A Fascinating Picture: Horses Inside Out

A picture is certainly worth a thousand words. Or, 2,564 shares.

That’s how many times to date that my photo of a horse painted “inside out” was shared since it was posted to the ProEquest Facebook page on Sunday afternoon. It’s a striking image that illustrates the skeletal structure of both the horse and the rider in motion.

Why does a simple photo take on a viral life of its own? Well, it’s not due to the skill of the photographer (although I’d like to think otherwise,) but rather, to the fascinating subject caught in its frame.

And that attention-getting method of quite literally painting the anatomical structures of horses on the outside of their coats is no circus sideshow. It’s all part Gillian Higgins' grand plan.

Higgins, who is an equine sports and remedial therapist based in Great Britain, came up with the idea of painting anatomy on horses after working with many clients who kept asking the same questions in relation to the sore backs and muscles of their horses. By painting the bones, muscles, tendons and other anatomical systems on the side of a live horse and watching it move, she found that she could create a profound way to enable riders to truly appreciate how their horse moves.

That was in 2007. It only took a few painted demonstrations for British equestrian magazines to take notice of HIggin’s innovative teaching method, and things snowballed from there.

Since then Higgins has given demonstrations, seminars and conferences to British Dressage and Eventing, The Society of Master Saddlers, and in countries ranging from South Africa to North America. She aptly named her method Horses Inside Out, and to date has published several books, DVDs, and a wealth of YouTube videos that show painted horses in motion.

“At the end of the day, Horses Inside Out isn’t just about the painted horse,” Heard explaines. “I use it to demonstrate the application of this information that is so important.”

Anatomy Made Easy
For Higgins, the eye-catching bones, muscles, and nerves that she paints onto her demonstration horses are simply a very effective tool that catches the interest of horse people, and educates them for the betterment of their horse.

“You can watch a painted horse and you can think, ‘wow that looks amazing,’ but what you really need to know is: how is this information going to help you with your horses? How’s it going to help your horse jump a clear round? Or, how’s it going to improve your performance in the dressage?”

With her knowledge of equine anatomy, she paints complete skeletal and muscular structures on horses of all sizes, and lets the movement do the rest. She’s painted jumpers, dressage horses, reiners and vaulters and given demonstrations to riders across all those disciplines, and more.

Eye Opening
And so, when a fully painted horse and rider cantered into the International Ring at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center before the jumpoff of last Saturday night’s grand prix, Higgins was pleased but not surprised when the 6,000-odd spectators in attendance were captivated.

She spoke briefly about Horses Inside Out while the enthralled crowd watched demo rider Danielle Goldstein circle the arena and point her horse over a single jump that was progressively raised higher and higher.

This was just the warmup height.

That’s when I snapped my picture. We weren’t watching the horse so much as we were watching the bones of his leg fold, his spine compress over the fence, and his neck stretch and lengthen as he landed. Would I be thinking about this image in my mind's eye the next time I jumped a horse? You bet.

“It doesn’t matter what discipline you ride,” Higgins says. “Understanding range of movement, understanding how the muscles work is so very, very important to not only help with performance, but to also help horses be comfortable. And that’s what Horses Inside Out is about, really.”

Visit HorsesInsideOut.com to find out more about Higgins, where her next demonstration is and when she will return to the US.

Higgins loved Florida and hopes that this, her first trip to Wellington, won't be her last.