An action packed couple of weeks…
Our first weekend at the MARE Centre was a good one, Michelle had her first weekend shift feeding the horses (we all take it in turns in pairs) and I spent time at another of the interns house doing a cook out and playing outside games – cornhole was my favourite.
The following 2 weeks have been action packed and there hasn’t been many days where nothing was happening. All of the interns are really fun and we have kept our spirits up in the 90-100ºF (32-38ºC) heat along with the incredible humidity.
What a fantastic first week we’ve just had!
After a warm welcome from the whole team at the Middleburg Agricultural Research Extension Centre (including s’mores roasted under an open fire, surrounded by the flickering lights of a hundred fireflies at the end of our first full day), we’ve already been involved in two key research projects here at the MAREC.
The first involved shadowing a vet who was scoping for gastric ulcers in the thoroughbred herd; these results will then be compared with paired data following two weeks of bi-daily dosing with a trial painkiller to investigate any potential side effects; the second was a grassland project testing a variety of grasses for palatability, stability underfoot, sugar content, etc.
We have also aided the vet during ultrasounds and uterine lavages of potential breeding mares, helped to organise and disseminate stallion breeding contracts and worked with the rest of the team doing the daily tasks on the yard.
It’s fair to say that we are both still adjusting to the time difference and incredible heat, but the frequent sightings of fantastic new wildlife, new opportunities to grab hold of and constant laughter between a friendly team have been more than enough to keep us on our toes!
Two Reaseheath equine science undergraduates have won prestigious internships in the USA.
Michelle Hand and Zoe Greenwood have both been awarded the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) competitive internship to go to Virginia Tech’s Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE Center).
The MARE Center is a 420 acre equine research and education facility in Middleburg, Virginia – the heart of horse country in the USA. The three month internship will allow our undergraduates to develop research and academic skills in a practical, hands-on, environment.
The programme, which focuses on optimising horse and environmental health, is designed to prepare students for careers in the equine industry, academia or veterinary science by applying classroom knowledge in a ‘real world’ context.
By Hannah Hardy
For competitors, horse owners and enthusiasts alike, Bolesworth International is not an event to be missed. For Reaseheath it is no different and many students volunteered both as the arena party and behind the scenes to support the running of this world-class show.
As a Reaseheath undergraduate myself, I was given the amazing opportunity to gain experience by assisting the Bolesworth team; here are my top 3 moments!
- Meeting the Riders
Over the weekend we got the chance to work in Bolesworth’s Equine Learning Zone, interacting with some of the best in the industry.
A personal highlight was the meet and greet session with London 2012 Olympic riders Ben Maher and Scott Brash. People of all ages descended upon the Learning Zone as the riders talked about their horses, past experiences and future plans. Crowds of fans gathered outside of the tent for a signing and picture session with Scott Brash, and obviously, we didn’t want to miss out!
- Meeting the Public
In our mission to promote the events taking part in the Learning Zone, we were able to meet many of the public who were busy enjoying the show.
Despite the unfortunate weather conditions, spirits were high amongst everyone which encouraged the already elated atmosphere. Regardless of their equestrian background, this show seems to bring together horse enthusiasts from all over the world and, having had the opportunity to speak to a number of spectators, it was proving to be a highlight of their year.
- The Competition
From novelty classes to the Grand Prix CSI4*, the wide-range of classes at Bolesworth never failed to attract the crowd.
Regardless of who you are rooting for, everyone gets involved in cheering on the riders and congratulating the winners. Behind the scenes, winning riders are interviewed during a press conference with the media team.
We had the chance to shadow Press Officer Andrew Baldock during his interview with the winners of the Ashford Farm sponsored Grand Prix CSI2*. The winner, Theo Simpson (GBR), was thrilled with his victory with the 12-year-old chestnut mare, Touch of Chilli . It was great to see that the riders love competing at this show as much as we enjoy watching them.
Overall, Bolesworth 2016 was an amazing experience. If you have the opportunity to get involved, don’t miss it!
A group of Equine undergraduates were given the unique opportunity to gain ‘behind-the-scenes’ experience at this year’s Bolesworth International Horse Show.
Students with a particular interest in equestrian sports journalism, media or marketing, were invited to make up a dedicated team of volunteers to assist in the running of Bolesworth’s Equine Learning Zone. This was a new initiative for 2016, and Learning Zone Coordinator Debra Hargrave had scheduled a varied programme of educational events that featured presentations from industry experts, along with guest appearances from the likes of Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Ben Maher and Scott Brash.
Debra, who runs a successful Equestrian PR business, said: “Bolesworth International were delighted that Reaseheath students were able to assist at this year’s event. Their input was invaluable and they showed a high level of maturity at all times. The students I met were hard working, friendly and professional, indeed nothing was too much trouble. They were always eager to please and always had a smile on their face – even when the weather was less than sunny!”
|“I feel incredibly privileged to have been a part of the team at Bolesworth International. I was given the opportunity to see just how a large scale show is run and to meet and talk to members of the public with a shared interest. I had the chance to meet Olympic riders and to listen to top quality educational talks. Generally, I had a fantastic few days surrounded by a sport I love.” Lou Doyle, BSc (Hons) Equine Science Undergraduate|
Final year students Lou Doyle and Jamie-Lee Bowness, have just completed a BSc (Hons) in Equine Science. With job applications and interviews looming, their visit to Bolesworth was especially pertinent as it was an opportunity for them to gain valuable work experience and to forge links within the industry that they are about to enter.
Jamie-Lee explained: “I found that volunteering was a fantastic experience, I feel more confident about speaking to new people, which is a valuable skill now that I’m applying for jobs and considering a Master’s degree. I had been very focused on pursuing a career in veterinary physiotherapy but this experience has encouraged me to look into job opportunities in the media side of the equestrian industry.”
Beyond their role in the Equine Learning Zone, Reaseheath volunteers were asked to assist the show’s nominated charity – The British Horse Society – with their fund-raising efforts, whilst they were invited to spend time in Bolesworth’s busy Media Centre with Press Officer Andrew Baldock.
Said Andrew, “My role as press officer is a wide and varied one, catering for the needs of national, local and equestrian written and photographic media. I was very impressed with the maturity, enthusiasm and helpful nature of the students I spent time with and I hope very much that we can work together in the future.”
Students shadowed Andrew during his press conferences and interviews with winning riders and there was the chance to produce content for those undergraduates with a particular flair for journalism or photography.
Hannah Hardy is a BSc (Hons) Equine Science undergraduate in her second year of study who, in previous years, has volunteered at Bolesworth as part of the arena party. Hannah hopes to pursue a career writing for the equestrian press upon graduating.
“As a budding equestrian sports journalist, spending time in the Media Centre with Andrew was the most phenomenal experience and one which I will not forget. I was able to gain much advice and I was encouraged to document my visit in a blog instalment,” said Hannah.
Read Hannah’s blog about her Bolesworth experience here.
FdSc Equine Science, Complementary Therapy and Natural Horsemanship student Natalie Gillison, is an amateur photographer who has a keen interest in film and social media marketing. Natalie utilised her skills whilst at Bolesworth by photographing top riders and contributing some images for Reaseheath’s social media feeds.
Natalie, who studied Media at GCSE level and was a member of her college photography society, commented: “Working at Bolesworth was amazing, I learned so much and being given the chance to observe how the media team works was really educational. I have learned many new skills and I’m sure that these will be transferred to my future career.”
A selection of Natalie’s images from Bolesworth are now available to be viewed via: http://ngillisonphotography.deviantart.com/
|“I can speak on behalf of myself in the Equine Learning Zone and for Andrew Baldock in the Media Centre that we would not hesitate to have Reaseheath undergraduates back on board for future events.”Debra Hargrave, Learning Zone Coordinator & Equestrian PR.|
Undergraduates on our BSc (Hons) Equine Science and Sports Performance programme were privileged to have a behind-the-scenes visit to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials along with their Module Leader Jon Lowe.
This degree course was only launched at the beginning of the academic year and it has been carefully developed to include extensive industry input to help our graduates receive the necessary balance of knowledge, skills and experience so they are ‘industry ready’.
With this in mind, a series of meetings were arranged for the students during our trip to Badminton – although a bit of time was set aside so that the many opportunities for retail therapy could be enjoyed!
These prestigious horse trials are widely considered to be the most famous three-day event in the world. Held against the stunning backdrop of Badminton House in Gloucestershire, 2016 was an especially poignant year for the event as it marked its 25th anniversary.
- Meeting 1: The Media Director
Julian Seaman is the Media Director of Badminton Horse Trials and was also the Media Manager at Greenwich during the 2012 London Olympic Games. He manages to combine being a lecturer in fashion design at St Martins College with his other work.
As an author, Julian has penned several texts on equestrianism with his anecdotal history of Badminton Horse Trials – ‘Badminton Revisited’ – being published in 2009.
The students were privileged to be given an ‘access-all-areas’ tour of the Media Centre at Badminton – an area which is exclusively reserved for accredited members of the press.
Julian explained that the ‘in-house’ coverage of this famous sporting fixture is delivered to the public by his close-knit team of staff who work in conjunction with media personnel from title sponsors Mitsubishi Motors.
“The team at Badminton are like one big family and many of us have a long-standing connection with this wonderful event,” explained Julian, who realised a personal ambition by competing at Badminton on several occasions during the 1970s and early 1980s.
“It is due to the generosity of our sponsors that we have such a good Media Centre and, somewhat uniquely, their media team and mine work behind the same desk.”
Julian, who was recently invited to lecture at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, was happy to share his expert knowledge with the Reaseheath students and to answer their questions.
“I never thought that we would be lucky enough to be allowed into the media centre to experience what goes on behind the scenes. I also enjoyed meeting Francis Whittington and it was interesting to learn what he looks for when employing somebody.”
Hannah Baker, Reaseheath Undergraduate
- Meeting 2: The Event Rider
International event rider Francis Whittington agreed to meet the Reaseheath students to offer his advice about working in the industry.
Francis, who is based in Rotherfield, East Sussex, began by speaking about his own journey to becoming one of the country’s most respected event riders.
As a keen member of the Eridge Pony Club, Francis enjoyed competitive success from a young age. In 1993, he was chosen for the squad at the Pony European Championships in Hasselt, Belgium, where he went on to win Individual Gold and Team Silver.
“For me, I think that the Pony Club provides young people who wish to work in this industry with a real head start. I believe that it’s an important avenue to go down and if I am looking to employ somebody then this a big plus,” explained Francis.
Upon leaving school, Francis felt that it was important to have another career option to run alongside his love of eventing. He decided to train in horse dentistry and went on to practice this for about 10 years. Then came the point in his career where both areas were building momentum and he had to make a decision about which avenue to pursue.
“Rather than choosing the safer option that makes money, I went for the dangerous one that costs money but it was a decision that had to be made,” Francis joked.
“I believe that to be successful in life we must learn to be adaptable and avoid being rigid in our thinking; there are often many routes which will lead us to the same result and the recognition of this gets easier with experience.”
Francis explained that he applies this philosophy in his approach to training the horses he works with.
“You can have a yard full of horses but, in reality, not all of them will become top-class eventers. The key is to accept this and to tailor your approach to each individual. We must learn to make sound decisions based on the best interests of the horse concerned. Try to create a system that works for you and then have belief in it.”
“ The trip was definitely an eye opening experience. We met some really good industry contacts and I have definitely found a path in which I want to follow. Going to Badminton has given me the urge to keep working hard to achieve success in the eventing world”.
Tyler Simpson, Reaseheath Undergraduate
Francis, who was a reserve for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, went on to ask the students about their studies and their future career plans.
“College courses are great for outlining the possibilities that are out there in the industry today but students must be willing to build industry links outside of the classroom. You never know when you may meet someone who will define the rest of your life – never turn down an opportunity if it is offered!” said Francis.
“I believe that it is really important to absorb information from as many different sources as possible. Be under no illusion, working in the horse industry is hard graft, and the drop out rate is great. Therefore, it is crucial that students experience ‘real life’ out in the workplace so that they are prepared and can be realistic about the demands of the industry that they wish to enter. You all seem to be straight in your thinking and I wish you all the best in your future careers”.
As we left Francis, he wandered off (with son Max in tow) to study the most famous cross country course on the planet with the same calm and friendly demeanor he had shown towards us.
It was an honour to meet him and we wished him the very best of luck!
*** UPDATE ***
Congratulations to Francis and Hasty Imp for finishing in a very respectable 22nd place, this is their best 4* result to date.
- Meeting 3: The Course
Our visit concluded with a course walk to check out some of the fences featured on Guiseppe Della Chiesa’s magnificent cross country track which stretches over some 4 miles in length.
The students were asked to identify three fences that they felt would be particularly influential during the cross country phase – with the value of hindsight, they were pretty accurate !
The Mirage Pond (Fences 14 & 15)
This water complex had been given a makeover for 2016, the usual curved hedges had been replaced by an upright house at Fence 14 and a choice of two similar houses on the way out of the water at Fence 15.
This proved to be a question that some may have underestimated and it caught out its fair share of riders.
The KBIS Vicarage Vee (Fence 21)
This iconic fence has always commanded the respect of those who face it! It took a sabbatical in 2015 but it was back with a vengeance this year and certainly lived up to its notorious reputation.
The fence demanded absolute courage and conviction on behalf of horse and rider – but precision could not be compromised – there was little room for error and accuracy was paramount to success.
The Lake (Fence 26)
The beautiful setting of the Lake at Badminton is always a magnet for hoards of spectators. It appeared later in the course this year and this was reflected in the technicality of the questions asked.
There was still plenty of excitement for the thousands of visitors gathered, but 2016 was a ‘dunk-free’ zone!
“This was a really enjoyable trip that offered a good insight into what goes on behind the scenes to make sure that Badminton is available to be watched and that results are constantly updated – this takes a lot of effort from many people. It was great to meet Francis Whittington and to learn what it really takes to be a top event rider. I admire his drive for the sport and I found this very inspiring.”
Lydia Binks, Reaseheath Undergraduate
The Reaseheath HE students are looking forward to being part of the team at Bolesworth International Horse Show in June.