LIVE Webinar – Briony Witherow – Thinking outside the box: A Nutritionist’s perspective on enrichment
The webinar will explore why we might look to provide enrichment for our horses, what this might look like, and where to start. We will discuss how different types of enrichment might align with our horse’s requirements and natural behaviours and propose a logical approach designed to provide species-specific individualised enrichment. We will also consider where (despite good intentions) enrichment is not so successful, what this might look like and practical steps to help optimise success.
The webinar will include a discussion of available research, the role of toys, some practical scenarios, and of course, lots of ideas to try with your horse.
We are thrilled to be able to host Briony Witherow for this webinar. You can listen to a podcast interview with Briony here >>>
Briony Witherow Briony Witherow BSc MSc RNutr. PGCHEP FHEA
A graduate of Aberystwyth University (2010) and the Royal Agricultural College (2011), the early part of Briony’s career was spent in the commercial sector as senior nutritionist at one of the UK’s major feed companies. In 2016 Briony went on to achieve registered nutritionist status with the Association for Nutrition (AfN) and started her own equine nutrition consultancy, Practical Equine Nutrition. Based in Cambridge, Briony lectures in Equine and Animal Science at Writtle University College alongside maintaining some independent nutrition consultancy.
Briony has her own horses (both good doers!) who she rides and drives and is very passionate about research having a clear and tangible practical application. Briony’s involvement with horse owners through her nutrition consultancy and own horses provide a constant reminder of the challenges horse owners face and helps to fuel her key research interests and projects.
In her academic career Briony has supervised various student pilot studies focussing on equipment to extend chew time (e.g., slow feeders) and the impact of feed type and management on chew parameters. Her current research projects include advancing the validation of the RumiWatch headcollar for use in horses to measure chew parameters. Data collection for this project took place over Summer 2023. We aimed to measure the accuracy of visually observing and counting chew frequency versus the accuracy of the RumiWatch headcollar across different forages, presentation, and head shapes. If measures of accuracy are consistent with previous smaller scale validation studies, further research will be undertaken, using these headcollars to gather more data on how chew rate differs between individuals, the impact of different forages and presentations (e.g., nets, feed balls etc.). The hope is that these head collars may allow us to collect greater quantities of data over longer periods, potentially more accurately than the current method, opening up the opportunity to research the longer-term impact of feeding equipment and enrichment upon health, behaviour and welfare. Briony has written for many publications including Horse & Hound and Equine Health Magazine as well as peer-reviewed papers for UK-Vet Equine.
Heather’s PhD research focussed on eventing sport, investigating ways to make eventing safer for both horses and riders. In addition to performing data analysis to identify risk factors for horse falls, Heather investigated optimal cardiac monitoring techniques for horses and recorded both horse and rider heart rate and heart rate variability during eventing competition. She also conducted psychological profiling of riders during competition to identify their emotional state and link this to performance and stress.
Heather’s 2023 study on horse falls in British Eventing competition was the largest scientific study ever published on the subject, it was featured in several equestrian media outlets and attracted global attention as such. Heather and the team she works with have completed safety-focused projects for the FEI, British Eventing and Equestrian Australia, with a number of new research projects currently underway. In addition to her work in eventing sport, Heather is also currently involved in more general research projects in the field of equine physiology, cognition and rider biomechanics.
Heather has written for The Conversation as an expert academic and is a member of the Animal Welfare Research Network and the International Society for Applied Ethology. She is also an expert reviewer for The Veterinary Record and the Equine Veterinary Journal for research in the field of equine sports medicine
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