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Horse stories - The story of Vilja

Vilya was a beautiful Icelandic mare born in 2005. In her younger years she was ridden by many different people. Vilya, however, was never easy under saddle. Later in life, Vilya was diagnosed with a thyroid problem for which she underwent treatment. Unfortunately, in the last year the treatments no longer helped. The more she moved, the worse she became. Since she only deteriorated, despite the intensive care, it was decided to present Vilya for dissection.


In June 2021, I travelled to beautiful Sweden with two colleagues to study Vilya’s life ‘from the inside out’ and learn from her. We had seen Vilya before and were familiar with her story. The first thing we noticed when we saw her was the amount of fat Vilya had. It was clear that she had serious problems with her metabolism and thyroid. Compared to a year ago, Vilya had already lost a lot of weight, but the fat pads were still clearly present. It was therefore sometimes difficult to palpate the muscles.


When the day of the dissection came, it became clear what effect her metabolic problem had had on the rest of her body. Normally, under the skin there is a nice transparent layer of fascia (connective tissue), and underneath you’re able to see the muscles. This was not the case with Vilya. As a result of her metabolic problem, there was an unusual amount of fat all over the body. We had never encountered so much fat! It was hard work to get a clear picture of the underlying tissue, but Vilya shared all her secrets with us. Now it is our job to share Vilya’s special story.


Hopefully this case study has inspired you and given you some new insights so that Vilya’s story will not be forgotten. The more horses we can study and compare, the more we learn! Would you like access to Vilya’s full story? You can find it in the online Equinestudies course ‘The Horse Inside Out’. Here you’ll find images of her life, an assessment of her physical state and unique footage of our findings during the dissection. Click here to go to the website.

horse stories