Annual Cayuse Classic benefits Agriculture Alliance in Yampa Valley | SteamboatToday.com

Annual Cayuse Classic benefits Agriculture Alliance in Yampa Valley

Event demonstration focuses on horse anatomy

Luke Graham





Susan E. Harris painted on the side of Khalif to illustrate the horse's skeletal structure.
Matt Stensland

Susan E. Harris discusses the musculature of Khalif during the Visible Horse Demonstration at Saturday's Cayuse Classic at Sidney Peak Ranch. The annual event is a fundraiser for the Community Agriculture Alliance. Matt Stensland

— It's easy to pick up an anatomy book, rack the brain and try to figure out just how a horse's body works.

Of course, if you're Susan E. Harris, there's a different way.

Harris does Anatomy in Motion, the Visible Horse Demonstra­tions, to better educate horse owners on just what is going on under a horse's skin.

On Saturday at Sidney Peak Ranch, Harris did a demonstration as part of the fifth annual Cayuse Classic and the 11-year anniversary of the Community Agriculture Alliance. The event was a benefit for the alliance, whose mission is to preserve the agricultural heritage of the Yampa Valley.

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Although rainy weather wreaked havoc on the outdoor events, Harris still was able to draw an audience to her presentation inside the comforts of the Sidney Peak Barn.

The way it works is Harris takes a horse — in this case 15-year-old Khalif, a white purebred Arabian owned by Bonnie Magee — and paints the skeletal structure on one side. On the other side, Harris paints the muscular system.

Harris uses washable children's paint or markers. It takes two to three hours to paint the horse.

"I wanted to do something the average person can see," Harris said. "Rather than just look at a horse and have some expert say, 'Well, this is how it works,' I wanted something really visual."

Harris always had been interested in the anatomy of horses and started doing the Visible Horse Demonstrations in 1996. The demonstration has progressed since then, with Harris consulting an anatomist, a veterinarian and chiropractor to help her learn more.

Depending on the audience, Harris' talks can focus on different elements.

Saturday's general demonstration was mainly for the practical horse owner.

"It's important to keep the horse happy and healthy," said spectator Liz Leipold, who works at Humble Ranch. "Especially if a rider is going to use the horse."

The presentation lasted a little more than an hour and went over how the horse's muscles and skeletal system work. It also offered horse owners ways to strengthen muscles and work to make a horse more comfortable.

"It's being able to actually correlate the body parts of the horse to you as the owner because a lot of owners have no idea where the body parts exactly are," said Erin Meyring, who helped with the demonstration. "It's so they can understand more of how to take care of them."

The other part of the Ana­tomy of Motion is the Visible Rider portion. Harris' partner, Peggy Brown, did the Visible Rider Demonstration in Steam­boat last year. The Visible Rider Demonstration focuses on how a rider and horse correlate.

Harris, who has done the demonstration across the nation and in multiple countries, said the bottom line is to not just get the owners more familiar with the horse, but also to make the horse more comfortable. 

"It's to get the average horse owner to know the very practical stuff under a horse's skin and how it works," she said. "A lot of what I'm doing is trying to make it easier for the horse by making the owners understand how the horse works."

To learn more about Ana­tomy in Motion, visit http://www.anatomyinmotion.com.