David’s Blog – Stirrups, headshaking, transporting, thermography, breathable kit, wellingtons, rugs and Tokyo preparation!


Despite the continuing lockdown I’ve managed to keep myself busy!

The DrDavidMarlin.com membership is always giving me a constant stream of things to do as the online resource is going from strength to strength, thank you to all of you for your wonderful support in becoming members and helping to spread the word!

So what have I been up to?…

One of the things I’ve been doing this month is to get all my testing kit checked out and recalibrated – pressure mats, inertial sensors (IMUs), load cells for measuring stirrup and reinforces, etc. Fortunately, nothing has been out by more than a few % but it’s good to have that reassurance as hopefully soon we will be starting new research. 

I’ve also received the much awaited last pairs of wellington boots and horse rugs as supplies have clearly been affected by the pandemic/Brexit with some brands unable to supply what we needed at all. I’m sorry for the hold up on this but Sarah has been doing her best to get everything we needed! Even the bedding was hard to come by with companies wanting us to buy a pallet to get a sample – we found a way around that and I have some new equipment in the lab that I can’t wait to use this month.  We will release the results in the coming weeks – exciting times ahead!  For the Wellington Boot and Rug Surveys, click here.

One of the projects we have planned for the end of lockdown is to look at how different stirrup designs affect rider position, knee angle, rider-saddle-horse pressures, etc and we have just had good news about our ethics application for a collaborative study between Russell MacKechnie-Guire (Centaur Biomechanics), Mark Fisher (Woolcroft Saddlery), Roberta De Godoy (Writtle University College) and Maria Terese Engell (Norway). 

I’ve also been working on some new techniques in the lab to use IMUs for a novel application. I mainly use Xsens IMUs and have actually just ordered some extra ones for a new application, but I have also been using Axivity IMUs which we are using to assess the severity and frequency of headshaking movements. 

Brexit and its implications for transporting horses overseas continue to confuse many people and cause major problems for some trying to do it. As a result, the Road Haulage Association is putting together a webinar to cover all aspects and I’ve been invited to contribute on best practice with respect to horse health and welfare. I’ve also been collaborating on a book chapter aimed at the transport of horses for slaughter. I’d much rather this didn’t happen at all but being pragmatic, it’s going to continue, so if I can help improve conditions for these horses, I see that as worthwhile.

The lab is keeping me pretty busy at the moment, which I’m very pleased about. I’m working on a test setup to measure the breathability of different pieces of tack such as rider clothing, saddle pads or boots, or bandages.  Talking about boots and bandages, I hope that you have seen the new webinars in the webinar library, Boots and Bandages Protection or Support, Pros and Cons and Test Results, which was a three-part series – I was so overwhelmed with the support the webinars received – thank you! Click here

We’ve also just finalised the online equine student conference dates for 2021. We weren’t sure whether to run this again (the first one was in June last year) but we have had so many requests. Trying to find a date that didn’t affect other planned conferences was a little challenging, but we have now gone for 18th and 19th August 2021 with sessions each day from 1pm to 7pm (UK) to make it as accessible as possible to those in different time zones. We have also named it the International Equine Student Conference, so open to any undergraduate or post-graduate student with any equine-related research!

Zoom calls continue to occupy a great deal of my time (Sarah is as usual constantly directing me on what members of DrDavidMarlin.com want to hear about – which is a lot!). I don’t really mind Zoom meetings. In a way they are much more productive for me as opposed to travelling 2-3h for a 2h meeting and then driving 2-3h back and of course, I can put Sarah on mute or as I did the other day, the whole Marlin team were muted as they were laughing at me getting a little frustrated at my computer – thanks Zoom!

On a serious note, we’ve had some very productive Zoom calls with Kelly Jewell, who is embarking on a PhD in thermal imaging with Dr Jane Williams, Dr Gillian Tabor and myself as her supervision team. Kelly is already an experienced practical equine thermographer and is incredibly enthusiastic so we are expecting some great research from her. Thermography is an interesting technique that seems to have a Marmite status. I’ve tended to be more involved with the research application but have some experience of its use clinically. On the research side, thermographer Helen Reynolds worked with me to develop protocols for using thermography at Tokyo this summer as an early warning for horses that are getting too hot. 

I’ve also been working with several groups of students at Writtle University College. The first group have been the students studying business who as part of their course have to organise a small event. This year due to Covid this is obviously going to be a virtual event. We’ve had several Zoom planning sessions talking about the process I would go through and trying to help guide them through the process. The event was held online on Wednesday 17th March entitled Equine Tech: Help or Hindrance and was free to attend.

Dr Jane Williams and I have also launched some Covid advice documents for horse owners, yard managers, livery yard owners, and essentially anyone involved with horses. It was rewarding to have endorsement from the British Equine Veterinary Association, World Horse Welfare, the RSPCA, the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC) and the British Horse Society (BHS). Guidelines for mitigating the risk of Covid-19 in equestrian establishments – Dr David Marlin

You may also have noted that we have been making some strong statements about bullying and trolling on the Facebook pages. This has been in the news a lot lately as well. The nice thing is we are not seeing this in the Members Only group, but it does occur on the open Facebook page which is such a shame, and we are looking at various ways to manage this. With so many comments it can be hard for us to spot all the unpleasant or abusive behaviour and in reality, this is usually only a very small number of people, but the effects can be significant. If you do see or are subject to unpleasant behaviour online on our pages do make sure you let Sarah know (hello@drdavidmarlin.co.uk) and we will take appropriate action. 

Like everyone I’m now enjoying the better weather and looking forward to (hopefully) the relaxing of the lockdown so that I can get out and do more research as well as meeting up with people again. 

Stay Safe Everyone!



About Author

Dr David Marlin is a physiologist and biochemist who has worked in academia, research and professional sport. He has worked in the equestrian and veterinary world and in human sport, healthcare, medicine and exercise science. In 1989 David obtained his PhD from the UK’s leading sports university, Loughborough University following a four-year study on the responses of Thoroughbred racehorses to exercise and training, undertaken at the renowned Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. You can read David's full biography in the Our Website section.