I’m just back from an interesting equine anatomy talk in Kidderminster and, since I know I’ll probably not get a chance to write over the next couple days, I thought I’d make some notes now. Even though it’s late and I’d really like to sleep! 

Firstly, and completely unrelated really, I bought myself a new Moleskine on the way to the train station. Ooh, I love me a new notebook. They all accidentally end up with a “theme”. I’ve a gold one (gift from a friend, such a posh Lacroix embossed cover!) with some basic structural anatomy and beginnings of biomechanics and fascia/muscle chains. A Rhodia all about different classical approaches to riding. A black Moleskine all about anatomy/mechanics of “way of going”. Oh, a little blue/gold one (Christmas gift from Holly) which I write my favourite quotes in. And now a taupe-grey Moleskine, fresh and ready to use! Lord, I love a nice notebook, love studying. But what will the taupe one end up being about? Some more anatomy, I should think, to prepare for the dissection I’m attending in April. 

The talk was by Gillian Higgins of Horses Inside Out and was excellent. She’s a very good communicator and the information was well paced. But I especially loved having a handle of the bone samples since it’s not something I ever get to do. Went with a friend from the stables, am hoping that a bigger group of us will go to the next few talks (they’re happening once a month for most of the year). My friend (who runs the stables I volunteer at) was chatting on way home about ideas for obstacle courses this summer, useful ways of getting the ponies stepping slowly over logs, doing carrot stretches, backing up, things like that, which will help the kids learn too. ‘Tis a good idea. 

Confirmed a lot of the things I’ve been learning over the past year but the most interesting “new to me” information was the fact that anatomical variation between individuals (re: the spine) is higher than you might think. Apparently it’s not super uncommon to find lumbar vertebrae with weird transverse processes and even mini ribs attached, things like that. Facts like that should make us more aware of limitations that individuals may experience. Reminded me of an article I read once about the human hip joint. Some people apparently just aren’t built to turn their toes in whilst on horseback, though they wouldn’t necessarily know it. Not without using the “wrong” joints and muscles, at any rate. Which reminded me, in turn, of how ballet has to be slow and progressive because it is very easy and possible to achieve something like turn-out in entirely the wrong way which would be even more “harmful” to the body than ballet already can be. 

Gillian mentioned, in passing, about the transmission of forces through the spine and I’d have loved to have heard more as it’s a topic I’ve been reading a lot about recently. Right at the beginning of the talk she mentioned that there can be approximately 344 articular surfaces within the spine. That is a huge number of surfaces that you want to be functioning as smoothly as possible if forces (from all directions) are going to be safely and efficiently dealt with.  

We touched on growth plates and how the base of the neck is the last to fuse. Indeed, she touched on the base of the neck a couple of times and seemed super enthused about the topic (advocated FDO naturally, to engage the NL) so I wished we’d had a bit more time spent on it. Perhaps because it’s not “visible” it rarely seems to get talked about. And yet, if it overbends or sinks it takes the thoracic spine with it which is the opposite of what we want for the ridden horse. 

Loved the chat about timing leg aids with rib swing, the only other person I’ve seen explain that is Heather Moffett.  

Oh! Here’s a factoid I didn’t know! More than a fifth of a horse’s weight is made up of his abdominal contents. I knew their stable spine was to support a heavy digestive system, but I had no idea of *how* heavy, wow. 

There were books for sale but PayPal wasn’t working, which was just as well for me today! But I’ll endeavour to have pennies to buy something at the next talk. I can’t keep borrowing “Horse Anatomy for Performance” from the library, other people are going to want it eventually, haha. And discovered the dates for Gillian’s educational dissections this year. If I enjoy the SMD one, perhaps I’ll try to save up for one of her’s in December too. 

There you are. Am tired, so not the most fluid of diary entries, but just wanted to get key impressions down whilst it’s all fresh. Very enjoyable talk, highly recommended, looking forward to the future ones. 

Right. Cat fed (much later than he would have liked), fire to be stoked, and then to bed. Stables tomorrow. Weather is meant to be nice, thank goodness. Need the iron tablets I’ve ordered to arrive, am so very fatigued this month. 

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