Equine academics underline importance of rider fitness at FIT for Welfare event


Leading lights from Hartpury University and its Margaret Giffen Rider Performance Centre teamed up with the Society of Master Saddlers to discuss topics around rider fitness at their inaugural FIT for Welfare event.

The virtual event took place earlier this month, exploring how best to approach fit for each part of the tack triad: the horse; saddlery; and the rider. Ten leading experts, four of which hailed from Hartpury University, came together to share current research and best practice during the event.

Lecturer in Sports Biomechanics and Hartpury PhD graduate Dr Celeste Wilkins, Senior Lecturer in Rider Performance Emma Davies, Sports Nutritionist Talitha Corbett and Liz Launder MSc. Osteopath gave individual presentations covering a broad cross-section of rider topics. These included several areas including rider technique; mental health and strength; nutrition and musculoskeletal wellbeing.

Dr Celeste Wilkins showcased her recent Hartpury University PhD exploring the analysis of the rider in motion, highlighting how technology shows us that harmony is not ‘one size fits all’. Emma Davies offered several mental tools to help with rider anxiety, especially following an injury. Talitha Corbett shared ideas for competition-day nutrition that enhances both the body and brain. Finally, Liz Launder, MSc. Osteopath demonstrated warm up exercises aimed specifically to allow riders to better partner their horses.

While the event was new for 2021, Hartpury has an ongoing relationship with the Society of Master Saddlers, helping to promote a modern saddlery industry and driving awareness of saddle and bridle fitting through industry-driven research, education and training.

Dr Kathryn Nankervis, Equestrian Performance Research Centre Lead at Hartpury University, said: “Maintaining good fit for horse and human is a team effort and essential to ensuring high standards of horse welfare.

“Hartpury and the Society of Master Saddlers share the same values when it comes to promoting education around saddle and bridle fitting, and we were thrilled to be able to share knowledge in our specialist area of rider performance.

“This event perfectly highlighted the importance of a team approach when it comes to ensuring horse and human are comfortable, confident and happy.”

Hartpury’s Equine Therapy Centre and Margaret Giffen Rider Performance Centre is home to a simulator room housing three advanced Racewood simulators - ‘Margaret’ Racewood Eventing simulator, ‘Archie’ the MK10 Racing Simulator, ‘Hercules’ Racewood Riding Simulator and two Racewood RaceTrainers (Trigger I and Trigger II). Additional facilities include a strength and conditioning gym and a treatment room with a massage bed.

Click here to learn more about Hartpury’s extensive equine therapy and rider performance facilities.