


Figure 2: Knowing the parts of the hoof is essential in caring for horses.

Looking at markings

Leg and facial markings are great for helping to identify individual horses. Each marking has a name, and each name is universal among equine aficionados. Figure 3 shows the most common horse facial markings. Keep in mind that the following patterns often have subtle variations.

  • Bald: White that starts above the forehead, goes to the muzzle, and extends beyond the bridge of the nose to the side of the face
  • Blaze: Wide white area that runs along the bridge of the nose
  • Snip: White spot located on the muzzle, between or just below the nostrils
  • Star: White spot on the forehead
  • Stripe: Narrow white stripe down the center of the face, on the bridge of the nose

Figure 3: Facial markings can help you identify individual horses.

Figure 4 shows typical white leg markings on horses. They include

  • Coronet: A small white band just above the hoof
  • Half cannon: A white marking that extends from the edge of the hoof halfway up the middle of the leg
  • Half pastern: A white marking that extends from the edge of the hoof halfway up the pastern
  • Sock: A white marking that extends from edge of the hoof two-thirds of the way up the leg
  • Stocking: A white marking that extends from edge of the hoof to the knee or hock

Figure 4: You can find a variety of white leg markings on horses.
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