Honors College
 

Developing Learning Modules to Teach Equine Anatomy and Biomechanics

Zandalee Toothaker, University of Maine

Abstract

Animal owners and professionals benefit from an understanding of an animal’s anatomy and biomechanics. This is especially true of the horse. A better understanding of the horse’s anatomy and weight bearing capabilities will allow people to treat and prevent injuries in equine athletes and work horses. Currently, teaching anatomy is based on dissection of cadavers and study of figures in textbooks. Dissection is expensive and presents logistical difficulties associated with sourcing, storage, and disposal of cadavers. Also, post mortem tissue changes obscure how the muscles support the bones and make the specimens unsuitable for representing biomechanical principles. Cadavers may also be objectionable to hands-on learners that do not have the fortitude for dissections. Building a model from readily available materials, such as PVC pipe and rope, is one way to teach equine biomechanics and anatomy to equine professionals. We are currently close to completing a model of the horse, an effort that has taken nine years and multiple students each year. Currently, the head, spine, ribs, front legs, and back legs are complete, and the musculature for the spine, front legs, and back legs is finished. However, building an entire horse may be too time consuming to learn key biomechanical principles of the horse’s feet and legs efficiently. However, the equine stay apparatus is a crucial system for enabling the legs to support the horse. Work is therefore now focused on making a model of the stay apparatus in the distal part of the foreleg that could be built in a laboratory teaching setting, and adapted to either a semester class, a half-day session, or a stand-alone kit for independent study. Development of such a model would greatly increase the availability of biomechanical instruction to equine community, especially veterinarians, horse trainers and farriers. It could also improve the welfare of horses through better management and prevention of lameness. This thesis describes the development of such a model, and the development of a half-day learning activity in which a simplified version of the model is contructed.