Dissection Clinics

The dissection clinic like so many others was an unplanned phenomena, given birth to by coincidence, a search for knowledge and demand.

In 2008, one evening after Jock’s L4 classes in NZ, there was a heated discussion about some anatomy details. Ivana explained all the anatomy and connections and one of the discussing students said – you have to teach that! So the question “Can you teach anatomy class and horse dissection” was asked.

Despite Ivana’s protestations, in December 2009 the first Equine Touch Foundation Dissection clinic was held. Such was the popularity of the clinic that another was held in Christchurch in March 2010 and yet another in Pennsylvania in May and the first one held in the UK in the September of that year, each clinic open not only to Equine Touch students but to the general horse caring community from riders to vets and each was booked to full capacity.

Three days, very much a hands-on class, with Ivana helps students to understand what is hidden under the horse’s skin. Peeling away layer by layer the secret is revealed of the continuity of the fascia that brings home the understanding of how problems in one area can affect other parts of the body. Isolating individual muscles and visualizing their insertion and origin helps to see how they move the bones and what type of movement they create. Seeing the stay apparatus in action will help to appreciate the correct posture and how an understanding of how un-balanced hooves or bad saddles can change that. Trying to lock and un-lock the stifle and seeing the reciprocal mechanism of the hind leg will be engraved into the students memories. A fast “tour” within the horses intestinal track will show its vulnerability. Location of horse’s kidneys, liver, spleen and ovaries may help to see how their dis-ease can have impact on the rest of the body, just via their connection to each other and to skeleton. Seeing the hyoid apparatus and it connection to the skull and also to more distant shoulder area will explain its effect on straightness of the horse.

There are many more “horse secrets” that students discover over these three days. While students are of course not permitted to wield a scalpel they are as you can see from the photographs allowed to touch and to physically examine the horse as each layer is stripped to reveal its secrets.

It is so fascinating that there has never been a single student who did not complete the class even when they had expressed concern in dealing with the dead specimen.


“I have recently attended two other dissection clinics, there is no comparison, she was awesome, every question I asked was answered completely, she really knows her stuff.”
“Thank you so much for an incredible experience. Your enthusiasm and knowledge is great.”
“Thank you so much for giving us something great.”
“Thank you so much for an amazing experience. Your enthusiasm, knowledge and teaching style are inspirational.”
“These few days will transform how I work with horses.”
“Thank you so much, it has been really wonderful. We have learned so much from you and are so grateful that you came over to teach us at this difficult time.” “Thank you Ivana for a fantastic four days.”
“As always you are Inspirational.”
“You are truly an inspirational teacher and an awesome dissectionist.”
The Dissection Clinic and its benefits can best be described in the article below by Randi Peters – Editor and Publisher of The Natural Horse Magazine who attended the Leesport clinic.
The Whole Horse: “What Happens Here Affects There” by Randi Peters
After attending various hoof dissection clinics, I became well aware of the natural interactions among the various hoof parts. What remained to be seen was the connection each hoof has to the rest of the body.
Recently I had the good fortune of being able to attend the Pennsylvania Whole Horse Dissection Clinic presented by Ivana Ruddock, MVDr, former lecturer in anatomy, and instructor of The Equine Touch unique bodywork. In this class, it was revealed and made abundantly clear that the body is not just a sum of its parts, and that everything is connected. What happens here affects there; the head bone IS connected to the toe bone.
Our horse’s unique afflictions showed us how some seemingly unrelated minor problems (the voice box, the castration scar) can affect the entire body. Motion, locomotion, biomechanics, digestion, the skin – all are interdependent and interrelated. Sometimes one can tell what happened first (the chicken or the egg?); sometimes one cannot. What is important is that the sooner an affliction is addressed, the better. It will help the horse repair current damage and can prevent potentially devastating compensation. Signs of trouble (however small) – such as abnormal chewing and tooth wear, uneven hoof wear, a change in willingness or behavior, an uneven step, a change in appetite, even a poor haircoat – are indications that something is off and that a downward spiral could already be in progress.
We learned why proper dental work is so crucial to the entire horse, why proper hoof trimming is essential, how hoof and tooth wear are affected by restrictions, why bodywork is crucial and so beneficial and effective, how the skin itself with its fascial connections to muscle, bone, nerves, and organs affects (and is affected by) the rest of the body, why freedom of movement is so important for health … and so much more. Seeing these interconnections and sometimes circuitous routes of vessels and fibers was enlightening and fascinating. Seeing the enormity of the digestive system was staggering. Seeing the expanse of the fly-twitch muscles was quite telling… All in all, this was a fascinating and immensely rewarding experience.
My sincere thanks go to Ivana, our enthusiastic, passionate, ever-inquisitive, and immensely qualified instructor; to Scoobie and his person who so generously provided us with the means to explore and learn, to help many other horses; to all the other students – bodyworkers, hoof trimmers, trainers, riders, vet techs, etc. – who cared enough to make the trip to attend, learn, and take it all back with them to other horses. This is why Natural Horse Magazine exists – to help educate people about better ways, for the benefit of all horses.
Looking closely at isolated parts is reductionistic, but looking at the interconnections and realizing that anything affects everything is wholistic. Ivana clearly presented this. Her presentation was very well thought out and organized, vastly informative, and simply fascinating. She helped us feel comfortable in the ‘blood and guts’, and shared insights learned from past findings in other horses. She showed us how the various muscles affect body carriage and posture, and demonstrated why horses can or cannot do various movements while in certain postures or with external and internal restrictions. Discussions on the related areas of tack, riding, dental care, hoof care, nutrition, horsekeeping, environment, and more were very relevant and necessary inclusions.
Now every time that I look at my horses, I see so much more… the seen and the unseen. I am much more aware of the delicateness of nerves and lymph passages, the tenderness and toughness of the various types of fascia, the strength of ligaments and tendons, the brilliance of stay mechanisms, the means for keeping balance and allowing for proprioception, the vulnerability of the hyoid apparatus, the various thicknesses of skin, the changeability of bone, the path and massiveness of the digestive system, to name a few… and the way this all naturally and harmoniously works together.
While this type of clinic may not appeal to the faint of heart, it is certainly a worthwhile learning experience for any horse lover or handler, to appreciate and understand why horses are what they are, do what they can do, and can’t do what they cannot. Any additional amount of understanding is always good for us, and for the horse.