Horse Dissection: 10 Things I Learned

We have invited Dr Ivana Ruddock-Lange to the Connection Training Centre to perform a whole horse dissection. You may initially be squeamish at the thought of this, as I was, but what I learned quickly removed the yuk factor and replaced it with complete fascination.

Maybe it’s because Ivana is such a complete expert. As a previous lecturer in Veterinary Anatomy, her knowledge is complete and fluent. She explains each point in depth and connects what she sees with the movement and health of the horse. And, as the figurehead and top trainer/practitioner in Equine Touch, she is fascinated by fascia, connective tissue and the tiniest flaws which will block smooth movement.

This video is a 30 second view of the dissection she does. The actual dissection takes three days, and is the best opportunity you will ever get to understand your horse’s body, movement and restrictions from the inside out. Please note: the video is quite graphic so don’t watch it if you feel distressed at the thought of a horse dissection.

I first saw Ivana dissecting an ex polo pony about 5 years ago. What struck me then has stayed with me, and here are the top ten insights I still remember and draw on in my horse training.

1) The connective tissue is everywhere! No wonder treating meridian lines and massage work. The body is connected from top to toe and all around by this amazing organ. It is enveloping, connects everything together and promotes or impedes communication throughout the body. Just Wow!

2) The front legs are hardly attached at all. Just an easily removed layer of soft tissue and the leg is disconnected. This creates the freedom of movement the horse needs but leaves it vulnerable to injury so easily.

3) What we do to them. This poor polo pony had no muscle left in the saddle area. All wasted through ill-fitting saddles and the way it was ridden. All the cartilage around the top of her shoulder blades was serrated and absent, due to the effect of an over-tight saddle.

4) How huge the hind-gut is. Once that baby is released, it spills everywhere. So much surface area for digestion and absorption. No wonder horses are good at re-cycling water!

5) How huge the lungs are. I mean, enormous. Together the lungs and the guts just fill that space below where we sit. They swing freely forward, as there are no collar bones, held on in a hammock effect.This provides propulsion when they are galloping. Amazing!

6) How stuck the stuck places are. This polo pony had sustained a serious issue to  hind leg tendons. Two tendons had fused together as they healed. What should have been elastic, expanding and contracting, was just stuck in the middle, with little give. Ivana identified it as an old injury. How had that poor pony coped since the injury?

7) How firmly the pelvis is held by huge muscles. The next time a body-worker says they “put the pelvis back” be a bit cynical. That thing is not easy to move!

8) How deeply the psoas muscle inserts into the backbone. This is the muscle we are trying to tone when we engage our core or when we ask the horse to collect. It is strong and inserts very deeply. It is so easy to engage more superficial muscles and think we have engaged the psoas. This insight has made me focus more on the effect on my back than my stomach, when I engage. It’s working better for me.

9) The complementarity of muscles. How, for one to contract the complementary muscle must extend. I knew this in theory but actually seeing it in  practice was eye-opening. It’s helped me to understand the importance of freedom and looseness in muscles. You can ask a muscle to contract and work, but if its complimentary muscle cannot release and extend, you will not get the result you’e looking for.

10) How incredibly knowledgeable Ivana is. The names of all the anatomical structures just trip off her tongue as naturally as everyday speech. Her understanding of how each part works, what its function is and what happens if there are problems or restrictions is deep and she communicates it brilliantly. Finally, her holistic view. As a highly experienced and talented equine body-worker, she joins all the dots. She can explain why restrictions in gut connective tissue will affect freedom of the neck. She encourages you to ask questions and to feel differences in tissue tone and flexibility. By the end, you have heard 10 times more than you can absorb, but what you retain is exactly what you need to know for the next part of your learning.

Ivana’s Whole Horse Dissection Clinic  will be at the Connection Training Centre in Spain from 26th-28th October. She will follow up with a day introducing Equine Touch, a gentle but powerful modality to help your horse release tension and move better.

Click here for prices and information. We’ve set up a great package deal if you want to do both courses and stay an extra day for a relaxing finish. This is a unique and special course. Don’t miss out. Book now!

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1 thought on “Horse Dissection: 10 Things I Learned”

  1. Wonderful post! I highly recommend attending Ivana’s whole horse dissection clinic. She is an amazing teacher and incredibly knowledgeable. You’ll gain an understanding of horses that you simply can’t get from books. It’s truly an enlightening experience.

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