Painting Ponies: SUU Students Engage in Hands-On Learning

suu handson

Southern Utah University students took a deeper look into equine anatomy and function as they painted equine skeletal structures in a hands-on activity during their Horse Production class on Tuesday.

suu equineWith the second week of the Spring 2021 Semester underway, Horse Production instructor Andrew Heaton introduced his class to concepts of genetics, conformation and the internal anatomy of horses. 

After an in-depth class discussion on these topics, Heaton then invited his students to put their understanding to the test.

With paint, brushes and a few willing horses, the SUU students were able to apply their discussion and newfound understanding of the equine skeletal structure and function not just on life-size but real-life models.

The class divided up into four groups, each with their own horse serving as a canvas as the student’s brought its skeleton to the surface by painting directly on it.suu equine

Each student identified vertebrae, ribs, scapulas and the intricate bones that make up the horses’ legs using classroom handouts as a guide.

Horses are often praised for their athleticism and ability to perform. This capacity stems largely from their anatomical structure. Proper angles and placement of bones within the horses’ skeleton have major impacts on the functionality and abilities of the animals.

Heaton described to his students the potential for complications in movement and longevity associated with incorrect skeletal structure and emphasized the importance of not only being able to understand these impacts, but how to recognize them as well.

suu hands-onBy painting the horses, the students were able to recognize bone placement and angles as described to them by Heaton and understand how any inconsistencies impacted the horse’s movements.

While the activity brought some of the students back to their “arts-and-crafts days,” many of them agreed that it was successful in helping them to better apply the knowledge they had gained in the classroom in a more visual and hands-on way.

“It was a great opportunity to bring the classroom to life,” said Jacee Carter, a junior studying agriculture.

Carter and her group exposed the skeletal structure of their buckskin horse, helping them to gain a better understanding of the animal’s framework suu equinethat will aid them later on as they further explore the muscles, tendons and other structures that help the horse perform.

“Being able to see the bones not just on the paper, but on the actual animal helped me to visualize how it all works together,” said Larsen Perkins, a life-long horseman and agriculture major.

The Horse Production class will provide students with ample opportunities to continue applying their knowledge as it delves deeper into aspects of equine anatomy as well as elements of horse care, including nutrition, sickness and parasite control, hoof maintenance and wound care.

suu equineThe willing equine models are owned by SUU and kept at the university’s Valley Farm. They will aid the class further in these hands-on experiences as the semester continues as well aid university instructors in teaching western-style riding fundamentals during horsemanship classes. 

After the paint had dried and the learning had time to sink in, the students thoroughly brushed and cleaned each horse and then returned them to the larger group of school horses.

“Hands-on experiences are the way to roll,” Perkins said. “I think education should always be hands-on.”


Story by: Mikyla Bagley
Photos by: Mikyla Bagley