AHC24 Conference Organisers & Keynote Speakers

Equine research on display at 13th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference

The 13th annual Alltech-Hartpury Equine Student Conference took place at Hartpury University on 8 May 2024, bringing together undergraduate and postgraduate student presenters from 10 UK institutions to present their research. In addition, delegates attended from 15 UK institutions as well as private companies including The Mare and Foal Sanctuary and 2B Jumps.

Dr Kirsty Leśniak (Senior Lecturer in Equine Science at Hartpury University) and Dr Helen Warren (European Technical Manager - Ruminants and Horses, at Alltech) co-chaired the keynote speakers and set the stage for a day filled with insightful discussions and significant findings. Alltech have been title sponsors of the conference since its inception.

Prof. Kristien Verheyen from the Royal Veterinary College delivered the first keynote speech, sharing her expertise in veterinary epidemiology and discussing the applications of this field to racehorse health and welfare. She presented her Horse Welfare Board-aligned work on risk factors for musculoskeletal injury in young racehorses and data from the safety and welfare project, which focuses on jump racing.

The second keynote speaker, Dr Heather Cameron-Whytock from the University of Central Lancashire shared her inspiring journey into a research career, highlighting her collaborative research work in FEI and BE eventing competitions. Her presentation focused on key risk factors and recommendations to promote safety in competition. The conference also featured a captivating talk by Ben Atkinson from Atkinson Action Horses, who shared his insights on successful human-equine interaction and training horses.

The conference also showcased student presentations and posters from seven UK institutions. Hartpury University PhD student Rafaelle Baby explored rider biomechanics, while other presenters covered equine cloning, and event rider sleep behaviours.

Over 30 student posters were accepted this year, covering subjects ranging from enrichment in donkey management, rein tension, perceptions of the Paris Olympic Games, and factors influencing decision-making in rehoming rescue horses.

The conference concluded with the announcement of the prize winners. Freya Donoghue from Oxford Brookes, Abingdon & Witney won the Undergraduate Oral Presentation category with her research on soil pH as a reliable indicator of good quality pasture. Charlotte Barber (BSc (Hons) Equestrian Sports Science) from Hartpury University received the award for the Undergraduate Poster Presentation for her study on the impact of landing gradient on cross-country fence types. Stephanie Bradley from the University of Gloucester won the Postgraduate Oral Presentation category with her research on the impact of the perimenopause and menopause on female equestrian performance and participation. Molly Parker Welch (MSc Applied Performance Analysis in Sport), a recent graduate from Hartpury University was awarded the prize for the Postgraduate Poster Presentation for her investigation into equestrian sports coaches’ engagement with performance analysis tools.

Reflecting on the day, Dr Leśniak said: “We are thrilled with the success of this year’s conference and the level of student engagement we witnessed once more. It was truly inspiring to see undergraduate and postgraduate students from so many UK institutions come together to share their research and insights across a variety of important topics.

“We’re proud to be able to provide a platform for student researchers to showcase their work and contribute to the advancement of all areas of equine science, welfare, and performance. I’d like to congratulate our prize winners and thank our keynote speakers for their invaluable contributions.

“I’d also like to say a special thank you to our title sponsor Alltech, for their continued support and involvement in making this conference a success. We look forward to future conferences and the continued growth and collaboration within our equine research community.”

Three funding grants worth £150 for university student projects were also launched during the afternoon and will be available for the 2024/25 academic year. Details will be released in due course.

Research remains an integral part of staff and student life at Hartpury University, something that was influential in the institution’s triple Gold rating awarded by the Teaching Excellence Framework 2023. Research submitted as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 process was also recognised as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’. Students across all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes have opportunities to engage with research projects, with the potential to have real-world impact.


Photo: Ben Atkinson - Atkinson Action Horses, Professor Kristien Verheyen - Royal Veterinary College, Dr Heather Cameron-Whytock - University of Central Lancashire, Dr Kirsty Lesniak - Senior Lecturer Hartpury University, Dr Helen Warren – Alltech

Photo Credit: Michael Walter