Horse Skeleton Project with the Northwest School
of Animal Massage on Vashon Island, Washington

​This was a reconstruction of Jordan, the skeleton of an 18-year-old thoroughbred jumping horse who had skeletal structural problems that prevented him from being ridden for most of his life. After Jordan passed away, he was composted for a year in a buried bed of horse manure, which didn't totally clean the bones. This may be because of being butchered and de-fleshed first or from being in a four-foot deep hole. Whatever the reason, these bones didn't come out as tissue-free as they could have. There were ligaments and cartilage and adipocere still present on some of the bone surfaces. Most of the bones were still damp inside from the hydrogen peroxide and many had a waxy coating from scrubbing off the adipocere spots from the bones.

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Despite these setbacks, the skeleton was mostly assembled by a crew of over a dozen students and volunteers over a four day period in November of 2013. Because this was to be a teaching tool we added some extra supports and innovations. The jaw was made to hinge. The head was easily removable and one foreleg was made to hinge in front of the cannon bone. The rest of the skeleton was fixed in place with the rib cage having extra supports added in the form of aluminum ribbands. It was extremely interesting working on this skeleton with such a group of knowledgeable horse people. There was no detail of skeletal structure that this group didn't know well, and as I expected, they went for holding Jordan to the highest standards of anatomical accuracy possible, considering the numerous built-in abnormalities in this animal's skeleton: asymmetrical pelvis, fused metacarpal bones, vertebral spines that were not straight or were touching.

It wouldn't have happened without the organization of Lola, director of the school. The skills of Michael, a master machinist who did all the welding and metal work and built the twelve-foot long base. And Rob a veteran of Sawbones, a world famous company that makes medical-grade artificial bones and models for medical students to practice doing repairs and medicine.