2013 International Society for Equitation Science a Success

The International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) held its 9th annual conference in the United States. The scientific days were hosted at the University of Delaware, in Newark, and the practical day was hosted at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center, in Kennett Square.

The conference brought together 110 delegates from 14 countries to discuss topics related to equine behavior and welfare, as well as horse-human interactions. The Horse staff members were in attendance to provide conference coverage, so watch TheHorse.com in the coming weeks for full-length articles on topics presented.

Throughout the conference four plenary talks were delivered, commencing with a jointly presented talk by Natalie Waran, BSc (Hons), PhD, of the University of Edinburgh, and Hayley Randle, PhD, of Duchy College, on advancing evidence based practice and learning in equitation. The presentation encouraged horse handlers to use the best evidence possible when making decisions related to equine management, training, and performance.

A plenary lecture presented by Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, MRCVS, of Michigan State University, provided research updates and new insights on the complex topic of the human/horse/saddle interface. Clayton reminded researchers of common problems that can arise when using electronic saddle pressure mats.

Plenary presenter Jan Ladewig, DVM, PhD, of Copenhagen University, presented “What about the other 23 hours of the day?” In other words, how does the way a horse spend its day when not being ridden or trained impact its overall welfare? Ladewig presented compelling points for providing environments for horses that more closely mimic natural conditions than is often provided.

Then to really stir delegates’ brains plenary presenters Paul McGreevy, BVSc, MRCVS, PhD, MACVSc, of the University of Sydney, and Dr Andrew McLean, BSc, PhD, Dipl. Ed, of the Australian Equine Behavior Centre, presented a lecture on equine arousal, attachment, and affective state. During their talk, they reminded delegates that horses are easily put into a state of high arousal and when they are in this state, they have a difficult time learning new tasks and that there is also an increased risk of injury to human handlers.

Other highlights included an "invited practitioner talk" by Janet Del Castillo who generously donated copies of her book, Backyard Racehorse, to all conference delegates. Del Castillo’s goals are to make racing more user-friendly for people interested in joining the industry, and to find simple ways to enhance the welfare of racehorses. Also on the topic of racing, Alex Brown and Tim Woolley were the guest speakers for the conference banquet which was held at the Fair Hill Training Center, in Elkton, Md. Wooley is a successful racehorse trainer at Fair Hill and Brown is the author of Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and his Legacy, with copies generously donated to banquet guests.

Conference delegates were presented with two practical day options. Option One provided a day of demonstrations and discussion at the New Bolton Center hosted by Sue McDonnell, PhD, Cert. ABB, author of The Equid Ethogram and numerous articles on horse behavior. McDonnell and colleagues from the School of Veterinary Medicine presented "Is it Physical, Psychological, or Both?" Equine cases that had come to the clinic with complex symptoms were presented and discussed.

Assisted by college students, Angelo Telatin, MS, director of the Equine Studies Program at Delaware Valley College, provided interesting demonstrations highlighting the importance of implementing learning theory principles and accurate timing when attempting to retrain horses presenting with clipper aversion or needle shyness. Telatin also performed a bridleless jumping demonstration whilst sharing his methodology for training the horse to respond to a range of cues. Telatin emphasized that the goal was not to ‘teach the horse a trick’ but rather that a well-trained horse should not need to be given aids all of the time to perform tasks that are well confirmed. The day concluded with delegates visiting a herd of 100 semi-feral ponies which have been housed near the New Bolton Center since 1994. The herd thrives in minimally managed conditions and has served as the study subjects for McDonnell’s book, The Equid Ethogram.

Option Two, "The Equine Excursion," provided delegates with a tour of Hassler Dressage at Riveredge, in Chesapeake City, Md., and Select Breeders Services, also in Chesapeake City, followed by a trip to Delaware Park Racetrack, in Wilmington, Del., to watch Thoroughbred racing. A race was named in honor of ISES with delegates photographed alongside the winning horse.

Additionally, organizers announced that the 2014 ISES conference, "Equine Stress, Learning, and Training," will take place Aug. 7-9 at Aarhus University in Denmark.

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