International Conference Brings Science to Saddles

Leading researchers recently gathered for The Saddle Research Trust's (SRT) first international conference to discuss how current research and scientific techniques can be used to improve the welfare and performance of ridden horses.

The conference--the first event of its type worldwide--commenced with a public day on Feb. 18, hosted by Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, U.K. A wide range of industry professionals including veterinarians, physiotherapists, saddlers, trainers, and riders were presented with an overview of current research by several high profile speakers, including Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, MRCVS, holder of the McPhail Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

According to SRT Trustee Joanna Talbot, the day was a huge success: "We had lots of positive feedback on the day, and the key issues in this important field of research were highlighted."

The real nuts and bolts of future research were discussed in depth during the inaugural scientific workshop that was hosted over the following two days at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) in Newmarket, U.K. With attendance by invitation only, the workshop brought together an international group of plenary speakers and delegates to review current research and to target key new areas for future research investigating the complex interaction of horse, saddle and rider.

Event Chair Sue Dyson, MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, FRCVS, head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the AHT added, "It was a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and enhance collaboration for the future, which will ultimately benefit both horses and riders."

The workshop highlighted the need for scientists and industry to work more closely together. Improving communication along with the development of an evidence-based industry training strategy were considered research priorities.

Anne Bondi, BHSI, SRT director and member of the University of Sunderland Equestrian Study Group summarised, "There is a huge amount of new technology becoming available to researchers in this field, which makes it very exciting, but the first challenge will be to harness this in order to find out what is 'normal' and 'good' when describing horse, saddle and rider interaction--we simply don't know yet. There is a lot of work to be done, but this workshop represents the first important step. We are thrilled that this important subject has caught the public imagination and hope that this will stimulate fund-raising for future research."

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