Principal takes the reins as Olympians gather for star-studded opening of Hartpury’s revolutionary rider centre


The great and the good from the equine world headed to Hartpury on Friday (December 9th) as Olympian Carl Hester MBE officially opened the Margaret Giffen Centre for Rider Performance.

The London 2012 and Rio 2016 medallist, who is also the elite dressage coach for Hartpury’s Equine Academy, was joined by another Olympic gold medal winner at the star-studded launch - former Hartpury governor Jane Holderness-Roddam.

And Jane, the first woman to represent Great Britain in three day eventing and win an Olympic gold medal in 1972, even hopped aboard Margaret – the Rider Performance Centre’s impressive Racewood Three Day Event Simulator, which is the first of its kind in Europe and one of only 10 in the world.

Jane was able to give Hartpury Principal Russell Marchant some hints and tips after his not quite so accomplished first ride out on the simulator! Thankfully for Russell, the Rider Performance Centre can support riders of all levels and disciplines to enhance their athletic and rider performance.

Incorporating a rider focused strength and conditioning suite, 3D motion capture, electromyography equipment and sport therapy area, the centre’s showpiece is the rider performance zone, where horse simulators, Hercules and Margaret, live.

Russell said: “Alongside Hartpury’s Equine Therapy Centre, this facility gives students even more opportunities to learn classroom theory in a practical setting, including sessions with horse and rider partnerships.

Not only does the simulator provide massive benefits to our own riders and as a teaching resource, she’s proving a hit with local and specialist equine coaches and riders too, including those with disabilities, playing host to a local group from the Riding for the Disabled Association.

“Margaret is also an enormously valuable asset for staff and student research projects that are already making a big impact in industry and in best practice in competitive equestrian sport.”

Built using cutting edge flight simulator technology, Margaret enables riders to complete a Grand Prix dressage test, jump a course of show jumps and ride cross-country on the, as well as going for a hack.

Carl Hester added: “The Rider Performance Centre and all the facilities are very impressive and to have Margaret is very exciting. It’s great to see Hartpury leading the way again.

“The simulators take the fear element away from riding a horse and could introduce so many people to the various stages of what it feels like to ride. It will also enable more experienced riders to work on the details of their riding; its details that will get them to the top and winning medals.

“For students and Academy riders at Hartpury to already have access to such facilities and support will only benefit their riding and performance, especially as they move up through the levels of their sport. The importance of rider fitness, nutrition and performance has really been highlighted and this centre really sets a standard for the industry.”

John Butt, trustee of the Margaret Giffen Trust, who helped fund the new horse simulator and other equipment for the Rider Performance Centre, said: “Our relationship with Hartpury started around 10 years ago, when we originally offered to provide an annual bursary for a young person with disabilities to study at Hartpury.

“It was around three years ago that we started to talk to Hartpury about using funding to support this new facility and we were delighted to be able to help with purchasing Margaret.

“She’s a fantastic asset to riders and the students here and I’m sure Margaret Giffen herself would have been very appreciative of the Centre and all that it offers. I was here at last year’s Festival of Dressage when it was still being constructed and it has been wonderful to see it come to fruition and proving of such benefit to Hartpury.”

Immediately following the official launch, the Equine Therapy Centre team kicked off a 24-hour sponsored ride in aid of Spinal Research.

Louise Wheeler, community fund raiser for Spinal Research, attended the opening and said: “Unfortunately, we do see a lot of people who are horse riders that have had accidents and we provide support for their family, so it’s wonderful to see Hartpury and the local and equine community coming together to raise funds and awareness, which is so important to us.”

If you are interested in hiring Margaret for coaching, teaching or riding, you can contact

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