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My Day of Interactive Applied Anatomy

I have already attended three of Gillian’s 2 Day courses so was excited to add another one to my growing list. This time round it was the One-Day Interactive Anatomy course. Now, I LOVE anatomy - it's a bit of a thing of mine - so I arrived nice and early to grab a seat at the front!

The classroom - a specially converted barn - looked amazing. It was filled with skeletons and bones! There were two fully assembled skeletons on what looked like giant skateboards; a painted model of a horse; two tables each containing a full skeleton but all the bones were higgledy-piggledy on the surface; and all around the room there were models of various equine bits such as the pelvis with its various sacroiliac ligaments, several skulls, a magnetic model of a tarsus which you could pull apart and rebuild, and something similar for the carpus, too. I was in bony heaven!

After a quick round-robin introduction of names, we dived straight in and looked at the skull. The head is my least well known area of anatomy so I found this particularly fascinating. Did you know that it is made up of 34 bones! 34! It also houses the smallest bones in the body - those tiny little ones that are found in the ear. But, as I soon realised, it’s not just bones that are important but also the holes that can be found within them. There are several foramen, or holes, that allow the nerves to pass through the bone and reach their target muscles. It’s so obvious when you think about it that nerve fibres will need a way to pass through the skull, but it wasn’t until I saw the foramen myself that I could envisage exactly how they got from the inside to the outside of the bony walls. I think my favourite foramen is the Mental Foramen. Anatomy really is mental the way it all works together.

If you would like to learn more about the anatomy of the horse's head I'd strongly recommend Gillian's book (which I purchased on the day) Illustrated Head Anatomy as well as being full of amazing illustrations it also include useful and instructional videos.

Now that we all had a better understanding of the vertebrae and ribs, Gillian divided us into two groups and set us the challenge of assembling our own spine from the first cervical vertebra to the last caudal vertebra including the ribs. That was great fun and I think probably the best way to learn - it was by trying to fit one bone to another that we could really see and understand how the various joints work.

We repeated the learn-then-build pattern with the forelimbs and hindlimbs. Points of interest that are probably well known to most of you, but were new to me included the fact that the forelimb cannon bones are visibly shorter than the hindlimb ones; the tarsal bones of the hock fit together more neatly and tightly than the carpal bones - in fact, it is not unusual for the tarsal bones to fuse together; and the medial splint bones are bigger and heavier (if you are holding them!) than the lateral splint bones.

We also had the opportunity throughout the day to go outside and feel for the bony structures we had just discussed in class on Gillian’s amazingly patient and friendly horses. At one stage we were trying to locate one of the sacroiliac ligaments which entailed gently pressing one’s thumb up under the tail alongside the horse’s bottom. Our equine buddies did not bat an eyelid. In fact, Norman, the lovely 17hh horse I was fumbling around on, kindly held his tail to one side so I could concentrate more on the matter in hand!

This Interactive Anatomy day was absolutely fantastic. It flew by far too quickly and I could easily have come back the next day to learn some more. If I could have had my way, I would have come back every day for the rest of the week. Gillian’s style of teaching is brilliant: she is friendly, patient and professional. No question is too silly and even though she has been surrounded by these skeletons and has been teaching for years, her passion and energy for the subject matter infectiously shine through. I can’t recommend this course enough. One never, ever stops learning and I am already planning on booking my place on next year’s course - and I do hope to see you there, too!

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