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Developing Palpation for Equine Therapists

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

This week I was super excited to be heading to Horses Inside Out HQ in Leicestershire as a student, participating in the 2-Day CPD Course for Equine Therapists: Developing Palpation.

Developing Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

I was so looking forward to being able to immerse myself in learning for 2 whole days with a bunch of other therapists, and there was a real mixture of people in the group including Massage Therapists like me as well as Physiotherapists and Equine Touch therapists.


Some were newly qualified and some more long standing professionals which made for some really interesting conversations and discussions over the 2 days.


gillian higgins horses inside out in teh classroom Developing Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

The course was held in Gillian’s stunning new classroom facility at her home, using her own horses which incudes a small but diverse mix of horses from a 12hh cob to a 17.2 ISH which was great from a learning perspective as each horse feels so different to one another.


gillian higgins horses inside out in teh riding school Developing Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

The group was quite small, there were 9 participants including me and then of course Gillian as our tutor. I really liked being in a small group as we all got to know each other quickly and feeling like you were in a familiar friendly and supportive group I think made each of us more confident about asking questions and opening up discussions.


The course was designed to give us all a more in depth knowledge of the anatomy we are feeling beneath our hands when palpating horses.


So not just thinking about the muscles directly beneath our hands when we touch, but actually visualising and thinking about the layers of muscles, the attachment points and tendons, and the specific parts of the bony landmarks you can feel.


 gillian higgins horses inside out in the classroom  Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

Most of us as therapists could name the superficial muscles and even the bones, but during the course we focused on what part of the muscle and bone we were feeling, and what that could tell us about the horse.


I think we were all pretty mind blown after the first day.


Day one was more bone focused. We got to work together to label up ‘Marvin’ the pony skeleton with the parts of each bone that are palpable.


 gillian higgins horses inside out labelling marvin Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

Gillian also presented lots of videos and images from horse dissections she has done previously.

These were absolutely fantastic to learn from. Literally peeling away the layers of the horse.


gillian higgins horses inside out Leo model in the classroom Developing Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

Having the combination of live horses, dissection images and video, and real life bones is what makes Gillian’s courses so unique.


And I really believe this learning experience is the best way to help you to visualise just what is going on under the surface of the skin when palpating horses.


gillian higgins horses inside out students practising massage techniques Developing Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

It felt great to be able to recognise lots of the structures I already knew and be able to feel them, but I also learnt so so much, as some of the structures we were feeling were ones I have not really considered before but will contribute hugely to helping me assess horses for treatment.


Gillian said how developing anatomy knowledge so that it becomes second nature can be the difference between a good therapist and a great therapist and she is absolutely right.


On day 2 we looked at Mysofascial Muscle Chains. Chains of muscles that link together throughout the body. We studied their function and how to palpate them as well as seeing them on more amazing dissection images and videos.


Gillian would then demonstrate how to palpate the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia and we then got a chance to feel for ourselves on the horses.


gillian higgins horses inside out Developing Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

The 2 days finished off with combining palpation skills with movement.


This was really cool and something I am most definitely going to be adding to my assessments going forward, it’s amazing how much more you can feel and how different some of the structures feel when adding some gentle motion to the horse’s body when you are feeling.


I always come away feeling inspired after a visit to Horses Inside Out whatever I am there doing but I felt like this course was on another level.


gillian higgins horses inside out Developing Anatomy Palpation Equine course professional therapists

If you are an Equine Therapist looking to develop your own skills and get a deeper understanding of the horse’s body I can’t recommend this course enough – make sure to get yourself a place for next year!


Visit the Horses Inside Out CPD for Therapists Page to find out more.





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