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Horses Inside Out - where it all began

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

In our last blog we chatted to Horses Inside Out founder Gillian Higgins. As we continue our celebrations to mark 15 years of Horses Inside Out in this second part of the blog, we find out a bit more about how Horses Inside Out began and what the future holds.

Gillian was already a trained human sports therapist and had her BHS Intermediate coaching qualifications. While studying at the Royal Agricultural College, Gillian had been able to build up a base of clients and when she finished university was able to start work straightaway. It was while she was working as a coach and equine therapist that Gillian thought that horse owners would benefit from a better understanding of how horses work.

The first live painted horse demo

“I put together a series of five workshops at the livery yard where I kept Freddie,” explains Gillian. “They were just for my clients and the aim was to show where the main body structures are and teach some stretches, Pilates exercises and the last one covered movement.

“My mum was a primary school teacher and had some kid safe paint that I used to indicate on the horse where key structures. By the final part of the course, I painted on the muscles and skeleton on the horse in advance - this was essentially when the idea of Horses Inside Out started.”

Gillian remembers her first live horse painting was all a little basic - the horse had 12 ribs instead of 18 and the neck vertebrae weren’t quite the right shape but what it did do was make it a lot easier for people to understand the topic because they could physically see where the structures were as Gillian talked about them

gillian higgins horses inside out painted horse early day 2006 basic 12 ribs!

I was then asked to do a workshop for the award winners of the Event Horse Owners Association at Hartpury.

gillian higgins horses inside out painted horse demonstration hartbury award winners

Caroline Moore who Gillian trained with asked her to do a lecture demonstration at Vale View Equestrian Centre in Leicestershire. From that demo Gillian was asked to do another one and so on –the Horses Inside Out brand built up gradually through word of mouth to begin with – it was never really planned– it just evolved in the early years.

Gillian has taken Horses Inside Out around the world – lecturing regularly as well as continuing with regular lecture demonstrations in the UK. An annual conference was added to the mix – this proved to be hugely popular and grew year after year with many speakers lecturing on key topics and revealing research all for the better of the horse.

gillian higgins horses inside out painted horse skeleton demonstration pointing to lumbar area

15 years on and the core of the business is still the same and that’s to make learning about horse biomechanics and anatomy fun, interesting and educational. Painting horses is what makes Horses Inside Out unique - as well as Gillian’s boundless enthusiasm and ability to make often complex subjects easy to understand.

Dealing with lockdown

As we all know 2020 wasn’t the year we were all expecting. There was a full calendar of courses and events planned to include the usual highly anticipated annual conference, but this all changed in March 2020 when the UK went into lockdown due to Covid-19.

Like many other business owners Gillian had to make big changes to Horses Inside Out in order to survive. Her thoughts and plans quickly turned to developing online courses and demonstrations. It was something that Gillian had been keen to do for some time but with an already busy schedule there was never enough time to dedicate to developing this idea but now she had some spare time on her hands.

“Developing the online side is massive for me,” says Gillian. In the past if people had been interested in seeing one of my demonstrations, they had to wait for me to be doing one locally, or be prepared to travel, but now they can access a whole library of great content from the comfort of home.”

gillian higgins horses inside out logo circle academy

The Horses Inside Out Academy is also a new addition to Horses Inside Out. It’s free to sign up and gives you access to hours of lectures that you can watch as and when you like. This part of Horses Inside Out is constantly growing as more and more content is added, so even though we are returning to some form of normality and through last summer Gillian has been running courses from her Leicestershire base she is still keen to grow the online offering and has plenty of ideas in the pipeline.

The next one is the Spring series of webinars that begins on Wednesday 2nd February. This fascinating four-part series gives a detailed look at anatomy related to tack as dressage moves and will appeal to anyone with an interest in horses. Find out more about this series HERE.

We already have the dates and details listed for all our courses at Wavendon Grange for the year ahead.... Check them out on our WHAT'S ON webpage.

Time to write

If creating hours of online content during lockdown wasn’t enough Gillian has also found the time to write two more books and has another 2 in the pipeline!! The first should be available by the end of 2021 and covers a popular topic in the horse world at the moment and that’s bridle fit and how it can affect your horse’s comfort and way of going.

“Illustrated Head Anatomy covers in detail the anatomy of the head related to bridle fit and design,” explains Gillian. To help bring the topic to life there’s also videos that accompany the book.”

Poles for Posture is the other book that Gillian is writing. This is sure to be hugely popular and she can’t wait for this one to be finished and published as it will appeal to all horse owners and give them lots of inspirational exercises to do and improve their horse’s posture which is key for all-round health.

A family affair

Horses Inside Out has always been part of the family and both Gillian’s parents have been integral to its growth and success.

gillian higgins horses inside out family photograph

“I couldn’t have done this without the invaluable help and support of my parents,” says Gillian. “They have both been with me every step of the way. Helping behind the scenes so everything runs smoothly.”

Plans are well underway for 2022 as Horses Inside Out continues to grow and evolve. If you have any comments or requests please do not hesitate to get in touch!

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