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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What's Inside the Horse

Yes, I have another video for you! Now, this time when I say "what's inside the horse," I'm not referring to anything touchy-feely: I mean guts, bones, ligaments, muscles, etc. - what's literally inside. We are talking extremely scholarly dissection here. I found it absolutely riveting. However, if you are the squeamish type (and were never an An Sci/Pre-Vet major like yours truly) you might want to skip it. I am putting the link down lower on purpose as even the frozen image could be disturbing. Nonetheless, I wanted to share this, in case anyone else will find it just as fascinating and educational as I do.

To give you an outline to help you decide if you want to watch or not, basically, these folks set out to explain just what enables a Thoroughbred race horse to run so fast. They investigate the role of the forearm musculature, the tendon/ligament support in the legs, the role of the hoof and take a look at the lungs - I had NO IDEA they were this big, honestly! The voluminous amount of intestines is briefly shown being removed. We are shown the larynx and trachea and find out exactly why and where some horses need "tie-back" surgery (although the surgery itself is not mentioned for some reason). We briefly see the hind-end musculature and the spleen. Almost last but not least, the heart is removed and compared to a cow heart. Again, I had no freaking idea they were THAT big! Can you name another extremely famous race horse, besides this one, who was found to have a very over-sized heart? I didn't know!
*Gratuitous Photo of Big Red* Isn't this gorgeous??!? I have it as my screen saver. Galloping at Belmont, I believe. Whatta horse.
The reason the video has the long and unwieldy title (which really doesn't do such a hot job of explaining what it's about) is the sequence when the horse's leg is put on a mechanical "stressor" machine and the exact load on the tendons is aptly illustrated, if in rather grisly fashion. Believe me, it will make you appreciate the job your horse's front boots are doing protecting the back of those forelegs - especially if he's prone to overreaching. YIKES.

So here is the video. I'm very glad I stumbled across it (filmed and shown in the UK, originally) as I learned a lot of useful information. Probably nothing new to a certain reader who's getting ready to graduate from vet school - yay, Jess! :-) - but to the layperson, it's a revelation. I hope you find it the same!


  1. That's my favorite picture of Secretariat! He looks like he could launch himself off the planet if he wanted to- stunning.

  2. I love that video! Very interesting.. and trust me, I still have PLENTY to learn.

  3. I'm sure you've heard, but Rachel Alexandra went home and it sounds like she's doing well. =-)

  4. Yes, I did know, and watched the little video Stonestreet provided. Fingers crossed that she keeps doing well! I did not like the sound of that abscess. Do you think she will be bred again? Seems to me like it would be way too risky, but her foals are worth a fortune, so.... guess we will see. Certainly not for a 2014 foal.

    In other "famous mare" news, Queen Z is getting ready to have Z14! Sure hope she has an easy time again. Very nerve-wracking for all concerned when it's such a well-known horse. If anything happens to her it would just be devastating on so many fronts...

  5. My guess would be no, the scar tissue from her surgery is not as strong as normal tissue so she might be even more likely to have something like that happen again. Plus I can imagine the public outcry would be pretty intense if something were to happen.

    Embryo transfers aren't allowed in the TB industry, but I bet there are plenty of sport horse people who would love an athletic RA baby. Could you imagine one going around a XC course??

  6. I love that picture!!! So powerful and awesome!!

    New followers here, excited to read your blog :)

  7. I have personally participated in several dissections - necropsies as well as colic surgeries. And when I was in school, a young TB racehorse with Wobblers came in for euthanasia. I asked the department head if I could get a foreleg and a hind leg.

    I had the lucky opportunity to receive 2 whole legs. Skin and all, and dissect them myself to get to the bones, which I boiled and preserved. That was in 2001, and I still have them, a complete front and a complete hind.

    The horse is truly such an amazing animal, and I can tell you from first hand experience - literally cutting through the suspensory ligament and DDFT with a serrated knife, just how DIFFFICULT those tendons/ligaments actually are to cut through! Wow. That was a workout and a half.

    They are amazingly tough anatomical features, but it is no wonder why they are damaged it is such a debilitating injury for the horse. These very tough ligs/tends, support the entire horse, and the amount of force it takes to truly damage them, makes it really easy to understand why the horse may be permanently lame afterwards.

    What a great video.

  8. Unfortunately YouTube will not let me watch the video in the UK :(

    This is a YouTube video that I produced with a vet explaining the anatomy of a horse’e leg with a horse, x-rays and scans.... but not a dissection everyone can watch it and its very educational.

  9. Hi, Chris - I apologize for the belated reply here. That's pretty funny that you can't watch the video seeing as it was filmed in the UK! I will check yours out and appreciate your sharing. Thanks very much for reading!


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