Hartpury student awarded best poster at 12th annual Alltech-Hartpury Equine Student Conference


The 12th annual Alltech-Hartpury Equine Student Conference took place at Hartpury University on 10 May, welcoming back in-person attendees for an inspirational event dedicated to the writing, submission and presentation of research. The conference provides an exciting opportunity for students to present their equine research.

11 institutions were represented with an impressive 53 abstract submissions, culminating in the presentation of 32 posters and 12 oral presentations. As in previous years, a vast range of topics were covered including behaviour and welfare, rider performance, and therapy and rehabilitation. New for 2023, the conference also welcomed work relating to the equestrian industry’s social licence to operate (SLO).

The prize for the top posters went to Hartpury University’s undergraduate student Ella Smith (BSc (Hons) Equine Performance and Rehabilitation) for her poster entitled ‘An investigation into owners’ perceptions of colic surgery’ and to University of Gloucestershire’s postgraduate student, Steph Bradley, for her poster entitled ‘How does the perimenopause/menopause affect rider participation and performance in dressage?’.

The conference is aimed at higher education students and is designed to be an introduction to research dissemination in a safe, friendly conference environment.

Students have an opportunity to experience writing and submitting an abstract, going through the review and revisions process, delivering a theatre presentation to a conference audience, or producing a scientific poster. 

Representatives from other institutions attended the conference to watch the research presentations, creating a buzz around the event and returning it to pre-Covid levels of engagement.

Dr Kirsty Leśniak, Senior Lecturer (Teaching and Research) in Equine Science at Hartpury University said: “The standard of presentations from the students was really impressive, with the bar getting higher year on year. Throughout the course of the day, delegates were entertained and inspired by engaging discussion from both the student delegates and the keynote speakers with whom students were able to network over the two poster sessions.

“Research is an important part of everyday life at Hartpury and is woven through all of our equine degree programmes. Our staff involve students in research, and in many cases, students lead research projects while staff act as mentors and co-researchers. Through events like this conference, in addition to supporting undergraduate research dissertations and postgraduate research projects, the Hartpury Equine Department is a hub for impact-driven research in equine welfare, science, therapy, behaviour and business.”

The morning session, chaired by Dr Clare Thomas-Pino - Programme Manager and Academic Tutor for the BSc (Hons) Human-Animal Interaction at Hartpury University, was opened with an engaging keynote presentation by Professor Jo-Anne Murray from the University of Glasgow entitled ‘The effect of diet on the equine microbiome?’. 

The morning’s keynote was followed by presentations from students from Hartpury University, the Royal Agricultural University, Oxford Brooks University, and University Centre Sparsholt. Topics presented included ‘Investigation of mental toughness in equestrian sports’ and ‘Do equids have the cognitive ability for mirror self-recognition? 

The morning session was rounded off by a fascinating keynote presentation from Professor Sarah Jane Hobbs from the University of Central Lancashire on her breakthrough research in ‘Evaluating the impact of impairment on performance for Para Dressage’. The afternoon session, chaired by Ella Bartlett, a PhD student from the University of Bristol and Lecturer in Equine Science at Merrist Wood College, kicked off with the final undergraduate section including oral presentations from University Centre Sparsholt and University Centre Reaseheath. 

Postgraduate representation was from Hartpury University, Writtle University College, Myerscough College and Nottingham Trent University with presentation topics including ‘A pilot study investigating under-rug temperature and the nocturnal behavioural profile of the stabled horse’ and ‘The Influence of Pre-ride Warm-up and Rider Coaching on Horse Rider Position and Horse-Rider Synergy’. The day was rounded off by an engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking closing keynote presentation delivered by Roly Owers, the CEO of World Horse Welfare on ‘Social licence and its relevance to the future of equestrianism’.  

Prizes for best student theatre and poster presentations were judged by the keynote speakers, chairs, and Dr Helen Warren, European Technical Manager - Ruminants at Alltech®; the Conference sponsor. Awarded at the close of the Conference, the prize for the best theatre presentations went to Albane Montgomery from the Royal Agricultural University for her undergraduate presentation entitled ‘Temperament characteristics are associated with stereotypic behaviour in horses’, and to Jessica Johnson from Nottingham Trent University for her postgraduate presentation entitled ‘What are you watching? Rider and non-rider gaze behaviour while watching cross-country eventing video footage’. 

Hartpury University student poster presentations

BSc (Hons) Equine Science students - Has public opinion of equestrian sport changed since 2020?

Megan Field (PhD) - Applying a realistic approach to BHS riding school views on social licence to operate

Molly Macbeth (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Sports Science) - Does test design in the Individual Grand Prix at the World Equestrian Games affect the final score?

Hope Randle (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Performance and Rehabilitation)- Horse owner use of dynamic mobilisation exercises, training aids and massage for kissing spine surgery rehabilitation

Claudia Robb (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Performance and Rehabilitation) - An investigation into female riders’ body image perception differences across equestrian disciplines

Ella Smith  (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Performance and Rehabilitation) - An investigation into owners’ perception of colic surgery

BSc (Hons) Equine Science students - An insight into equine grooms: injury prevalence and subsequent actions

Annika Thonke  (BSc (Hons) Equine Science) - The prevalence of diagonal dissociation and its influence on dressage scores in competition horses when comparing collected and extended trot

Charlotte Vickery  (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Sports Coaching) - Investigating Functional Movement Screen Test Scores in Mounted Games Riders

Hartpury University student oral presentations

Beata Kaminska (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Sports Science) - Investigation of mental toughness in equestrian sports

Maria Donovan (BSc (Hons) Equine Science) - Horse owners and managers practices relating to equine internal parasite management

Ciara Powell (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Performance and Rehabilitation) - Pelvic movement in-hand and in a free and working posture ridden at trot

Megan Long (MRes Equestrian Science) - A pilot study investigating under-rug temperature and the nocturnal behavioural profile of the stabled horse

Research at Hartpury 

Hartpury University continues to build a strong reputation for research. Research carried out by Hartpury University, submitted as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 process, was recognised as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’, placing Hartpury amongst a prestigious group of well-established institutions.