Awards honour trio of equestrian innovators

Bridle designer William Micklem has been awarded the Saddle Research Trust's Saddlery/Equipment award.
Bridle designer William Micklem has been awarded the Saddle Research Trust’s  Saddlery/Equipment award.

Three leading equestrian figures – and one horse – have been honoured in inaugural awards presented by the Saddle Research Trust.

The Micklem Multibridle
The Micklem Multibridle

Public vote decided the winners of the trust’s Welfare and Performance awards, with William Micklem, Mary Wanless, and Dr Sue Dyson leading their categories. The trust’s App award was taken out by Equla Vert, and the Horse award was won by Teddy the Shetland.

Bridle designer William Micklem headed the Saddlery/Equipment award for his Micklem Bridle, which is complementary to the shape and physiology of a horse’s skull, and avoids potential pressure points that can be found on traditional bridles.

In accepting his award, which was sponsored by Novel GMBH, Micklem thanked the trust, and Horseware Ireland and its CEO Tom MacGuinness “who saw the value of the bridle, when for 15 years I had failed to convince other manufacturers”.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Micklem bridle has changed the way we think about bridles and nosebands, and because of this, we are immensely proud.

“It is designed from the inside out, from the shape of the skull itself and the position of the nerves … for this special thanks are due to my late father, Dick Micklem, who started me on this journey, not just because of his deep interest in equine anatomy and physiology, but also because of his love of horses and his deep appreciation of their integral role both in two world wars and in our life-enhancing equestrian sports,” Micklem said.

“My father would be so pleased with this recognition for the Micklem bridle, but even more pleased about the proactive and positive contribution to horse welfare by the Saddle Research Trust.”

The Welfare and Performance Person Award, sponsored by Ridercise, was won by internationally renowned coach and author, Mary Wanless.

Wanless said she was thrilled to receive the award, and thanked the riders who had voted for her. “I so appreciate your support, especially those who have actively taken part in what has been a 40-year research project.

Mary Wanless
Mary Wanless.

One of my premises is that how we sit on the horse, matters. The horse cannot not be influenced and affected by our wiggliness, our shoviness – how we support our bodyweight, or don’t. How our centre of gravity is organised. What’s happening with our asymmetry and whether or not we can match the forces of his movement.”

Wanless said another aspect of her research was finding out what talented riders do, but don’t know they do. She said observers can often see when a rider has talent, “but can we put our finger on what it really is?”

“Forty years later, after working with so many different riders, from the grass-roots level to elite team riders, I believe I have figured out what those components are that make talented riders able to do what they do, and what their bodies are doing, which is so different to the bodies of most folks.”

Wanless hoped that winning the award would open the door to more dialogue with the likes of saddlers in terms of rider biomechanics, and elite members and opinion leaders of the horse world. “Because for welfare and performance, I think we really need skilled riding with good biomechanics.

“For me, that is ethics in action.”

Dr Sue Dyson performing a stifle flexion test.
Dr Sue Dyson performing a stifle flexion test.

The Welfare and Performance Practitioner award sponsored by Harper Adams University was won by Dr Sue Dyson, who gave a heartfelt speech. She thanked everyone who voted for her and was clearly moved by the public support and awareness of her work.

Dyson is head of clinical orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust’s Centre for Equine Studies in Newmarket, England. She is a world-renowned expert in equine orthopaedics, with a particular interest in lameness and poor performance in sports horses.

Dyson has lectured internationally and published more than 230 refereed papers in scientific journals, relating to lameness and diagnostic imaging in the horse. She is also an expert in diagnostic imaging, including radiography, ultrasonography, scintigraphy and MRI.

21st Century Rider sponsored the App Award, won by Equla Vert, and Professor Hilary Clayton accepted on the company’s behalf. Equla Vert’s Dominic Lombardo said the Android version of the Vert app will be released in Spring, with the Apple Watch version out shortly after that.

A heart-rate monitoring feature is in beta now (where Vert displays equine or human heart rate, as detected through a separate sensor), and a “metronome” will feature later this spring, giving riders a rhythmic cue, a much-requested feature to help learn tempo etc. plus some integrations are in the pipeline with other company’s sensors.

Simon Middleton presented the Horse Award to Teddy the Shetland’s owner, Alice Goring, whose love for her charismatic little pony shone through her acceptance speech. Teddy’s own response arrived next day: “Thank u to everyone who voted, feeling honoured and pretty wonderful to have won the Saddle Research Trust Welfare and Performance award of 2018. The only mini floofer in the world to have ever beaten the mighty Olympian Valegro.”

Little and Large! Metropolitan Police Horses, Merlin and Quixote, were joined on patrol in central London by some special helpers, Teddy and Doris, ahead of their appearances at Olympia, the London International Horse Show next month.
Teddy, pictured at left with his little friend Doris, with Metropolitan Police Horses Merlin and Quixote in London, before  the London International Horse Show at Olympia in 2017.

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