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Painting Horses - A Day With Gillian Higgins

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

This week I was very fortunate to be invited to spend the day with Gillian Higgins from Horses Inside Out to help out with some filming for an up coming project.

I was given the date, time and address of where to be but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, I was however very excited!

When I arrived Wavendon Grange I started to recognise the arena and stables instantly from some of Gillian’s videos.

Wavendon Grange is Gillian’s own home, as well as home to her horses Freddie, Arty and Blue Cross rescue Pumpernickel. (I just had to get a snap of Pumpernickel as he is too cute)

Horses Inside Out cute pony Pumpernickel

The traditional brick stable yard is gorgeous and I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to see the brand new class room which is where I found Gillian already making progress with painting Arty.

horses inside out Gillian Higgins painting muscles on horse Artistic Flair.

First up was a welcome cup of tea and then Gillian got me stuck straight in with assisting with the painting!

HOrses Inside Out, paint anatomy, muscle chains

Horses Inside Out, paint horse, anatomy, muscle chains, semitendinosus

gillian higgins horses inside out painting process muscle chains
Equine Anatomy Myofascial chains, abdominal muscles

Slightly nerve wracking as I have never painted a horse before, and I knew this was going to be on camera, but Gillian quickly put me at ease and we soon got chatting, which gave me a chance to ask some of the questions I am sure we have all wanted to ask…, what did I get to find out?

Gillian started painting horses in 2007. She started as a massage therapist and her first demo was designed to help some of her clients understand more about their horse’s body parts.

Gillian has now painted more than 500 horses.

Arty, the horse we were painting this day is Gillian’s own 17hh Irish Sport Horse and he has been painted around 20 times.

The paints used are water based, hypoallergenic, non toxic paint.

gillian higgins horses inside out close up of paint on horse horse abstract abdominal muscles paint

Gillian Higgins horses inside out spine lumbar anatomy painted

Gillian started painting Arty at 7am (I arrived at 9am) and we completed the painting at around midday – so that’s a whole 5 hours!

However that time also included walk and wee breaks for Arty, water and feed breaks (also for Arty) and lots of cups of tea for us!

It was quite a cold day compared to the warmer weather we had has earlier in the week, but it was lovely and toasty under the heat lamps which are also useful for helping the paint to dry, as some areas need a second coat!

The design we were painting on Arty was the skeleton on the left side and 2 of the muscle chains on the right side.

As we were nearing completion of the painting and videographer Matthew Roberts had arrived and was ready to go with the filming I asked Gillian if she still gets nervous when presenting…and believe it or not she still does! Although you would never know.

Once we had finished painting Gillian headed off to get changed and ready for the filming which left me to unbandage Arty’s tail and we were ready to go!

filming live painted horse lecture demonstration series gillian higgins horses inside out

The project we were working on was part 1 of a 4 part video series coming soon, which is a video version of the live demos Gillian normally travels the country presenting. Find out more about the series HERE

As live demos are not possible at the moment, like lots of businesses Horses Inside Out has had to adapt in order to keep sharing this amazing information with horse owners and equine professionals.

Today’s film was to focus on the skeleton and muscles of the horse both statically and in motion.

During filming Gillian asked if I would be comfortable holding and leading Arty in some of the videos to assist with demonstration….well, I wasn’t planning on being on camera, but how could I say no?

Luckily I keep my riding hat and gloves in the car with me so I was equipped to pop them on and get involved!

Gillian Higgins, horses inside out anatomy lecture

I was amazed that there was no script, Gillian had a few notes about what she was going to talk about in each section but all the information flowed, and she was as passionate as ever about the subject and even though all the information was revision for me I was still captivated and feel like I learned a few new things too!

We were filming for a few hours, but Arty was a star, being so patient when he needed to stand for a long period of time. He had regular ‘lunging breaks’ between shots to help prevent him getting cold or bored before needing to stand again. And a few breaks for a drink and some carrots.

I think we had made good friends by the end of the day!

During filming Gillian used some of the bones of a 17hh warmblood and held them up next to Arty, (who didn’t seem to mind one bit) and Gillian informed me that these bones were from a horse that she had owned which I found fascinating!

Gillian then took over Arty to demonstrate his movement in trot, canter, over poles and jumping.

jumping anatomy. horses inside out lecture demonstration online

He is a really lovely moving horse and made a 1m20 jump look so easy!

After the final shot around 4pm it was a wrap!

team Horses Inside Out lecture demonstration anatomy muscles

I was sad to leave after such a fun day, it was such an amazing experience and a pleasure to be a small part of the project.

Once I got home I received a text from Gillian to say that Arty had had a hot shower and dry off under the heat lamps and was happily munching away in the field 😊

I can’t wait to see the finished video now! In the mean time if any of you are interested in seeing some of Gillian’s previous videos visit the Horses Inside Out Academy where there is tonnes of free content!

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Gillian is so friendly, knowledgeable and inspiring, and what a star Arty is 😊

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