Are horses more motivated by nurture or nibbles?! A Hartpury postgraduate student has been sharing her research on equine rewards at an international conference in France.
Sian Ellis studied a degree in Equine Science at Hartpury before moving on to a Postgraduate Certificate in Equine Behaviour and Welfare and then the Masters in Equine Science.
The current Masters student had the unique opportunity to present her research to some of the leading names in equine science – both academics and industry professionals - at the 12th International Society for Equitation Science Conference held at the French National Riding School in Saumur, France.
Sian, who combines her study with her role of Welfare Development Assistant at the Horse Trust, focused her thesis on the ability of horses to learn a task. She measured the response of horses rewarded with a scratch on the withers – the ridge between its shoulder blades - compared to a food reward, in this case a carrot, and compared to no reward.
Another Hartpury Masters in Equine Science student, Tracy Bye, also had the chance to share important research at the conference. Tracy, who combines her postgraduate study with being a full time lecturer at Bishop Burton College, conducted a pilot study investigating a novel method to determine whether a horse favours its left or right side during movement.
She collaborated with fellow MSc Equine Science student, Leah Palmer, to produce an abstract that was accepted as a poster presentation. Tracy’s research was discussed with members of the International Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy and she was invited to produce an article for the Journal of Therapeutic Riding.
Masters supervisor, Linda Greening, who also travelled to France, said: “It was pretty daunting for Sian being the third person to present at such a prestigious international conference but she coped very well with the pressure!
“The audience were very receptive to her research with some interesting questions posed, specifically by Dr Andrew McLean, an Honorary Fellow and founding member of the International Society for Equitation Science.
“Our students joined postgraduate and doctoral students from around the world who came together to share the advancements in equitation science research. And, thanks to the conference, they are now all published authors as all abstracts from the conference were submitted for publication in a special issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical Applications and Research, which will be available online from September.”
The postgraduate students also were also given the opportunity to experience a demonstration by the Cadre Noir at the French National Riding School, have a tour of the extensive facilities at the school and enjoy the conference dinner at the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud.
Hartpury Equine Science graduate, Kathryn Lefrancois, from Canada also had the chance to present at an international conference recently.
Kathryn collaborated with Principal Lecturer in Equine Therapy at Hartpury, Dr Kathryn Nankervis, to evaluate the effect water resistance and buoyancy had on distal limb range of motion in a water treadmill compared to a dry treadmill and how this could be implemented to make rehabilitation from injury more effective.
The research was carried out in Hartpury’s own Equine Therapy Centre and Kathryn Lefrancois presented their research as a poster at the International Conference on Canine and Equine Locomotion at the Royal Veterinary College in London. The abstract will also now be published in a special online edition of the Equine Veterinary Journal.
Kathryn said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to present my research to my peers and to so many important people within my field at a major conference.
“Since graduating, I’ve been working as a veterinary nurse at the veterinary teaching hospital in my province in Canada but my ambition is to forge a career in sports medicine and rehabilitation. I’d love to open up a Rehab Centre in Canada in association with the hospital I work at, as it is one of the biggest referral equine hospitals in the country, but it could take some time as the rehab industry is nowhere near as developed in Canada.”