Understanding Ligaments and Tendons in Horses

In this first in a series, Dr. Deb Bennett discusses the scope of her anatomy lessons and misconceptions she finds with ligaments and tendons.


Pictured Above: Collagen is the most common structural material in the mammalian musculoskeletal system. Its tightly twisted molecular structure very strongly resists tensional forces, but does not stretch.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Parallel terminologies used in human medicine, veterinary medicine and zoology add to difficulty in communication.
  • Because the tendon contains a higher percentage of collagen, it is often less stretchy than the muscle belly, of which it is a part.
  • Because of its high elastin content, yellow ligament is quite stretchy while white ligament, which contains almost no elastin, is not stretchy at all.

The specialized and fascinating anatomy and function of the reciprocating systems, which aid locomotion in horses, is crucially important for farriers. I want to begin by clearing up some confusions about anatomical terminology, as well as make clear my approach to teaching horse anatomy.

There are two ways in which anatomy can be taught. The first is called “regional anatomy” and it’s the approach that dominates the training of veterinarians. The regional approach spotlights one zone of the body at a time and asks the student to learn every anatomical part, i.e. bone, muscle, nerve, blood vessel, tendon, ligament, organ or tissue that can be found there. This approach is well suited to the training of surgeons because surgery is almost always performed by cutting into one small area of the body.

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Elastin is a secondary structural material in musculoskeletal tissue. Its loose molecular structure resembles crocheting, and its molecules can stretch up to double their resting

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Dr deb bennett

Deb Bennett

Dr. Deb Bennett has studied classification, evolution, anatomy and biomechanics of the horse. She worked at the Smithsonian Institution, until founding the Equine Studies Institute. She is an author who has published four books on horse-related topics, in addition to articles in most major equine magazines in North America.

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