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Meeting of the Minds: Science Versus Myth

Prosecco & Ponies

I am currently in the air, flying back to England with a brain 'brimming' with new ideas, knowledge and inspiration after the 14th ISES conference in Rome, Italy. Congratulations to the Local Organising Committee for creating, I believe, a diverse and broad platform (over 60 oral presentations and 80 + posters) for Equitation Science, not to mention the gorgeous Italian relentless sun, food and Prosecco!

Scientists, coaches, therapists and trainers gathered at the Ippodromo Militare Tor Di Quinto to hear and see the latest in the field of Equitation Science.

Seven years ago Italian vet and Equitation Scientist from the University of Pisa, Dr Paolo Baragli invited me to give my first Italian clinic (stage), in Livorno where I met my gorgeous, now Italian friends; professional show jumper Stefano Coata & his partner Elisabetta Finocchi. Thank you so much Paolo - your vision and dedication to bring Equitation Science to Italy is why I believe, the 14th ISES conference was held in the most amazing city int he world, Roma.

Stefano owns and runs the equestrian centre Circolo Ippico Grand Prix. The week before the conference I delivered my Equicoach Academy, the second this year at Stefano's, updating Team Circolo Ippico Grand Prix alongside my fantastic translator Chiara Muccini (as my Italian is not quite there!) who also continued onto the conference, giving the best translation for both Italian and English delegates - congratulations Chiara - I could't do what I do without your brilliant understanding and translation - thank you so much. As many of you know, my key principle is Progress Over Perfection.

I can honestly say I am so proud of the journey and progress made by all my Italian riders and horses - the distance travelled since Livorno is inspirational.

Having just finished the day before coaching at Stefano's, I swapped breaches for dresses, sipping the local wine amongst my Equitation Science friends and colleagues during the reception drinks. I felt an overwhelming absence of the Equitation Science legends, and dear friends to me, whom sadly could not make this years conference - you were greatly missed.

Sexy Science

So the 'sexy' themes at this years ISES conference were; cognitive flexibility, laterality (horse and riders), positive affective (emotional) states, playful synchronicity, social learning in horses and no horse is an ‘island’. Having listened and reflected on the differences within the same field of science, I wondered why robust scientists present polarising results. Is it possible differing interpretations of the same field polarise concepts and therefore findings? Or something else...?

My reflections reminded me of the Hudson River plane crash in 2009. All 155 passengers survived - ok not great timing to be reflecting on the survivors behaviour post crash, as I fly over the French alps!

Immediately after some passengers did the following behaviours:

Drank champagne.

Returned home to hold loved ones.

Swore they would never fly again. And did’t.

Yet all passengers shared the exact same experience.

Researchers investigating scientifically; facial expressions, laterality, social learning and cognition remind me of the different survivor behaviours post Hudson River crash. There is no ‘wrong’ response to the same experience - survivors responded to the exact same event, differently.

Genetics, learning history and cognitive bias inform our perspectives. Do scientists effectively mitigate for their own bias/perspective, potentially resulting in polarised data? Or is it something else?

Since my first ISES conference back in 2005 at the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre I have valued and enjoyed the platform ISES creates annually along with peer-reviewed journals facilitating academic discussions and debate, in order to make progress and the truth about horse-human interactions.

Thank you to all the equitation scientists who dedicate their lives to exploring the many questions we have about horses, helping us all be the best for our horses.

Equitation Science is the change our horses need.

Next year ISES is in Canada, would't it be awesome if the LOC decided to live stream the conference? After all, what if there are 100's of horse lovers around the world, who right now have chosen not to board an airplane!

The proceedings are HERE, so my advise is make sure you put the kettle on, pour a large cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy the scientific journey that is the 14th International Society for Equitation Science conference. Whether you are different or similar to me, the path towards equitation enlightenment is the polarisation of concepts, ideas and findings…because without the opportunities to academically challenge research, what we think we know, our path to achieving our shared goals as horse lovers - the truth about horses - will just take longer.

For more information about the Rome ISES conference join Coffee With Horse Lovers on Facebook. For more detailed analysis and review of the ISES research join Espresso with Equicoach HERE.


2009 Hudson River Plane Crash

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