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Horses Inside Out Dissection Series 2012

Date: 12th February 2012

Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester

The dissection programme led by Gillian Higgins and Dr Andrew Hemmings consists of a series of day courses  which offer an insight into the anatomy of the horse and provide a rare and invaluable opportunity to get hands on and explore the structures within. Attended by farriers, physiotherapists, equine welfare officers, chiropractors, professional riders and veterinary students to name but a few the Limb Dissection day was fully booked and information packed.

Following a welcome by Gillian the introductory lecture, delivered by Andrew, revisited the evolution of the horse. From Hyracotherium some 50 million years ago with a convex curvature of the spine, toes with soft pads and an unfused radius and ulna to Mesohippus (35 million years ago), Miohippus (25 million years agho), Merychippus (15 million years ago), Pliohippus (5 million years ago) and finally, some 4 million years ago, the horse as we are more familiar with it today, ‘genuus equus’. Changing environment, climate, temperature, predator evasion and food sources being responsible for the animal we call the horse and as we know it today - increased height, hypsodont dentition, elongated spine and neck, frontal sinuses and one weight bearing digit on four limbs with a hardened ‘hoof’.

Farrier Mark Johnson focused on the hoof; what healthy feet should have and to what to look for in particular no cracks, no growth rings or ripples, a strong well connected outer wall and matching toe and heel angles.  In addition a good collateral groove depth, strong join of outer wall and sole, collateral grooves expanding to the apex of the frog and a strong healthy frog are desirable. The feet are indeed a reflection of general health – metabolic interruptions are shown in the hoof wall. Mark gave consideration to the hoof as a neuro sensory organ as a result of different proprioceptors in the hoof and highlighted the importance of good nutrition; how well a structure is going to perform comes back to cellular level and nutrition needs to get to those cells. Highlighting a particular penchant for development of the back of the foot, Mark believes in a high level of care to horses feet as soon as the foal is born. The young horse needs to move beyond playing the field in order to develop good digital cushion with decent exercise.

Moving on following a short precautionary regarding Health & Safety the group was loosely divided between three ‘floating’ dissection groups. Andrew led a group looking at the entire forelimb in some detail, Gillian examined two hock samples including a focus on the sacro-iliac joint and Mark led dissection of the lower limb including the hoof capsule. Each attendee had the opportunity to get involved in all or one area and to be as hands on as desired to explore the various complex anatomical structures.  

The course provided an unbelievable about of information packed into one-day but was flexible and relaxed in its deliverance to allow individuals to explore particular areas of interest. Enthusiastically delivered with expertly led dissections, the Horses Inside Out series understandably gets booked up very quickly. For farriers and apprentices this course is highly recommend whether you are studying for exams or simply brushing up!

To view the Forge & Farrier gallery from this clinic, click here.

For further course dates visit www.horsesinsideout.com.

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