Report from F&I Webinar – “Biomechanics of Horse and Rider from a Coaching Perspective” delivered by Dr Russell Mackechnie-Guire

Ruth Baxter kindly organised the Webinar on the

Biomechanics of Horse and Rider from a Coaching Perspective” delivered by Dr Russell Mackechnie-Guire on 4th Nov 2020.

After a few anxious moments linking up to the Webinar which Ruth planned so well we were treated to a most wonderful 2 hours of research that is ground breaking to say the least!

I sat riveted to my chair listening to and watching a fantastic revelation of knowledge that will benefit horse and rider for many years.

Russell told us that his research is applicable to:

1. Improve the welfare of the ridden horse.

2. Improve the health of the ridden horse.

3. Improve the performance of the ridden horse.

Coaches have a huge responsibility to absorb the ongoing research and apply it in a practical manner for the ridden horse.

He introduced us to research on:

1. Girth Fit.

2. Saddle Panel design.

3. Bridle Fit and Design.

Girth Fit.

Girth fit research began in 2009 leading up to the London Olympics. It was to help riders get the very best performance possible from the Team GB Dressage horses at the Olympics. Every last detail will gain the edge over the other teams and gather every vital mark to win. Win they did!

By using pressure pads it was established that a lot of pressure was applied behind the elbow area but less in the Sternum. Once a modified, anatomical girth was designed to relieve this pressure it was clear that the horses displayed more hock flexion and more extension in front. There was equal action on both sides. This research was further used on Jumping Elite horses at 1.40m, Racehorses and Eventers at gallop.

Russell explained that the modified girth allowed better use of Abdominal muscles by reducing pressure and allowing better absorption of ground force. There is a better Range of Movement and ground cover in the length of stride.

He is not a big advocate of elasticated girths as they can be too tight. He advised to have girth buckles high up and if using training aids it is advisable to attach to a ring on the girth and not round the girth to reduce sternum pressure.

Saddle Panel Design.

A saddle that is too narrow in the waist/twist of the saddle over T10 to T13 area of the spine will cause pressure on the spine. Riders like a narrow waist as their hips lack suppleness.  More research has taken place with saddle fit. Again a modified saddle reduces pressure. If a horse has pressure applied over this area of the spine it will develop a locomotary strategy to cope that does not allow the horse step through. This does not enhance welfare or performance. This applies to Jumping and racing saddles too.

With a modified saddle the stride length is increased. He discussed saddle slip/roll.  A horse becomes straighter once the saddle is corrected and the rider balance is improved.

Bridle Fit and Design.

We as coaches must consider head conformation when fitting the bridle. The bridle must be considered as a whole unit not just the noseband.  A wide head piece, a buckle over the head piece, brow band or rolled leather will cause extra pressure and involve the TMJ.

The TMJ has an influence over hind limb movement.

A crank noseband with rings has a more even pressure than a traditional structure of cavesson noseband.

Bits have a huge influence and very often the horse moves the tongue to protect the roof of the mouth, hence drawing back of the tongue.

There is clearly much more research to be done in this area.

Rider Effect and Symmetry.

The horse likes stability in order to move freely and with confidence.  If the rider is crooked the balance is upset by so many times the weight of the rider depending on the gait and will be more unbalanced in canter than in walk. The rider instability can be caused by a physiological issue or slippage of the saddle in most cases. However we must be aware that the horse may be just lame.

The great mantra throughout the presentation was:

“Have you had this saddle checked by a professional saddle fitter and if so when?”  Some horses may have to have this done monthly.

We, as coaches, have a responsibility to notice girth, saddle and bridle fit. It is our duty then to make sure the rider gets the girth, saddle or bridle correctly fitted to help to rectify any asymmetry in the horse’s way of going.

By doing this as coaches, we will help improve the welfare, performance and longevity of the working life of the ridden horse.

Thank you Russell and Ruth!

Faith Ponsonby 7th Nov 2020.

Report from Performance Psychologist Charlie Unwin’s Zoom Presentation on 7th Sept 2020

“Mental Fitness for Equestrian Athletes”
So, some salient points from last night:  Firstly, how wonderful to get together with so many like-minded people with such a huge range of experience – and why ever don’t we do it more often?  It’s so stimulating and thought- provoking.  Charlie is a super presenter with endless enthusiasm for his subject and clear thought processes which are all very relevant to us as Coaches.

We started by discussing what it means to be “mentally fit” and then went on a rollercoaster, discussing Resilience, Resonance, a fascinating section on the brain and neural pathway development, Talents and Skills, the role of Self-Esteem, Repetition, Reward, Recovery, Functional Intelligence, Placebos, Trust, Listening, developing “the system”, dealing with nerves, using visualisation, the importance of open questioning… We had our notebooks to hand, and there was so much to absorb.

Reflecting back over the years – and many are possibly my vintage I think! –  many of us (I certainly did) spent a lot of time ‘reinventing the wheel’, so being able to pool our experiences and dilemmas to mutual benefit and intelligently work out the way forward is just so refreshing! I certainly reflected last night on the Talent vs Skills “barcode” – and ‘enhancing what people have, not putting in what they don’t’.
A lot of what Charlie said made me think of Coaches I have worked with in the past and really clarified why the good ones were so good and made the whole learning experience such an exciting journey – measured challenge, positivity, encouragement, enjoyment… although without the initial years of consistent long-term work and practice (demonstrated by Charlie with his Friday effect/ Monday effect graph) would these top coaches have been able to work the same magic?

The word ‘Intelligence’ was used many times during the evening.
Intelligent breakdown in goal setting
Using intelligence to correct technique
Intelligence gets scattered on the floor when you fail to build shelves in the mind to organise
Mechanisms in the brain that add meaning to experience
Helping our clients have meaningful experiences
In an intelligent ‘approach’ the rider is part of the process

Charlie gave such solid reasoning for not over repeating / over working – applying to both riders and horses – and the importance of coaching the rider off the horse, using time out of the saddle, which has become ever more evident, whether it’s the psychological aspect or the physical fitness and suppleness.

Thank you so much F&I, Mandy Holloway and especially Charlie for a really stimulating evening.☀️

And some of the feedback from appreciative emails received by Mandy:
Thought provoking – Fantastic, interactive session – Ensuring our personal levels of coaching are as high as possible  – Hugely beneficial  – Very useful – Helpful to continually reflect on all aspects of coaching – Really interesting Webinar – Very informative – Amazing First Zoom Presentation for Fs and Is – Great job Charlie and Amanda – Charlie packed a lot in – Thoroughly worthwhile  – Fantastic Presentation – Importance of reflection on own Coaching techniques – Importance of Rest and Recovery – Food for thought regarding improving our own techniques – Charlie’s enthusiasm, knowledge, experience and guidance shines through.

Report by Carol Bennitt, followed by some of the feedback received by Mandy Holloway (organiser).

Report on the F&I Training Day, Tuesday 1st September 2020, with Judy Harvey FBHS 

Our first day out for the F & I Association since the Annual course dawned warm and sunny as we made our way to Judy Harvey’s yard in Buckinghamshire.

Judy has been a long time member and supporter and is generous in allowing us to watch and learn from her own riding and coaching skills.

Covid 19 procedures were in place and we all socially distanced as you can see from the photograph, we all need wide angled lenses now!!

Mandy Luesley FBHS rode her homebred mare first as she was the closest at 2 hours away ( the others were all over 3hrs 15 mins) This mare has really strengthened up since last year and looked much more consistent. Judy had them more forward and really using the corners rather than riding circles. She reminded us that internationally there are 5 judges on the short sides and only 2 down the long side so the short sides need to be ridden correctly to set the movements up.

David Llewellyn BHSI rode his own 5yr old TB by Black Sam Bellamy. This is a very big horse with 3 correct paces and Judy made it clear that with this horse you wouldn’t ride so deep into the corners as at the moment it would affect his balance and his joints. When working towards the medium paces it was suggested that to go to “working plus” rather than full blown medium as this helps keep the hind leg in the right place.

Sam York FBHS brought 2 homebred half brothers to work. One was beautifully turned out in “sorbet pink” numnah and matching bandages which Sam’s Mum had kindly bought for her!!

With the older brother the lateral work was used to help the suppleness having less angle and more impulsion. It was made clear that it is important to keep the imp up between the movements. The leg yield was then used to help the canter and into a flying change again helping the hind leg stay in the correct place.

Sam’s younger horse had been placed at the Championships at Hartpury last week and was now moving towards more engagement and collection using shoulder fore to help the transitions after the medium paces. It was good to see the walk pirouettes and how with practise and positioning they can be improved for higher marks. So those of us with less expressive paces better get working at being able to get some higher marks.

Liz Allen BHSI rode her lovely Inter 1 horse but showed us how the Grand Prix working is coming along. The tempis were lovely and expressive but then lost some balance so Judy suggested half halting and collecting after each change so that they didn’t run out of balance. Liz showed us how she had started the passage and Judy said to think of a small trot with expression so that he learns to bend his knees and stay under with his hocks.

After a short break Judy then rode an Andulusian stallion who belongs to one of her clients. He has a fantastic temperament and competes at PSG with his owner but has some of the Grand Prix work there. Having trotted around at the start Judy then used exercises in canter to help with the cadence when coming back to the trot and then into piaffe and passage.

Discussions then followed with 2 of our coaches helping a young rider with a PSG horse.

How lucky are we to have access to such wonderful horses and trainers.

As always many thanks to Judy, her team and Richard Healey for allowing us to come to their home and yard in these strange times we find ourselves in

Report by Ann Bostock, BHSI, F&I Vice-Chair and organiser extraordinaire.


As I write this on the train heading back to Cheshire, I am reflecting on what has been a truly thought provoking day at The National Equine Forum.

I firstly want to say a big thank you to the F&I Association for the opportunity for myself and Alex Wyatt to attend the forum. Having arrived slightly late due to train issues I arrived as Dr Richard Newton had started his talk on managing infectious disease risks and his recent experiences and thoughts on the topic. He touched on the recent outbreak of equine flu and how warnings were given but more should have been done to block the chain of transmission.

He then went on to talk about other diseases including EVA and EHV-1. What I found most interesting was his discussion on an outbreak of EHV-1 at a yard, he went into detail on how the disease spread throughout the yard based on the yard set up and management. It was no great surprise that the horses on this yard that were stabled in an American barn style block all contracted the disease with some fatalities. Whereas the horse stabled in the external blocks had much fewer cases spread from horse to horse. He then went on to discuss the importance of bio security in cases of any diseases outbreak but also how people must take responsibility for making the general public aware of any disease outbreak and the role social media has in helping with this.

We next heard from James Hick from the BHS on the work he and a fantastic team of over 300 volunteers are doing to help save our access to public rights of way across the UK. These routes are slowly being lost and need us all to start making sure any bridleways in our area are recorded before 2026. After this any routes that are not on record will be lost permanently.

The next group of speakers came under the heading “Global Issues, National Impact”.

Ian Cawsey, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns from the Donkey Sanctuary started this section off talking about an issue I was completely unaware of. It was the impact that the Donkey skin trade for the production of Ejiao in China was having on the Donkey population worldwide. The demand for this product has seen a drop in over 8 million donkeys and a surge in poachers stealing the donkeys from farmers in developing third world countries. It’s not only sad that these animals are being slaughtered for their skin, but they really are an integral part everyday life to villagers and farmers across many developing countries. The other issue the donkey sanctuary was trying to deal with was the appalling conditions the animals were being held and slaughtered in but also the way in which the carcasses were being disposed of and a complete lack of biosecurity. This was a real eye opener for me, and I will certainly be making a donation to this charity in future.

Next up, we got to hear from Roly Owers, chief executive from World Horse Welfare, on our future with horses and how social licences can help. Now this was a new concept for me (social licensing) but one that made complete sense. Roly talked about how important public perception of horse sport is. Animal rights activists will argue how ‘use is abuse’, but we need to ensure that we educate the public on how we use but don’t abuse our horses. Issues such as use of the whip or marking of horses with spurs have never been more in the spotlight. Social licensing is an unwritten contract between our industry and the general public, and it is crucial that each and everyone of us takes responsibility to promote good horsemanship practices, whether it be on the world stage or just hacking down the road.

This topic was then carried on with Dr Barry Johnson from the Horse Board. He used the racing industry as an example of how important it is to promote good welfare for the horses, not just during their competitive career but from birth right through to retirement.

After a delicious lunch, the afternoon speakers were all talking about improving equine health and welfare by changing our behaviour.

The first speaker was Dr Zac Baynham-Herd from the behavioural insight team. He was giving us an insight into applying behavioural changes to people.
This was followed by Professor Sarah Freeman who is a Professor of Veterinary Surgery from Nottingham University. Sarah Talked about her involvement with the research and development of the ‘React’ campaign which is being run through the BHS. Its aim is to educate people on recognising early signs of colic. The Question is, can an educational campaign such as this change people’s behaviour? The current thinking is that it will take an average of 15 years to implement and see any changes.

Next we heard from David Rendle, Council Member of the British Equine Veterinary Association. His talk was all about Anthelmintic Resistance in horses, the worrying rises in worm resistance and the fact that there are currently no new anthelmintic treatments on the market. His emphasis was focused on the need for educating and encouraging a change in people’s behaviour when it comes to worming programs. Maybe there is a need for an educational campaign targeting large yards on the importance of diagnostic worming?

The final two speakers in this section were Jude Matthews, Chief Executive of British Eventing and Andrew and Abigail Turnbull, Owners and Directors of Richmond Equestrian Centre. They talked about the devastating outbreak of Strangles at the centre last year and how the centre had to cancel their BE event as well as other competitions. Then, how they controlled the outbreak from spreading by carrying out strict Bio security on the yard and continue to do this to this day. It is so easy to become complacent when we take our horses out to competition centres and other yards but listening to these guys talk about the measures they now take, really made me think about my own bio security with my own horses!

We were then treated to a sneak peak ahead of this year’s Olympics. Some photos and a video from Tim Hadaway, Director for Games Operations, FEI and Henry Bullen who is Director of Peden Bloodstock who are responsible for transporting all the equine athletes out to Tokyo. It was great to get a glimpse of what we can expect from Tokyo at the Equestrian Park. Lets just hope that this Corona Virus doesn’t ruin it for us all!

The Final “Memorial” Lecture was given by Kirsty Whitnall from the RSPCA. Kirsty gave us a brilliant insight into the great work she and her colleagues are doing including some horses that have been rescued and rehomed.

But of course, the closing speaker was none other than HRH The Princess Royal. What a great way to end a brilliant day of inspirational speakers by getting to listen to HRH give us her thoughts on the day.

So, in summary, a great day. So much food for thought. I feel we all need to be more responsible for helping make a change. Whether it be horse welfare, educating clients on worming programs, or promoting good bio security, take your pick!

Report by David Llewellyn BHSI


Talland’s Pammy Hutton FBHS

This day was kindly organised by Talland School of Equitation.

A group of eager F’s and I’s were welcomed by Pammy Hutton FBHS at Talland School of Equitation on a cold Monday morning. The group was a mixture of both riders and spectators.

At 10am prompt, an action-packed programme began and the first of the 3 riders were given the arena and some younger horses to assess and critique. The horses were quality types with varying levels of schooling from green to more experienced. Pammy was very encouraging with the riders to ride the horses forward and straight to achieve the best way of going. The onlookers were also actively involved to give their opinions on the way of going of the horses and were asked for their observations.

Next, we saw more established horses with schooling levels from prelim to advanced medium, the same 3 riders stayed in the arena and swapped onto these horses. More discussion was encouraged by all and Pammy discussed the horses in relation to the fellowship assessment, and how the riders should also comment on the basic way of going of the horses in their discussions, as well as talking about the more advanced movements that they have established.

Pammy Hutton coaching David Sheerin

Pammy was supported by Islay Auty FBHS and Sam York FBHS, who contributed greatly to the riders and spectators, and gave valuable advice as well as great tips for our future training of partnerships.

The third group of riders were given more advanced horses ranging from adv medium to PSG and Inter 1. The riders were quickly given specific tasks to work on and encouraged to “ride in the quality” in all that they do.

Over a working lunch, the group observed Pammy help David Sherrin on his beautiful eventer. David was having some explosive moments when asking for changes and Pammy gave him some great help to achieve a cleaner change. We all enjoyed seeing the improvement.

The afternoon saw some coaching sessions take place where coaches were practical and correct in their coaching techniques. Again, valuable advice came from Pammy, Islay and Sam as well as from the spectators.

Pammy Hutton coaching David Sheerin

The day rounded off watching Pammy ride her own Magnum and she clearly demonstrated her ”feel” for the horse and showed her experience for us all to see.

It was a truly great day that was had by all, and it was most lovely to hear Mrs Molly Sivewright FBHS mentioned on several occasions throughout the day for being the wonderful horsewoman that she was. It is very clear that her fond memory lives on in all that is Talland.

A huge thankyou to Pammy and her team at Talland for a most special day.

P.S. We even learned that there are 53 roundabouts between Talland and Keysoe, but that story is for another day!!

Report by Carl Crofts BHSI

F&I Annual Course Report

January 2020, Addington.

What an inspiring two days. Corinne Bracken and Adam Kemp complemented each other, both in their methodology and in their delivery. For two days we felt totally torn between which coach to watch! The discussion section held on Tuesday was a brilliant idea and gave us a good insight to both coaches’ philosophy and experience.

Overwhelmingly they spoke with a combination of common sense and passion. The discussion was fantastic – we all could have listened to them talk for hours. It was both refreshing and reassuring to hear two exceptional coaches discuss with vehemence how the welfare of the horse must be at the forefront of all training and not trying to sell their ‘way’ as being right. Adam discussed how the dressage horse isn’t able to ‘see’ what was coming, whereas the showjumper could see, and explained how this influenced coaching. Both were supportive of basic training, and spoke about how today’s rider seemed to miss out on ‘Horsemanship’ and were often unable to handle their horses on the ground, and were competing in some areas above their capability. They said that many riders could benefit from thinking like the horse, understanding why their horses would react or shy, for example.

Corinne used circles and 90 degree turns, ‘pole gym’ and guide rails during the warm up stage of each session, regardless of experience, improving stability and rideability and a favourite of ours, riding in between the oxers, or bounce fences before jumping them, which encourage riders to hold their position and leg aid, to help straightness.

The use of a smaller fences towards the end of the arena, was explained. Encouraging the horse to ‘energise’ the canter by engaging the hind leg, with a caveat, that with a tired horse it would kill the canter. Corinne explained the use of plenty of oxers, being the only obstacle to truly work to horse’s core muscles, improving technique.

And how refreshing to hear plenty of humour in the sessions. So many quotes we remembered, because the delivery was fun.
Corinne – “you can’t collect a crooked horse, collection only happens with energy, you can only go fast or slow if they are crooked, but remember in the scales of training, what comes before collection?………. Absolutely Everything.”

“Never underestimate the size of the fence in training, big fences are often used for lack of technique” “Always striving for ‘Rideability’” “Often the more you chase the horse, the more they’ll back off.”

Adam’s analogies of our sport – “You wouldn’t make the tennis racket and then learn the game, or build the Formula 1 car or a Sailing boat and compete when they aren’t quite finished.”

Leg into hand – “There’s no such thing as a one-armed accordion player” and “use your legs before you do it, not after you’ve messed up”.
Adam spoke about how we use language to get to the correct understanding; for example, in the Piaffe work, he would describe the movement being ‘in place’ rather than ‘on the spot’.

He used a whole range of exercises to work and improve each horse and rider – and explained that the Grand Prix test was the best example of asking for “On and Back” throughout an entire test.

There are mountains of notes that we took, too many to mention, but from a spectator’s point of view, it was good to witness progression and horses with a varied experience and ability. Corinne & Adam were both superb at relaying information and including spectators and study groups in each session.

Both coaches appreciated being able to work with knowledgeable and able riders and spectators on these two days too – they both said they really enjoyed it! Next year’s coaches have a tough act to follow. But we are all enthused and are very much looking forward to next year’s Annual Course.

Report by:
Kirsty Fontaine-Henley BHSI, Hayley Newman BHSI, Lowri Powell BHSL5 E&C, Rachelle Purnell. BHS IIT.