A concentration of equine vets

test in progress

The Animal Health Trust Centre for Equine Studies held a study on pain behaviour in ridden horses at World Horse Welfare‘s Norfolk Headquarters.

Riders, owners and their horses, and professional practitioners volunteered their time to support this vital study which has amazing implications to improve horse welfare in the future.

The smooth running programme saw horses first assessed by  ACPAT physiotherapist  Jo Spear for back palpation and then  SMS Saddle Fitter Liz Suddaby checked the fit, placement, balance and suitability of saddles, before a 15 minute ridden warm-up leading up to the 8 min dressage test.

saddle fit check
physio assessment

The horses were scored by the team of equine vets for the presence of 24 behaviours which may reflect pain.  The tests were filmed by Saddle Research Trust director, Dr Anne Bondi so that comparison between real-time behaviour assessments and video analysis can be made by Dr Sue Dyson, and so that Dr Anne Bondi can score rider skill level.

The eleven equine vets, who assessed the behaviour, led by AHT’s Dr Sue Dyson said that it was one of the best days of continual professional development that they had ever had and that they would change their procedures for both pre-purchase examinations and investigations of either lameness or poor performance in the future.


All the equine guinea pigs and volunteers benefitted from the calm, therapeutic atmosphere and peaceful, immaculate surroundings which were a real credit to all who work at WHW HQ.

The feedback from the riders and owners was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the day, found it very interesting and welcomed the feedback on their horse from the professional practitioners who scored them.

Dr Sue Dyson, who developed this study said:  “It was somewhat disappointing and disturbing that there was such a high proportion of lame horses, but it did serve to demonstrate the very clear behavioural differences between the lame and non-lame horses.”

An overview of this study will be presented at the Saddle Research Trust conference in December.


Rehabilitating the Lame Horse

This is the 4th short film in the Equitopia series which explains how, why and when you can bring your horse back to physical, mental and emotional health following an injury or lameness.  Showing the necessary circle of support around the horse and how to go through the steps to bring your lame horse back into work, this film completes the cycle, from recognising lameness to finding treatment and rehabbing your horse early enough to avoid injury to both horse and rider.

As always, the welfare of the horse is first and foremost the guiding pattern throughout the recovery process.  There are no easy shortcuts. but it is clear that we need to involve experienced and qualified practitioners who have skills that have taken years of learning. The rider/owner’s dedicated input and ability to follow the practices recommended by vets and other qualified practitioners will make or break the outcome – it is up to us to make the decisions and focus on the horse for the length of time that is needed.

We can all make a difference to our horses, whatever our goals are for them.

We have loved seeing these films take shape. The advice they provide is both insightful and accurate, aimed at the general horse-owning public and not just for professionals.

You can meet the founder of Equitopia, Caroline Hegarty,  at the Saddle Research Trust 3rd International Conference on the 8th December 2018, Horse, Rider, saddlery Interactions: Welfare and Performance.

Tickets for both the Conference and the Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony are available on Eventbrite using this link:    http://bit.ly/2w7iyE8   

Here’s SRT Ava, who caught the eye in earlier films with his lovely fluid movement, enjoying his routine physiotherapy.

Don’t wait for the head bob!

This is Part 3, of a 4 part Equitopia series which Saddle Research Trust has been delighted to collaborate with, involving some stellar professional practitioners who are (equine) household names.

Part 3 is all about this fascinating yet easy to learn translation of horses’ facial expressions. It is humbling to realise just how very expressive and communicative they are and yet, in many cases we are still at the caveman phase when trying to understand what it is our horse is trying to tell us. It’s clear from this film that horses are extremely expressive. Once we learn to read their facial expressions there is a real opportunity for welfare to improve for both horses and humans.

Most horse owners and practitioners are confident with translating ‘happy’, ‘sleepy’ and ‘not very happy’  but even this may be misunderstood. As a lifelong (quite long, really!) horse owner, I had no idea about the wrinkle between the nostrils, for example. It was an expression which I did not understand or was able to translate, prior to watching this film.

There is clear guidance on understanding the connection between pain and fear too and Part 3 of this invaluable series, Recognising Facial Expressions of a Horse in Pain does not disappoint.

Dr Sue Dyson and Dr Jeannine Berger’s amazing work will become a standard part of the “toolbox” for all riders, owners, veterinarians and other practitioners. It is a wonderful breakthrough to be able to recognise pain – and be able to call for help and diagnostics more quickly, avoiding further injury or even dangerous situations.

Enjoy this one as part of your learning journey.

Find out more on this topic at the Saddle Research Trust International Conference on the 8th December.


Welfare and Performance Awards

Welfare and Performance Awards at SRT2018
Send in your nominations!
There are 8 awards for the most beneficial influences on Welfare and Performance in the following categories:

1. Person
2. Organisation
3. Website
4. Achievement
5. App
6. Practitioner
7. Horse

Who will you nominate?
Send your choices to admin@saddleresearchtrust.com (mailto:admin@saddleresearchtrust.com)

The nomination period ends on 31st July

Who is eligible?

Anyone can make nominations excluding Saddle Research Trust Board of Trustees. The Saddle Research Trust is not eligible for any of the awards.

We would like to hear from you with your nominations for:
* The person who in your opinion has been most influential in furthering welfare and performance in the ridden horse.
* The organisation which really makes a difference and demonstrates welfare and performance as key.
* The app which you have found to really improve your horse/rider/saddlery interactions
* The saddlery/equipment which has a positive impact on performance and welfare of horse and or rider.
* The horse/pony/equine who has shown how performance can be achieved/bettered when welfare and/or performance issues are overcome or improved
* The achievement with the potential to impact for the best in welfare and performance.
* The registered practitioner: e.g. vet, saddle fitter, an equine therapist who deserves recognition for their work.
*The website informative, inspiring, educational.. you choose

Voting will be by a “people’s choice“ poll once the nomination period has ended and the winners will be presented with their awards at the Gala Dinner following the conference. Nominations must be received by the 31st July to be in with a chance to win one of these exciting awards.

The perfect post-conference
pre-Christmas networking party!

Celebrity Guests
Leading Brands
Influential Equine Organisations
Award Ceremony
Raffle Prizes
~ All in situ

It’s going to be a wonderful evening!

Thank you to sponsors DIPO , Amerigo  ,  Utopia Saddles and Neue Schule for making this fun networking opportunity possible after what is sure to be a mind-expanding day.

Book tickets on the Eventbrite website.



Working together for the benefit of every ridden horse

The SRT is delighted to have contributed to the making of this wonderful series of short films, out now. We see them as a valuable tool for owners and riders to help them understand that what they think of as “normal”  may not be.

You can see Part One here:

This will have far-reaching benefits for the welfare of the ridden horse, worldwide.

Dr Anne Bondi and Dr Sue Dyson are featured (both will be presenting their latest research at SRT2018)  and we are thrilled that Caroline Hegarty, founder of Equitopia will be one of our delegates, all the way from California. Equitopia is one of the charities with a display stand in the Atrium, and it will be a brilliant opportunity to find out more about their work.

Caroline told us

 “I think we were all thrilled at  the International Collaboration of Professionals from various fields all coming together to discuss, exchange ideas, and commit to working together for the welfare of horses worldwide.  Egos were left at the door, and in areas of different views, productive discussion ensued to explore the origins of different philosophies (still ongoing) without defensiveness or posturing.

At Equitopia, we believe that EVERYTHING matters to the horse – feet, saddle fit, training, rider balance and feel, nutrition, bodywork etc. and our mission is to provide a credible resource on all of those topics for owners and professionals in the industry through our series of online videos.

We plan to continue working together with the SRT, AHT and our other educators to offer educational videos, supported by research and evidence, to guide those who want to take care of their horses  for longevity, whether for personal enjoyment out on the trails or competing in the Olympics.”

No further words required – the great thing about these films is how complete they are, understandable, accessible, made for everyone and every ridden horse. Whether you compete at a high level or are a happy leisure rider please take the time to watch. At SRT, we choose our partners carefully and we are so impressed by Equitopia’s eye for detail and beauty, all based on a firm footing of horsemanship.