THE Student Conference at Enniskillen Campus is always a highlight in the academic calendar, for both students and staff. This year students at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) organised a conference with the theme ‘Optimising Performance in the Equine Athlete’.
The students secured a fantastic line up of speakers, with three in-person and one online presenters. CAFRE welcomed Lisa Allen (Equimech), Dr Sinead Devine (University College Dublin, Veterinary Hospital), Tony Tyler (World Horse Welfare) and Martin Payne (Master Farrier) to provide talks on horse performance.
The conference was opened by Jane Elliott, Head of Equine at Enniskillen Campus. The morning session provided each speaker with the opportunity to deliver informative talks to participants. Lisa Allen discussed the importance of rider fitness and strength. This session became very interactive with Lisa encouraging everyone to their feet to carry out some basic balance exercises, which highlighted lots of unbalanced or stiff participants!
Lisa explained how different types of rider asymmetry can be spotted such as unevenly worn gloves or chaps. These discussions provided lots of food for thought amongst the riders in the audience.
Tony Tyler joined the conference virtually. He spoke on Social Licence to Operate (SLO), something which is so important for the industry today. He explained how equestrians must be mindful of the image and perceptions the equine industry display to the general population. Horse welfare must be at the centre of all decisions, and the equestrian community has a duty to ensure this occurs.
Dr Sinead Devine delivered her talk on the management of performance horses, providing an interesting insight into how to diagnose and manage injuries in performance horses. She gave an overview of the common medications which are prominent in the industry and discussed how to take a practical approach to the treatment of injuries.
Martin Payne was the final speaker of the morning. He addressed the importance of correct hoof balance in horses and explained how poor balance can affect their athleticism. This key information was reiterated in his afternoon practical workshop.
The morning session was closed and summarised by CAFRE Head of Education, Dr Eric Long. Dr Long reflected on each of the talks which were delivered and thanked each of the speakers for taking the time to visit the campus and speak to students.
The afternoon sessions comprised of two workshops. Lisa Allen demonstrated rider biomechanics assessments supported by student, Ralph Robinson (Level 3 aquine apprentice who is currently completing his apprenticeship with five-star event rider Joseph Murphy). The sessions highlighted the importance of correct alignment and showed different methods to help create a greater awareness in the riders.
Martin Payne demonstrated some remedial shoeing, by using x-rays previously taken to inform best treatment for the horse. Using both static and dynamic assessments, participants were able to identify the differences, both before and after shoeing. The Hoofbeat gait analysis software was applied to get a more in-depth analysis of the horse’s movement.