The Art of Teaching Animal AnatomyPublished May 19, 2010
One of my favorite coat colors in horses is the Paint. With patterns that are so interesting and compelling, which may at times even resemble a Rorschach inkblot test; it is, in my opinion, more fun than cloud gazing to learn more about our inner psyches. But you may be wondering what got me on the subject of Paint horses? Well, the other day, a friend sent me a most remarkable email about a very clever method which a sports remedial therapist designed to teach riders and horse trainers about equine anatomy. Heck, it sure would have come in handy years ago when I was actively involved with horses. It would have it far more colorful and fun and facilitate the arduous task of memorizing all those bones, joints and muscles basic to the study of animal anatomy. Of course some folks may be appalled by this method, but I thought it was extremely innovative and imaginative and would have saved me hours of looking at dull and dry black and white drawings as I attempted to become more intimately knowledgeable about the equine body. Since 27 year old Gillian Higgins, who is also a champion rider from Nottingham England who personally won a gold medal at the student rider's Nation Cup in 2006, fully understands how challenging it is for any anatomy student to learn about the 250 bones and 700 muscles in the horse to study, she came up with a brilliant idea to not only make the task more fun, but to also make it a lot more easy to achieve. Rather than using the rather "boring" traditional methods, she thought it far more stimulating to actually "paint the inner workings of the horse on the beast, itself". Ms. Higgins said, "Painting the skeleton and musculature on the side of the horse really helps to bring the subject to life. I realized that many riders and trainers could benefit from a better understanding of how the horse works. With all those bones and muscles with incredibly long names, it can be a bit much to take it all in. I'm trying to show the anatomy and how the horse works in an interesting and easy to understand way." Of course this project is totally safe. Ms. Higgins uses only water-based hypoallergenic paint on the horses being modeled, which are either her six year old Henry, or her 12 year old eventer Freddie Fox, whose docile temperament really suits the task. But since Ms. Higgins is much in demand in many areas around the world, she depends on the schools and colleges that she visits to provide a horse upon which she can paint. Her preference is grey horses since the contrast of the colors show up far more clearly. Ms. Higgins claims that the process is very similar to grooming and she has few problems with horses getting upset by her artistic endeavors. They don't seem to mind it at all. This said, Ms. Higgins added, "'The worst thing that has ever happened was when a horse that had not minded being painted in the slightest, then had to go into an arena in front of 150 people. He got a bit spooked up by the crowd and was jumping around and became a little bit too much." Do you think that this method would be appropriate for other species to teach anatomy? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.