Diary of a Research Study

If you have ever wondered what it’s like to take part in a research study, or would have liked to have participated in the latest phase of the equine behaviour study but were unable to attend, then this is your opportunity to find out more!  

Anne Bondi, SRT Director said, “We are immensely grateful to all the venues and participants for their help and support. We felt very welcomed by everyone throughout the project and the efficient organisation and superb facilities made our task so much easier. The students at the college venues we visited were extraordinarily helpful and friendly, proving to be terrific ambassadors. We have been able to collect a huge amount of extremely valuable data from 165 horses and riders; such a large number will add strength to the entire project – an excellent example of collaborative working!  We do hope that we will be able to work together again on other projects in the future. “

In this diary, we followed the staff and students of Askham Bryan College in Yorkshire, who were amongst the venues who generously volunteered their time to help with this exciting research. The research team was impressed with the high standards of professionalism and horse care shown throughout the day. Our special thanks go to Fiona Harrison, Equine Academy Director, for co-ordinating the day.

This phase of the equine behaviour project, organised by the SRT and led by Dr Sue Dyson, comprised 7 stages of both ridden and unridden assessments.

The study

Dr Sue Dyson conducted the unridden stages (1-5) of the data collection; Jenny Routh, a veterinarian from the Animal Health Trust, assessed the ridden horse for lameness or gait abnormalities (stage 6); Dr Anne Bondi BHSI, SRT Director, assessed saddle suitability and rider posture and balance (stage 7).

Stage 1:

Dr Sue Dyson conducts a questionnaire with the participant, who is a regular rider of the horse. This questionnaire covers a number of issues, including taking a history of the professional tack fitting, previous diagnosis of gastric ulceration and the owner’s perception of the horse’s behaviour whilst being tacked up.

Stage 2:

Next, the horse’s back was assessed to determine the presence of back muscle pain or tension. The horse’s girth area was also checked for sensitivity.

Stage 3:

The horse’s behaviour was observed whilst being tacked up. The horse’s behavioural responses were recorded, from subtle to severe.

Stage 4:

The tack fit was checked prior to the rider mounting. This included the saddle, bridle, and bit. The type of saddle, girth and noseband used were recorded. The horse was then trotted up in a straight line in-hand to check for lameness or gait abnormalities.

Stage 5:

In the final part of the first phase of the assessment, the horse is observed as the rider mounts. The assessor continues filling in the questionnaire, looking out for behaviours such as: restlessness at the mounting block, teeth-grinding and ‘dipping of the back’ upon mounting.

Stage 6:

The horse and rider combination moved to the arena to conduct the ridden element, which comprised of 15 minutes working in walk, trot and canter on both reins.

Stage 7:

The final stage of the assessment recorded the movement of the saddle on the horse’s back, the suitability of the saddle for the rider and the ability of the rider to ride in balance.

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What next?

Of course, data collection is only one part of the project, which has involved careful planning and now requires much painstaking analysis before the results can be peer-reviewed and published. As part of this huge collaborative effort, the data is now being carefully processed at the University of Nottingham under the supervision of Dr. Julia Kydd.

We look forward to seeing the results make a difference to horses and horse owners everywhere and will keep you updated with our progress!

Thanks again to each venue:

  • Colleen Pridmore, Smallage Farm Equestrian Centre, Rotherham
  • Penny Lawn, Old Windmill Stud, Wetherby
  • Fiona Harrison, Askham Bryan College
  • Simon Grieve, Stonelodge Farm, Melton Mowbray
  • Anne & David Bondi, Firbeck House, Worksop
  • Tracy Bye, Bishop Burton College
  • Laura Whyte, Silkwood Equestrian, Blackburn
  • Katie Hancox, Reaseheath College
  • Kathyrn Nakervis, Hartpury College
  • Chris and Antonia Bealby, North Lodge, Barrowby