When I was first asked to write this article my first instinct was to head straight to Google, however if you type “Equestrian technology women” as search term, all the results that come up are for jodhpurs and base layers. I mean, I love jodhpurs and base layers but I think it’s a real shame that there are no immediate results which celebrate the contribution that women have made to our sport in a scientific or technological way.
It was at this point I started to panic (ever so slightly), so I called upon my horsey friends and colleagues to see if there were any hidden gems of the equestrian world that I wasn’t aware of. They came up trumps! Below are the top 5 (in my opinion) from the UK that I have come across while doing my research.
Dr. Sue Dyson
Dr. Dyson is a former President of the British Equine Veterinary Association and is currently a scientific advisor to the Saddle Research Trust and Moorcroft Rehabilitation Centre. She has done extensive studies about recognising pain the ridden horse, using facial expressions and other subtle indicators which can be used pre-emptively to avoid more serious problems later on. She is involved in many educational courses which are available to all horse owners (through various means) which are aimed at educating us about ways in which our horses may be telling us that they are feeling uncomfortable, before the lameness itself presents. Having information like this readily available to all horse owners is vital in ensuring the health and happiness of our horses, but also in helping us avoid expensive vets bills in the future.
Coining the term “Zoopharmacognosy”, Caroline’s studies revolve around the self-medication of animals. In short, she has found that animals could communicate their own health needs by offering them a range of aromatic plant extracts. For example, she found that horses with separation anxiety chose neroli, those who were wounded would choose yarrow and those needed pain relief would select arnica and St John’s Wort. She has worked with all types of animals, including (but not exclusively) kangaroos, elephants, tigers and primates – but she says that horses were her initial teachers, and started this journey for her.
From here she has continued her research regarding bringing a “rich pharmacopoeia of natural remedies” to animals who are not free to forage. The Ingraham Academy of Applied Zoopharmacognosy has been set up to help raise awareness further among vets, zoos and pet owners around the world. Her courses are available for anyone who wishes to take part.
As a former Hartpury College student, I was fascinated to learn about the study conducted by Lorna, who is a senior lecturer at the university.
The study came about following research which showed that many women are “put off” from riding due to breast pain caused by unsuitable bras. Lorna, along with her colleague Dr. Jenny Burbage, set out to establish the impact of bra fit and breast size among female riders. Horse & Hound reported in 2018 that of the 1,324 women who took part in the study, 75% wanted an improvement in bra support, style or fit for riding.
Using a mechanical horse, the study investigated breast movement in riders, and a free guide was published called the Horse Riders’ Guide to Bras. The leaflet offers guidance on how to know if a sports bra fits properly, and also checks which can be done to find out if a bra is suitable for riding.
Claire is the founder of the brand Derriere. For those who are unaware (I certainly was until recently), most saddles are designed for male riders rather than female. This comes from days gone by when women would traditionally ride side saddle, therefore the traditional saddle design we use today comes from the saddle used by men to sit astride the horse. Although there are companies now who design saddles for women, Derriere has designed underwear to make riding more comfortable for women, by using innovation and science. Integrating padded panels into their underwear, Derriere is striving to make riding more comfortable for everyone.
Back to the jodhpurs… Jordan created the brand Aztec Diamond back in 2014, and has succeeded in creating a stylish and affordable brand for equestrian women. Most importantly for me, the brand is fully focussed on sustainability.
For example, all packaging is now bio-degradable but more impressively the riding leggings which the brand is renowned for are made from recycled bottles. By creating the clothes in this way the brand are helping reducing environmental waste, which is extremely refreshing to see in an industry which seems to be being taken over by “fast fashion” trends which are damaging to the environment. Hopefully this sustainable trend is something that can be taken on by more brands, for more types of equestrian products in the future.
I appreciate that this is a very small list from a large pool of amazing women from our industry. It would be wrong of me to also ignore the extensive list of Equestrian Social Media Influencers who are using technology to educate, integrate and also expand the equestrian network into a more supportive and inclusive place for all.
Let’s celebrate the women who have given their time and energy to make the equestrian industry a better place through technology and science!
(Images from Google)