Monday, October 12, 2009

Plastinate Anatomical Tools Make Everything Perfectly Clear

by Fran Jurga | 12 October 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

It's Columbus Day, so you're invited to "discover" a new equine anatomy reference tool that will be a boon to your ability to creatively and constructively communicate with colleagues, clients and students no matter where you are.

Plastination is a tissue preservation process that gained worldwide fame this decade with the Body Worlds museum exhibit. The last I heard, Body Worlds was set to overtake King Tut as the most viewed exhibit in the world. It shows human organs and muscles preserved in various positions or medical conditions. But everyone I know came out of it saying, "Wow, if they could just do that for horses..."

And someone has. Germany's veterinary anatomy expert Dr Christoph von Horst has patented a process for preserving veterinary specimen in this way; he's done birds and rats and ticks and dogs. But thanks to the encouragement of people like Dr. Chris Pollitt and a loud cheer from Hoofcare and Lameness, Dr Von Horst is preparing spectacular hoof and distal limb anatomy specimen, and you end up with a hoof music video slide show on a day of discovery.

I remember for years how I struggled trying to learn anatomy from textbooks. I couldn't get the 3-D part. I believe that 3-D models from HorseScience are the absolute way to learn and study anatomy and that they revolutionized my ability to understand the hoof, to the extent I can say that I do.

These plastination models are a step somewhere between anatomy models and an x-ray. They come in different models, designed for more or less portability. Many will slip inside a briefcase or agenda planner...or even a jacket pocket.

I can't wait for you all to see these teaching aids. They are like living equally-living color! They are actual paper-thin slices of tissue vacuum sealed inside layers of crystal clear acrylic resin.

You can keep one in your briefcase, or collect a set to show different conditions like laminitis, a navicular cyst, ringbone, etc. or use them to show where a shoe will sit, where you will trim (or won't trim) or where an injection or surgery site will access a joint or problem.

This specimen illustrates ringbone quite clearly but, like most anatomy models, the medical history of the animal is not available for reference. (Dr. Christoph von Horst image)

The plastinate tissue is very clear and well-defined because it is paper-thin and light passes through, illuminating the details and edges of structures and their relative textures. (Dr. Christoph von Horst image)

The specimen come in two types: flat sheets, which are about 3/8" thick, or the block versions, which are about 3/4" to 1" thick. The blocks are stunning and look fantastic on a desk or bookshelf, particularly if there's a light nearby. They make a beautiful gift or presentation award.

Of course, no two are alike. Hooves are available in sagittal, coronal and transverse sections, with the vast majority being sagittal, since that is the primary view people are accustomed to using for reference.

Right now we even have a foal's limb and a huge draft horse lower limb with what Dr Von Horst labels as lymphangitis-type swelling. There's also a stunning example of pastern ankylosis.

Even a large joint like the hock can be encapsulated into a plastinate specimen. (Dr. Christoph von Horst image)

Also available are laminated posters of several popular types of distal limb and hock plastinates; you can write on the plastic, draw a shoe or cast on, or use the poster for teaching by asking students to fill in labels for specific structures. Plastic casts of the blood supply and plaster casts of hooves are available by special order.

The best news? Prices start at under $100, plus shipping, with the blocks selling for about $200 at the current exchange rate.

Be sure to visit the Hoofcare and Lameness booth at conferences this fall to see these amazing teaching and learning aids, or contact the office to arrange an order to be selected and shipped directly to you.

If you have trouble with my video widget, you can also view the slide show on Hoofcare's slowly-expanding video channel. The widget seems to be skipping over some of the images in favor of text slides.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

WOW again.

Fran, is there a DVD of the full range of prepared lower limb specemins, these seem absolutly fasinating, and will very shortly lay to rest certain myths.

The Brumby research project is doing exactly the same regarding the natural balance concepts formulated over the last 20 years, [the DESIRABILITY of the "Solar Calous" for one.]

With a Great leap forwards in anatomy comprehension, with huge implications for the teaching and understanding of farrier related bio-mechanics.