Last weekend, the inaugural British Young Riders Dressage Scheme (BYRDS) Symposium was held at Reaseheath College Equestrian Centre. HE Module Leader and journalist Jon Lowe reports. 

The schedule for the BYRDS Symposium, which was titled ‘Two Athletes – One Performance’, was packed-full of interactive presentations from a host of industry experts with topics ranging from sports science, rider psychology and training methods.

Janet Horswill is the Director of BYRDS and she explained that the event came to fruition after a focus group which was held during the British Dressage (BD) Under 25’s Championships in 2015.

“The suggestion for an annual convention aimed at BYRDS riders and their parents came from our own members,” said Janet, who also chairs a BD technical committee responsible for the future development of the BYRDS group.

“Dressage can be seen to be elitist and we are keen to break down those barriers; not all our members own ‘dressage’ horses – we see a real variety of mounts which can range from Shetland ponies to Warmbloods”.

During the Symposium, Janet teamed up with Kerry Comb (BVMS, MRCVS) from Ashbrook Equine Hospital to offer advice about sourcing potential dressage horses.

Using a combined approach of discussion and demonstration, they addressed aspects such as conformation, gait analysis and the importance of temperament.

“Reaseheath Equestrian Centre is such a fantastic facility and with the valued support of our sponsors – Ashbrook Equine Hospital – I would like to hope that this will become an annual event,” said Janet.


Dr. Moira Lafferty – a sports psychologist with over 15 years of experience working with equestrian athletes – ran seminars for riders and their parents where she discussed the benefits of using sports psychology.

Team GB farrier Ian Hughes, DipWCF, discussed foot balance and how correct shoeing can aid performance and soundness.

Moira suggested some techniques to help athletes manage their environment and maximise their performance.Team GB farrier Ian Hughes, DipWCF, discussed foot balance and how correct shoeing can aid performance and soundness.

Other highlights included a session led by Katie Copeland, a HCPC Registered Physiotherapist, who focused on the role of the pelvis in the correct alignment and effectiveness of a competition rider.

The Symposium concluded with test riding demonstrations and a discussion with List 1 BD Judge, Harry Payne, who offered advice about successful test riding from a judge’s perspective.

For more information about BYRDS or British Dressage go to:

For further details about Reaseheath College’s equine courses, from degrees to diplomas, visit

For information on upcoming events and facility hire at Reaseheath’s Equestrian Centre, visit