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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Introduction to Bone, Joint, and Muscle Disorders in Horses

By Russell R. Hanson, DVM, DACVS, DACVECC, Professor of Equine Surgery, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University ; Joerg A. Auer, DrMedVet, Dr h c, MS, DACVS, DECVS, Professor and Director, Equine Department, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zürich ; Andrew P. Bathe, MA, VetMB, DACVS, DEO, MRCVS ; Leo B. Jeffcott, MA, BVM, PhD, FRCVS, DVSc, VD, Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney ; Svend E. Kold, DMV, MRCVS, RCVS Specialist in Equine Surgery (Orthopedics) ; C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, DSc, FRCVS, DACVS, DACVSMR, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University ; Dale A. Moore, MS, DVM, MPVM, PhD, Associate Professor, Veterinary Medical Teaching and Research Center, University of California-Davis ; Sheldon Padgett, DVM, MS, DACVS ; Tracy A. Turner, DVM, MS, Anoka Equine Veterinary Services ; Stephanie J. Valberg, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, ACVSMR, Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota Equine Center ; John F. Van Vleet, DVM, PhD, Professor of Veterinary Pathology, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University


The musculoskeletal system includes the bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons, and other connective tissue. It supports the body, permits movement, and protects the vital organs. Because many other body systems (including the nervous system, blood vessels, and skin) are interrelated, disorders of one of these systems may also affect the musculoskeletal system.

Musculoskeletal disorders are common in horses, in part due to the fact that they are often expected to work, perform, or carry a rider, which places additional stress on the muscles and bones. Horses also have a complex anatomy of the front and hind limbs with a number of bones, tendons, and joints. Disorders of any of these musculoskeletal components can lead to lameness and other problems.