Building the Anatomical Stick Figure

August 7, 2018

Building the Stick Figure  
The foreleg refers to the entire front limb of the horse. The haunches refers to the hind end. It is important to note that the foreleg is from the scapula down to where the hoof meets the ground on both sides and in between the legs comfortably sits the chest. Out of the chest protrudes the neck in the front and the barrel which sits between the foreleg area and the haunches behind.  
To build the supporting structure (the armature) we must first fully understand what we are looking at anatomically. 



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Locating Joints

There are 6 joints in the foreleg of the horse that concern the armature. These are the shoulder (scapula), point of shoulder (greater tuberosity), point of elbow (olecranon), knee (carple joint), fetlock (metacarpophalangeal) and coffin joint (distal interphalangeal).   

We also find 6 joints in the hind leg required for proper understanding of the skeletal structure for armature building. These are the point of croup (tuber sacrale) the hip joint (os coxae) stifle joint (patella) point of hock (tuber calcis) the fetlock (metacarpophalangeal) and coffin joint (distal interphalangeal).

Other joints important for armature building are the thoracic vertebrae 1 or T1, the poll (occipital bone) and the dock of the tail (caudal vertebrae)  


The Barrel
The barrel of the horse is formed by his ribs. Most horses have 36 ribs in total. Sixteen of the ribs are considered true ribs because they join the segments of the sternum. The other 20 ribs are referred to as floating ribs because they are attached by costal cartilage. The ribs connect to the Thoracic vertebrae forming part of the vertebral column. The horse typically has 18 thoracic vertebrae. There are 6 lumbar and 5 sacral vertebrae as well as the caudal vertebrae of the tail which vary in number. This vertical column is represented by the three pieces of coiled wire in your armature.


When measuring sculpture, the highest point is from the tip of the ears or the top of the head whichever is higher. In horses, the point in which to measure height is at the withers. For the sake of simplification we will begin at the withers.

The withers are in fact part of the spine and not part of the foreleg. The withers  are formed from the first 10 or so thoracic vertebrae. This makes the outline (mountain if you will) where the neck and the back meet forming the summit of the withers. The mobility of these vertebrae are restricted to a limited opening and closing between bones. This opening and closing action happens depending on how the horse is using the rest of his body and if he is carrying himself in tension or relaxation. These vertebrae, like the rest of the vertebrae of the spine, can become compressed when the horse drops his back and tenses his ventral chain. They can be opened when the horse uses his core and haunches by stepping deeply under his body at the walk or trot. This opening protects the spine from any long term damage that may occur when a horse stands or moves invertedly. More about this in Anatomy One.


As you run your hand flat down from the withers you will find the scapula cartilage. We must identify the angle and location of the scapula in the aluminum armature by making a simple backward bend at the point of the shoulder.

The scapula rotates back towards the horse’s tail when in motion. The longer the stride and greater lift of the front leg, the wider the rotation becomes. This makes saddle fit crucial. Many English and Western saddle trees are formed in such a way that causes the scapula cartilage to run into the part of the tree called the bars. In the Western saddles these bars are often rounded and in the English saddle they commonly come to a point both causing permanent damage from repetitive abrasion to the scapula cartilage. Unlike bone, cartilage does not repair or grow back.


As we continue down in the direction of the chest we find the point of the shoulder. We’ve already made a bend in our wire armature to identify the point of shoulder. However, it’s important to recognize that this is the only area in the front leg that has a ball and socket joint. The deltoid tuberosity is palpable which we will follow with our wire to the olecranon of the ulna, commonly referred to as the elbow. Here we will make a forward bend to indicate it’s location.  


Next we will continue our wire down the side of the humerus. As we travel down the leg we are able to palpate the carpal bones of the knee joint. You will want to mark the carpus joint with a permanent marker if the model is in a standing position or a downward bend is made in relation to the action taken by the horse in the front leg.

Run the hand down the cannon which is made up of three metacarpals. The most prominent is metacarpal bone III and we find the metacarpophalangeal known as the fetlock at the end of the cannon. The fetlock has a relatively round shape to it due to the sesamoid bones located at the back of the joint. This is a hinge joint formed by the coming together of the metacarpal bone III and the proximal phalanx known as the pastern. Bend the wire in a forward bend to indicate the location of this joint. Note for clay application how the pastern has an inward curve when viewed from the side creating a sort of cavity on the back of the pastern which then meets the bulb of the heel. The leg finishes with the heel of the hoof. Hoof structure is covered in depth in Anatomy One.

The coffin bone, sometimes referred to as the pedal bone, dictates the shape of the hoof. The proximal interphalangeal sits in the top of the coffin bone forming another hinge joint with a smaller range of motion then the fetlock joint. There is a small distal sesamoid bone sitting in between the coffin bone and the pastern.


Hind Leg
Locate the point of hip (tuber coxae). This is the attachment of the wire to the coil made for the barrel. The point of hip is formed by the os coxae and the tuber coxae is the point of the bone that forms the point of hip. Here a forward bend is made to indicate the direction of motion taken by the horse.

The wire extends down the femur to the  patella which forms the stifle. A backward bend is made in the wire to indicate the direction of bend and motion. Next we follow the tibia to the point of hock (tuber calcis) where we make a forward bend in the wire and run the wire straight down the cannon to the fetlock (metacarpophalangeal) and coffin joint (distal interphalangeal).


Neck and Head

There are typically 7 cervical vertebrae of the neck. This is represented by a single wire protruding out from the barrel. Make a downward bend to indicate the poll.  


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