The 2016 British Horse Society (BHS) Welfare conference was simply visionary. Themed: Stressed Out? The Causes, Effects and Prevention of Stress in the Horse and Rider meant I managed to successfully multi-task! I got to update my CPD for the Register of Instructors (now Accredited Coach) AND learn a heap of important knowledge in my passion to deliver to others, optimal equitation. Welfare does seem to be heaps more popular today than only 5 years ago. I remember when the word meant different things to different equestrian communities, backed up when a ‘hippy horse loving equestrian’, whose ‘free flowing mane’ mirrored their horse, punished horse owners for breaching the ethological needs of horses. Perhaps in the past, ‘welfare experts’ struggled to master the human needs to support the changes needed by horse loving owners to juggle and manage the daily ethological invasions, we as horse owners faced…
Thankfully times have moved on. In 2016, the term ‘welfare’ has a sharper context. Placing a spotlight on individual’s physical and mental well-being, the BHS Welfare Team championed the concept of Stress; Eustress and Distress, personally, a defining moment for the BHS, effectively targeting the well-being of more horses and ponies through educating owners, riders, coaches, judges and parents. It was great to see so many of my clients there – doing all their charities proud. These guys are the real visionaries. For the past two years the three main equestrian charities have been driven, focussed and dedicated to applying learning theory to improve the safety, well-being and ethics of their abandoned, abused and neglected horses. Well done Blue Cross (Rolleston and Burford), The Horse Trust and Redwings for being much needed ‘early adaptors’ in horse welfare and the appliance of science. Thank you all for supporting the start of this exciting journey of evidence-based knowledge to inform our equestrian practices. Your support of the British Horse Society demontrating their first, baby steps shows me, once again your commitment and dedication to improving horse welfare. And of course, congratulations to the British Horse Society, you had the courage and conviction to engage and embrace the latest in science with practice. You have taken the first steps along an evidence-based journey that stops off along the way at; nutrition, horse fitness, rider psychology and learning theory…next year I look forward to the BHS placing the spotlight on rider fitness, conflict behaviour, blending reinforcements and SMART technologies to enhance welfare…well those are just my thoughts on next years Conference Programme…what ideas do you have? Please comment in the ‘Discussion’ box to the left…
I have put together a list of my ‘widgets of welfare’ that got presented throughout the day. This is Lisa’s Lens of the day, if you wish to start a discussion, repeat the number you wish to discuss in the box to the left, so we can all read and learn…
I hope you enjoy reading my ‘welfare widgets’ and thank you to all the BHS Welfare conference speakers for such thought provoking and informative learning. Lets all think about and be the best we can, always for us and our horses xx
Lisa’s ‘Welfare Widgets’
- “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates. Nutrition is preventative medicine. Intimate link between gut, brain and health.
- Feeing any calories excess to requirements will exaggerate the ‘natural metabolism’ of the horse…it will NOT change their character.
- Fat is NOT fit. But muscle improves; microbiome health, post exercise recovery, healthier immune system, musical-skeletal health, performance, and gut homeostasis. Dr Teresa Hollands
- “Make small marginal gains with yourself and your horse” Ben Hart. However remember cognitive dissonance.
- From Prof. Nat Waran: Just because it works, doesn’t mean it is right. Traditional horse training methods and belief are not necessarily based on the best evidence. Xenophon placed live hedgehogs under the horses tail!
- Use good evidence: underpin your equitation practices with research to future proof equitation.
- So what is ‘in it’ for your horse? And what is Acceptable? Are we clear about what we mean by ethical training and the nature of the performance that is acceptable?
- Stressed horses have poor welfare. Do we always recognise indicators of stress or conflict?
- Stress related behaviour too common in the performance horse; putting out the tongue, tongue drawing above the bit or back, grinding the teeth, agitation of the tail.
- We need to use training methods that avoid causing stress and confusion.
- Use training methods based on an understanding of effective application of learning theory
- Train with the physical and mental capabilities of the horse at its current stage of development
- Take into account the horses natural behaviour and previous experience
- Avoid provoking or use of negative emotions such as fear, stress or pain.
- Involve experience to promote positive emotions.
- Negative reinforcement is NOT the same as punishment.
- Common reasons for stress to occur in training; conflicting or confused signals – conflicting motivational states. Previous learned associations that conflict with new ones to be learned, use of inappropriate punishment (to stop ongoing behaviour) and poor timing and inadvertent reinforcement of incorrect response.
- Applying opposing pressures leads to stress responses caused by confusion.
- We often reinforce undesirable behaviour without realising it
- What about promoting positive behavioural responses in training?
- Can we recognise and reward ‘positive emotions’ in training and performance?
- Good emotions = good welfare.
- Happiness and the FEI Dressage Rules 2015
- Indicators of good welfare for horses becoming important for animal welfare policy and legislation
- If we can identify indicators of positive emotions such as happiness and pleasure we can recognise and reward these in training and performance.
- Cognitive bias testing for mood states of horses. Lots of examples of positive behaviour horses choose to engage in and to use this knowledge and improve our relationships with horses.
- Studies of positive emotion and facial expression in horses (Stratton et al, Massey University, NZ)
- Characterising horse emotion expression and applying this in practice.
- Trainers/coaches and riders need to be abel to recognise and reward behaviour indicative of positive and negative emotions.
- Science can provide information about effective evidence based improved welfare training methods BUT practitioners need to be open to change in order to bring about successful, safe, and high welfare horse and rider outcomes.
Since the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games a week ago, I have unknowingly travelled through the 7 stages of grief. Grieving for the inspirational men and women, who, stepped seamlessly into my life every morning and evening, for a fortnight. On reflection, I can now see my symptoms; denial, anger, sadness… only recently had I moved to the final stage; acceptance and hope. I launched the 2020 Tokyo savings fund, waited 2hours with my Olympic mad 6 year old son, to find out what the self confessed, self improvement addict, Rio swimming gold medalist, Adam Peaty recommends reading? Muhammad Ali, of Course. I have toasted Stone’s own Rio Olympic gold medalist, Joe Clark, as he was carried in his canoe for thousands could congratulate and celebrate his success. Britain really is Great. Ok, so I think I am finally ready to move on, using all I have learnt from the extraordinary Olympians of the Rio 2016 games, and become the best version of me….
Beware of Comfort
My Olympic obsession got me focusing on zones. I expect like many of you, I am partial to a bit of my comfort zone, ‘wine zone’ but never have I explored or even imagined I would get excited about demonstrating different heart rate zones! They look quite pretty on a graph. I have just started week 3 of my new fitness programme with Eventfit.com and ‘out of comfort’ perfectly sums up my experience. I have explored speeds (interval, tempo and recovery runs) Turkish Get Ups, and Adduct -Flye- Rotates, all with a new focus – my heart rate zones. What a difference exercising with instant feedback on my fitness performance makes mentally, and Im guessing, physically. One of my new goals is to effectively use and train in all the zones, especially the lower zones – to get fitter! I really don’t know what I don’t know. I thought running hard and fast would get me there, achieve greater fitness. But, once again, using evidence based knowledge means being willing and open to coming out of my comfort zone. I am thriving off these new ‘out of comfort’ experiences, which got me thinking, how many of us choose to embrace, or even seek being out of our zone of comfort?
Well, Lindsay Wilcox-Reid, an associate of equicoach.life, did. A month ago Lindsay asked if I would help with her horse, Tex. At 18.2hh, he found his way to Lindsay because he reared and became ‘dangerous’. Lindsay qualified for the BD Petplan Area Championship at Elementary, yet at each show Tex’s behaviour had been deteriorating, getting worse and worse in the warm up, affecting their safety and overall confidence and therefore performance. This weekend Lindsay put all her training and hard work we spent on deepening Tex’s basic responses into practice…“Absolutley buzzing today after Tex and I competed at the area festival. He has made such progress in the last few weeks and I was overwhelmed at how well he coped with the whole atmosphere of a championship and the arena walk which was a MAJOR challenge for him, never mind the actual test! Than you so much Lisa, for your coaching of the last few weeks – what a difference you have made in such a short space of time!” Lindsay Wilcox-Reid, & Tex August 2016.
A New Beginning
Rio 2016 Olympics. What a remarkable games for Team GB and we still have another week to go! From the unimaginable to the impossible, Team GB just keep delivering. Individual to team medals. New world and olympic records to smashing personal bests. From cycling to swimming, trampoline to rowing – the Olympic Games is way more than any other competition, it is an opportunity to take a slice of history.
Personally, the Olympics personify and celebrate being your best version. Being selected to represent your country must be the ultimate accumulation of many actions, that others did not take. Delivering, day in, day out. Knowing it is going to hurt (which now is your DNA) and switching off the pain. Performing on set day, once every 4 years, with the eyes of the world watching, and doing your very best.
In awe. Inspired. I have decided to take action. A new step towards being the best I can be. I got so much from personal training on my ‘road to Rio’ blog on EquiSci – thank you Simon Nicholls from Next Level Fitness in Stone, Staffordshire, you gave me my first real ‘taste’ of physical hard work looks and feels like, developing in me a new habit to cross train. Now as I re-group, evaluate and assess my new goals, I need someone to coach me. Support me. Push me to a new level of performance….Cue equestrian fitness coach Jenni Douglas! A valued associate of equicoach.life Jenni runs Eventfit.com, and now the unfortunate challenge of supporting my goals. Yes I know, its a massive cliché, but my goal is to fulfil my potential, as a rider. Become the best in the saddle I am capable of.
Why Eventfit.com when I no longer event? Well what I love about Jenni is her love and passion for coaching and research in horse-rider performance. She is such a driven and determined woman that I admire her approach and strategy to life. She has two young kids and is currently writing up her PhD which investigated the physiological demands on the rider in Eventing with the development of sport specific strength and conditioning interventions. Jenni specifically trains riders in the physical preparation and function in the saddle at Eventfit.com, helping lots of riders from around the world get the most from our equine relationships. Having worked with Jenni, I knew being based in Vancouver Island, BC Canada would not be a problem either. Jenni is such a professional and her attention to detail on all levels has seriously impressed me. She has already taught me different and exciting ways to communicate any time, anywhere – there really are no more barriers to working with international professionals.
Measuring. Comparing. Contrasting.
I know heart rate training is important, I even used a Polar Heart Rate monitor over twenty years ago in my first degree dissertation; Interval training of the Event horse. So I have no idea why I have behaved totally apathetic towards applying heart rate function on my Polar m400 watch. In fact since Jenni has asked me a few basic questions and tested my base level fitness before we got started, I am embarrassed to admit I had never used it! I cant believe I am admitting this, but the truth is I bought the watch for its ‘get back to the start’ feature (after getting lost running in Rome with an hour to catch my flight, I was very motivated to buy the only watch on the market that had this!). So my behaviour (or lack of it) got me thinking, why, if I know how useful heart rate monitoring to fitness and progresion, have I been so apathetic? I need to explore this further in another blog, but for now, thanks to Jenni and her thorough support (yes even how to use which button on the watch to get the function working!) I have joined the heart rate training brigade. And its a ‘fit’! Objective data is me. I am still a little too concerned by how long it has taken me to align my fitness goals with HR training, but I am here now! Right where I need to be. Applying heart rate monitoring to inform and improve my performance.
Although I am holiday I have been doing skeleton fitness sessions, my main focus was to give Jenni data to write me my detailed training programme. But what I learnt from this process has been astonishing. I have learnt more about my running performance and fitness then ever before. And it has actually been fun. I now have clarity too. Seeing clearly what I need to do to achieve my goals, all down to Jenni’s coaching. Thank you!! Lets be honest, without it I would not have even thought to use my heart rate monitor, let alone analyse and evaluate where I am at and what I need to do to achieve this.
Using my HR feature on a run for the first time reminded me of the defining day. Dr Andrew McLean gave me my first ever lesson, some 12 years ago now. I remember the feeling as if it were yesterday. That heady cocktail of excitement, empowerment, hope and amazement at the simplicity of learning theory in equitation, which set me on the path I passionately travel along today, helping people to help horses. Like learning theory, heart rate training provides objective, evidenced-based knowledge, giving me an insight into how efficiently I’m training, and ways to quantify improvements. It asks questions like what is my best heart rate zone? Well there isn’t one best zone. As you would expect, different zones yield different benefits and are appropriate at different times during a training plan. The great news is I am now actually travelling through the different zones! More about that next time….
I know this is the earliest of days, but I am sooooo excited to be working with Jenni (and of course my new best friend the scruffy m400 on my wrist) to get me working ‘smarter’ and still smash my goals that I am itching to get back ‘home’ and start ‘work’. I genuinely have no idea what my new fitness path looks like yet, or even my destination, but I do know with Jenni’s support I will be a fitter, better version of Lisa. Bring it on!