The stellar results of the British showjumping team in the last couple of years could have been aided by research carried out by leading equine experts, including those based in the Equine Centre at the Animal Health Trust. The study was commissioned by the British Equestrian Federation prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The study, supported by the UK Sport lottery-funded Equestrian World Class Programme, was carried out to increase our knowledge of the physiological responses of horses during jumping, with the aim of identifying areas in which improvements could be made to the welfare and performance of competition horses.

Now for the first time the results will be made public when they will be presented at the upcoming International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology (ICEEP) and the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress. 

The Scientific Advisory Group of the British Equestrian Federation World Class Programme, consisting of John McEwen (Director of Sports Science and Medicine for the World Class Programme), Rachel Murray (Animal Health Trust), Colin Roberts (Cambridge University) and Pat Harris (WALTHAM Equine Studies Group), worked with a number of collaborators (as below) to investigate how horses respond during high level jumping competitions. One area that was investigated was the influence of horse fitness on performance during longer international competitions.

Sarah Armstrong, World Class Programme Manager and Jumping Project Administrator commented; “The success of the project has been two fold. Not only were the recommendations able to be implemented in the run up to 2012, but from a wider perspective the science behind the study has been rolled out across all our Programmes. Thanks to the generous funding of UK Sport, the research has given us another educational tool to use across the disciplines.”

John McEwen commented; “I think the jumping project gave us an evidence-based approach to enable us to advise riders and trainers on core areas covering the warm-up, preparation and competition. I’m very grateful to the riders who brought really great horses during the project and enabled us to study this with such accuracy. We are always looking for marginal gains, and this project allowed us to provide the factual information to back up our advice. We were also able to gather a lot of information from the project which has been transferable to other disciplines.”

Results of the study will be presented at the ninth ICEEP conference in Chester, 16-20 June 2014 and at the BEVA Congress in a session entitled, ‘The Science and Practice behind the medals’, held 10-13 September at the IC, Birmingham.

To view the full Scientific Programmes for the events, please visit the official websites - ICEEP: www.iceep.org and BEVA: www.beva.org.uk/congress

The work of the jumping project was supported by the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class Programme, which is itself funded via UK Sport, by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, through Exchequer and National Lottery funds.

Study collaborators: C. Armstrong, M. Bronsvoort, R. Cnockaert, Dodson & Horrell Ltd, N. Evans, D. Hodgson (ETB Pegasus), T. Goosen, R. Guire (Centaur Biochemanics), I. Handel (Edinburgh University), R. Hoekstra, D. Lee, C. Roberts, J. Spear, V. Spalding, C. Tranquille, S. Thomas, V. Walker and athletes from the BEF World Class Programme.

Source: Animal Health Trust