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Training, Therapy and Performance - Conference Report

Training, Therapy and Performance
28th February and 1st March 2015
Ettington Chase Hotel and Moreton Morrell, Warwickshire

Report by Francis McKim and Photos by Helen Richmond

Horses Inside Out ConferenceAt this, the ninth Horses Inside Out conference, the team was delighted to welcome over 150 delegates to this now well established two-day annual conference. This year the format was one day of world-class presentations relating on this topic held at the Ettington Chase hotel, followed by a practical day where the horses, accompanied by renowned international trainers, were Questionsthe stars at Morton Morrell College, Warwickshire. Delegates came from far and wide, with over 10% from overseas, coming from as far away as Australia, Porto Rico, Norway and Dubai. Just as the geographic spread was wide, so were the occupations of those attending. With the majority of delegates being equine therapists, there was also a good mix of vets, trainers, saddlers, farriers and horse owners.

Gillian HigginsOpening the conference, Gillian Higgins, the founder of Horses Inside Out, warmly welcomed all the delegates and said: “The theme of this year’s event is training and how therapy relates to performance. Our horses are athletes and if we manage to get their training correct we end up with happy and healthy horses. We need to take responsibility of our horses and regard ourselves as our horse’s personal trainers.”

COlin Roberts and Gillian HigginsHaving set the scene Dr Colin Roberts from the University of Cambridge discussed the anatomy of a horse’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems stressing that these were two key parts of thKathryn Nankerviseir make-up. He highlighted that the horse was an impressive machine, in effect a top class athlete, and will respond to appropriate training. But as anyone who has ever trained a horse knows, it can all go wrong, so Kathryn Nankervis from the Equine Therapy Centre at Hartbury College addressed the topic of rehabilitation.


Dr David MarlinGraham CrossFrom a more scientific point of view, Dr David Marlin of Science Supplements Ltd explored training issues. He pointed out that horses were very biddable animals, keen to please – a characteristic that can often work to their disadvantage. As humans, we are very competitive and can, if not careful, push horses beyond either their mental or physical abilities which all too often leads to equine injury.

conferenceWhilst we train our horses, this is only one part of the equation and the rider himself must also be trained. David Newbound of Backinaction discussed ways of improving the rider’s performance, in particular a rider’s back.

The second day was spent listening and watching the training techniques employed by two world class equestrians.

Chris BartleChris Bartle on balanceThe first, Christopher Bartle, having himself competed at the highest level in both dressage and eventing, and now coach to the German national eventing team, explained his beliefs that when training a performance horse, all aspects of ridden work should be built into the training regime. He stressed: “Don’t compartmentalise dressage and show jumping. When you jump a fence, you need to ride your approach to the next as if you were performing dressage.” He stressed the importance of balance. “Balance is a very precious thing. Even a very slight change in the rider’s balance, changes that of the horse too.” To graphically illustrate the effect of any changGillian Higginse in balance, Christopher placed a cavaletti pole horizontal across two others. Once in balance, even a few grains of sand taken from the arena and placed on one end can totally destroy the equilibrium. A message every aspiring rider, of any discipline, should certainly heed.

Horses Inside OutWith a selection of inexperienced and advanced horses expertly ridden by Matt Frost and Justine Sole, Adam Kemp of AM Dressage stressed tAM Dressagewo equally basic theories when training any horse - simplicity and reward. Adam said: “Keep the message simple. Your horse has always got to feel he has won. Make sure he benefits from doing what you ask him to do.” He went on to detail how every hose must be treated as an individual and stressed one point in particular: “Don’t make a horse try to do more \hiothan it is capable of achieving. It will break.”

The formal conference sessions are only one facet of such events. Meeting fellow professionals from around the country, chatting and exchanging ideas is as equally rewarding. The organisers certainly made allowance for this with generous coffee breaks, excellent lunches and a conference dinner. Here delegates were delighted to hear how well-known classical rider, Sylvia Loch, developed her theories over her lifetime. Another significant part of the weekend was a small but targeted exhibition which delegates could explore in the breaks.
All in all an inspirational weekend. Delegates have the 2016 conference to look forward to, the tenth in this series, on 20 & 21 February 2016 to be held at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester.

Photographs by Helen Richmond

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