The secret of our success: British Showjumping to reveal all

Peter Charles of Great Britain celebrates a clear round on Vindicat W in the jump-off against the Netherlands to help secure Olympic gold at London 2012.
Peter Charles of Great Britain celebrates a clear round on Vindicat W in the jump-off against the Netherlands to help secure Olympic gold at London 2012. © London 2012

Research that may reveal some of the reasons for Britain’s leap back into the forefront of world showjumping is to be made public at an international conference in Britain later this month.

The stellar results of the British showjumping team in the last couple of years could, to a small degree, have been aided by research commissioned by the British Equestrian Federation before the London 2012 Olympic Games. The study, supported by the UK Sport lottery-funded Equestrian World Class Programme, was carried out to increase 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.

The results will be made public for the first time 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 several collaborators 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 said: “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 said the jumping project provided an evidence-based approach to enable riders and trainers to be advised 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.”

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

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

More information: ICEEPBEVA.

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.

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