Ways of creating a more positive public image of horses in sport were explored at a groundbreaking seminar on Equine Performance and Safeguarding which began its national tour at Reaseheath College in Nantwich.

Presented by acknowledged equine performance consultant Dr Anne Bondi and by Dr Sue Dyson, a world-renowned expert in equine orthopaedics, the seminar suggested that the negative impact of perceived poor practice could be improved through the use of a simple checklist which enables early identification and solving of potential problems.

This heightened understanding of ridden horse performance would in turn help to protect equestrian sport’s social licence to operate, an area which is increasingly under the spotlight during the run-up to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The seminar focused on the latest research and evidence and how this could be practically applied through a Ridden Horse Performance Checklist. The event attracted a packed audience of professional practitioners, competitive riders, equine vets, physiotherapists and business owners along with some of Reaseheath’s equine students and staff.

A morning of presentations and discussions at University Centre Reaseheath covered topics such as equine safeguarding and its role in equestrian sports, an introduction to the performance checklist, indicators of the link between horse behaviour and poor performance and how to future proof the horse sports industry.

Practical demonstrations and opportunities to apply the checklist took place during the afternoon at Reaseheath’s Equestrian Centre and the event closed with an open forum.

Dr Anne Bondi, a BHSI Accredited Professional Coach, the Director of the Saddle Research Trust and Chair of the Board of Directors of SMART Saddles, said: “This seminar enabled us to share ground breaking research into welfare and performance which we believe could protect the future of British equestrianism.

“We received tremendous feedback from the delegates including Reaseheath’s staff and students, with all agreeing that the use of the checklist will enable them to pick up warning signals from horses and give them the confidence to solve problems at an early stage.

“This is a very important time for equestrian sport, as 2022 saw a growing public disquiet over equestrianism’s social licence to operate and a demand for greater transparency. Social media is changing the world in many ways, delivering valuable opportunities to see and learn but also bringing challenges through the sharing of videos showing practices which are not now socially acceptable.

“There is a move internationally to make equine welfare a high level priority. This has already been acted upon by the Danish Government, which has given its own equine sports industry a year to clean up its image.

“We are trying to future proof our industry through pro-active education and hope to do this by giving our delegates a useful practical tool to take home and share with other stakeholders. We chose Reaseheath College as the launch venue for our tour because it has a central location with excellent lecture and practical facilities and very supportive equine staff, students and horses. We are very grateful that the college was so keen to host the day and for the link up through their Industry Mentor and Master Saddle Fitter, Steph Bradley of Freedom Saddlery.”

Delegate Kim Lomax, a coach at Ebony Horse Club in South London, said: “This was an inspiring and informative day, and it was great to put the theory into practice in the afternoon. The course really showed that we can and must listen to what our horses are telling us. I can’t wait to share this valuable knowledge with the young people that I coach.”

Equine Curriculum Area Manager James Rayner said: “We are delighted that Reaseheath has become one of the first colleges in the country to explore the topic of social licence to operate and thrilled that the seminar was such a positive success. Our students enjoyed and took away a lot from their learning experience.

“We will be looking to develop our curriculum to include greater awareness of social licencing in equestrianism.”

For further information on the Saddle Research Trust 2023 Seminar Series see www.saddleresearchtrust.com/events