Building a life-size equine anatomical model

Vicky's anatorhorse

How did the anatohorse come about?

The idea to produce the anatohorse came from Renate Weller, professor of comparative imaging and biomechanics at the RVC. It was generated by the concern that increasing student numbers put pressure on the amount of one-to-one teaching staff can provide. I had worked on a few projects with Professor Weller; however, it was a surprise when she approached me to ask if I could paint and would like a challenge. Once the funding was arranged through the RVC's Animal Care Trust, the idea started to become a reality. We earmarked one of the fibreglass horse models that was used for teaching to be given a makeover.

How does the anatohorse help? 

The process of teaching anatomy within the veterinary curriculum is largely based on dissection and textbooks, the relevance of which is limited when applied to a live three-dimensional animal. Other issues include the cost of dissection facilities and health and safety with regard to handling cadavers. We wanted to create something that would last and remain relevant to everyday clinical work. It is a crucial Day 1 skill to know where the various soft tissue structures sit in relation to the skeleton and where you should be listening for lung sounds and borborygmi, for example.

Geoff also provides a talking point for the RVC student ambassadors on open days, he goes on tour to careers fairs and schools and he will contribute to future CPD events in the RVC's equine hospital.

Building the anatohorse

Plotting the internal structures was achieved using a combination of anatomy texts and the knowledge and expertise of the medicine specialists in the equine hospital. Bettina Dunkel and I also carried out a full abdominal ultrasound scan on one of the teaching ponies from our herd. I tried to make the model as accurate as possible, but used a bit of artistic licence with the colour scheme! Initially, I sketched the outline of every structure in chalk and then used standard matt wall emulsion. I outlined the skeleton in permanent marker and then used a varnish spray to seal and protect it.

From start to finish, it took me 84 hours to plan, research, paint and put the finishing touches to the anatohorse. A few late night sessions with a bit of help from my friends ensured that I finished him before I had to move down to Salisbury to start my internship. But what of Geoff himself? He is currently kept in the equine diagnostic imaging suite at the RVC's Hawkshead campus to supplement teaching during the diagnostic imaging rotation for final-year students. This facility is open for all students to access resources as and when they wish and they can use the labelled photos of the anatohorse to test their knowledge.

Life after RVC 

As for me, I am three months into my hospital/ambulatory internship at Endell Equine Hospital in Salisbury. I feel lucky to be in a supportive practice and it's a great start to my veterinary career. Without a doubt completing the anatohorse project has improved my ability to apply my anatomical knowledge and use it constructively to help educate and inform clients.

I was overwhelmed by the response when Richard Evans (the RVC's student recruitment and social media manager) posted an article and pictures about Geoff on the RVC's Facebook page. To date it is the most popular post on the page and has received 2438 likes and 792 shares across the world, including being used as the veterinary anatomy Facebook page cover photo. Meanwhile, I can reveal that plans are afoot to create Geoff Mark 2 for the Camden campus . . . you read it here first!

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