Knowing the anatomy of your horse is very important when you are concerned about pain, movement issues, and understanding a diagnosis from your veterinarian. One part of the equine anatomy that is often misunderstood is that of the hip. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that veterinary anatomy often is assigned with laymen terms, but sometimes doesn’t actually describe the joint correctly, when compared to the same named anatomy of a person.
A good example of this is the anatomical component called the “knee”. The knee of a horse, which is how we refer to the joint just above the fetlock in the front legs, isn’t really a knee at all, but is actually a wrist. A true knee must have a patella (aka kneecap), and so in the equine body, the knee would actually be the stifle. We run into similar issues when we talk about the equine hip. When pointing to the human hip, most people can do that. We know that we have one on either side of our body, and are located in a specific spot.
But when we refer to the hip in a horse, most people don’t seem to know where it is.
On top of that, some equine practitioners, who lack proper training, are spreading misinformation which is leading to the confusion. Please read on to discover more about the hip!
The location of the “point of the hip” and the actual “hip joint” itself are quite different. The anatomy of these two structures are important to understand because the hip joint, as the name suggests, actually has a joint that moves. The point of the hip does not! The point of the hip, the veterinary term of which is the Tuber Coxae, does not have a joint, but it does have a lot of soft tissue attachments, which is to say that many muscles and ligaments attach here. It’s the part of the hind that sticks out to the sides, when looking at your horse’s body from the head towards the tail.
The hip joint is commonly fractured in people, especially the elderly, and it is also a commonly fractured part of the horse, as a result of trauma. A fracture of the point of the hip (tuber coxae) has a good prognosis and includes a high likelihood of returning to athletic training, whereas a fracture of the hip joint, does not.
So often, when I go out to see new horses, and the owner has had another “chiropractor” out (and I put chiropractor in quotes, because most people who say they do chiropractic work, aren’t actually trained, and licensed animal chiropractors) have told me that the previous chiropractor said their horse had a hip “out”. Ladies and gentlemen, when someone says that your horse has a hip “out”, the hairs on the back of your neck should stand up! Please ask the following question: “What do you mean, out?”. If they say anything that suggests the joint was out of socket, dislocated, or physically displaced, run like the wind. This goes for ANY joint in the horse, but I hear the term “out” mostly being associated with hips, ribs, and pole. This makes me cringe.
Not only is a hip dislocation rare in horses, but if the joint was actually out of place, as in dislocated, it would be a veterinary emergency, and is NOT a chiropractic issue.
The word “out” is being used as a way to express false significance with regard to what somebody did to “fix” your horse so that you have them back out, the person is untrained and he/she doesn’t understand the purpose of the adjustment, or they are simply telling you a falsehood. In either case, buyer beware! Stop and ask for credentials!
When you are told that the hip is out, ask him or her the following question: “Oh wow, can you point to where the hip joint is, so I can see if it’s painful, and I need to have you back out again?” If they point to the point of the hip… you’ll now know why they need not be hired for a second visit. Hip Point = No Joint!
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*This information is intended to be used for information purposes only. Only a trained, certified animal chiropractor or veterinarian should perform chiropractic adjustments on your animals. If your animals are experiencing medical problems, please contact your veterinarian.*