Mounting Horse Skeletons to Exemplify Different Gaits and Actions

A Glimpse behind the Scenes at the American Museum

“After the benzine process,” said Mr. Chubb, “the bones are ready for mounting. First, I get a steel rod as nearly as possible fitting the opening and extending the length of the neural canal of the spinal column. This rod I must shape to the curve of the spine. Then the vertebrae are hung tentatively in place. Next, I gradually study the bones of the legs, which I fasten together temporarily so that any change can easily be made in the angle of the joints. The legs are suspended by looped cords passed over the heads of small screws, which are inserted in the bones at various points. The other ends of these cords are passed several times over horizontal rods above. To these free ends are attached small weights sufficiently heavy to prevent slipping, thus affording easy and convenient adjustment. Now comes the delicate task of getting the bones into the position which seems to suggest the action I have in mind, and seems to do it in a perfectly alive and satisfactory way. Getting the ribs in position is a long operation. I take a very small piece of pliable steel rod and fasten to it the several ribs, each by means of a rubber band. Then I study the little articulations. Finally, when they are all satisfactorily placed, I devise a permanent brace to fit the ribs and hold them enduringly in place. Every step, meanwhile, is checked up and corroborated by constant comparison with a great number of photographs.


The reconstruction of “Sysonby,” skeleton nearing completion.—When the bones are finally in satisfactory position and securely fastened, the threads, screws, suspending cords, and other temporary accessories are removed.

Walter Beasley
“As I get the adjustment nearer and nearer perfection, I see errors in this part or that which were not obvious when the bones as a whole were out of position. It is simply a process of eliminating the errors until the whole becomes perfect. When all is right, I drill small holes where the bones come in contact with each other, and into these holes drive steel wires just tight enough to hold firmly but not tight enough to break the bone. Where there are many little bones, wires are driven in from opposite directions to bind all together as firmly as possible. These wires are driven down just a little below the surface of the bone, and the small holes which result from this operation are filled up later with plaster.”

In studying the trotting modifications found in the skeleton of “Lee Axworthy” Mr. Chubb remarked that these might possibly be found in a race horse, but they were not evident in the skeleton of the race horse “Sysonby.” On the front pastern (but not in the hind) of the skeleton of “Lee Axworthy” was a slight depression in the bone due to extreme movement of the pastern joint in the trotting action. Said Mr. Chubb, “I can imagine that this might become adaptive and prove of great advantage in that particular action, but we cannot say that it has gone far enough at present to be of great consequence.”

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