MSc Equine Performance Science - Writtle University College
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*MSc Equine Performance Science

This taught master's programme, launching in September, can be studied over one year on a full time basis or two years on a part time basis.

Designed to take your equine knowledge, academic skills and research practice to the next level, the course provides a range of modules carefully planned to enhance your experience through a range of delivery methods and unique learning experiences. Our research-led teaching team will deliver the programme through a range of lectures, demonstrations and a variety of other platforms to ensure that your learning experience is exciting and challenging. At our stunning equine campus, set in rural Essex, you will gain practical support from our teaching team of industry specialists supporting competitive horses in training. This will allow to you to fully integrate the theory taught with ongoing case studies to gain 'real life' on understanding of the ages and stages of training in relation to nutrition, farriery, training, breeding, behaviour and much more.

The course will focus on equine performance through the study of gait evaluation, pathophysiology of injury, advanced and applied nutrition, exercise physiology, equitation science, human influences on equine performance, and methods to evaluate and enhance performance in a range of disciplines. We will provide you with current research focussed materials and work with cutting edge technology used both within academic research and in the field to monitor and evaluate performance and welfare. Underpinned by 'real' industry experience, we will support you to ensure that you are well prepared for the work-place and your personal career aims, by developing skills to plan and manage significant projects and develop outstanding interpersonal and people management skills.

Applied Research for Equine Postgraduates
(15 Credits)

This module focuses on elements of the professional research process applicable to students studying for a postgraduate qualification in Equine. Students will determine appropriate ways to evaluate the design, ethics and conduct of research, learn how to critically analyse different sources, and prepare effective and professional reports and papers, demonstrating critical awareness and originality.

As well as studying approaches to traditional research and experimental design, students will learn the systematic review process and effective database searching. Emphasis will be placed on methods that are objective, systematic, reliable, valid, ethical, effective and efficient.

This module will prepare students for dealing with research in all modules and in particular the Dissertation module.

Professional Practice in Equine Science
(15 Credits)

This module looks to support students to gain employment in a range of avenues within the equine industry. Alongside those skills, students will also be prepared for graduate roles in other industries.

Students are given agency over their own career path, and are able to choose an assessment suited to their own professional development on the pathway of their choice: performance consultancy, teaching in academia, technical sales and consultancy, event management, self-employed specialist or resource management.

Regardless of their chosen specialism, delivery will help to foster a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving, develop transferable industry skills and enhance scientific communication to support students to explore career opportunities and provide a springboard into their chosen career.

Biomechanics and Pathophysiology Applied to the Equine Athlete
(30 Credits)

This module will demonstrate to the student the importance of biomechanics and sports medicine for equine performance. It is intended that students will understand function anatomy in relation to movement and the way that measurement can be used to enhance that understanding in equine sport and exercise.

Students will learn about applied equine biomechanics through experience of numerous practical and video sessions, which help to develop the skills to identify gait abnormalities and asymmetry in horses. The information will help the student to link functional findings to structural abnormalities, and possible influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

This module includes the use of some exciting gait analysis software programmes that can be used for research and working within industry. The module also introduces the students to principles of motor control, proprioception and skill acquisition and the application of these concepts in performance analysis and injury prevention in sports.

On the equine sports medicine side, it is critical that students understand what may go wrong at molecular, cellular and tissue level to be able undertake the rehabilitation process. This module develops the links between the phases of repair and the optimum stage for different types of passive and dynamic rehabilitation to maximise recovery through timely intervention. Tendon and ligament injuries, muscle injury and disease, bone fractures and diseases and neurological diseases/injuries will also be addressed in this module. The physiological basis of pain mechanisms and dealing with pain through the use of analgesics and alternative pain management will also be investigated.

Human Influence on Equine Performance
(15 Credits)

Acknowledgement of the demands of equestrianism today has resulted in the recognition that specialist input is a requirement for gaining the 'competitive edge'.

Although some measurable performance outcomes of a horse produced as an athlete can be attributed to intrinsic factors such as breeding and conformation, plus extrinsic environmental factors, it cannot be ignored that the human influence potentially has the most overriding effect in any short and long term performance outcomes. This human input will, in modern society, be packaged within a multifactorial team of paraprofessionals - all of whom will have evolved with respected qualifications, but as individuals having a direct influence on the horse / rider dyad, may or may not complement each other due to potentially differing priorities.

A discipline specific needs analysis will identify the physical requisites that denote success, and may also potentially culminate in identifying the drivers that formulate the responses of riders, but it is likely the competitive status of the horse and rider could in itself, create internal motivational incentives. Therefore, as multiple factors may be influentially positive or negative, or potentially even destructive, the associated support team may need to constantly evolve and adapt to, not only the needs of the individual, but the disciplines and the levels at which they are working. This module is intended to scrutinise and evaluate all elements that influence the development and potential of the equestrian athlete.

Equitation Science
(15 Credits)

Equitation Science is a key module for those interested in the ethical and holistic view of training horses. Aligning with the ISES training principles and research, students will study the horse-human dyad, behavioural factors affecting training, such as the horse’s basic needs, sensory perception, temperament, body language, emotionality and cognitive abilities, as well as investigating the effect of tack and training aids, common training methods and challenge these attitudes to develop more welfare compliant, science-based methods of training horses.

Relevant technologies to measure emotive reactions such as heart rate variability, infrared thermographic eye imaging and use of ridden ethograms will provide students with objective data to monitor the effect of different training styles and interactions with the rider. Combining the science of learning theory and the awareness of psychological states affecting the attitude of the horse with traditional and more innovative training methods, appropriate tack and aids, students will be able to practice more ethical and effective training with both horses and riders.

Performance Evaluation and Enhancement
(15 Credits)

This module aims to bring together knowledge and ideas from a variety of subject areas within the field, and employs a multidisciplinary approach to evaluation of the performing equine athlete. Students will critically analyse previous and recent developments, as well as evaluate how to continue to develop the industry moving forwards.

A range of theoretical and practical based learning will be encompassed, and industry representatives incorporated to assess the current state of performance management and welfare. Students will be able to practically apply some of the tools to measure performance and evaluate how they can be used to monitor and enhance performance.

This module will recap their understanding of exercise physiology to accurately analyse the performance requirements of horses in different disciplines, to establish how to effectively monitor performance, and evaluate a range of different methods and management practices to enhance performance.

Advances in Equine Nutrition
(15 Credits)

The module will provide students with a substantial grounding in equine nutrition dealing with both performance and clinical aspects. Students will explore key micronutrients, their functions, and common practical scenarios where these may be lacking in the equine diet and how to combat this. We will also look at veterinary assessment of nutritional status (analysis of blood/tissue), the efficacy of these, and appropriate use of these methods.

The module will investigate both common and less common clinical issues including gastric ulcers, muscle disorders, metabolic issues along with nutritional management for colic post-surgery, liver and kidney compromise. This module aims to develop students' understanding of practical considerations for nutritional management of performance horses in various disciplines focusing on feeding for longevity of career from conception to competition and then retirement. Students will need to analyse and evaluate case studies impacted by these complex issues and undertake ration evaluation and recommendations for the equine athlete.

Taught Masters Degree - Dissertation
(60 Credits)

This module supports students in the preparation and submission of a Masters Stage Dissertation or Project worth 60 credits involving 20 weeks of student commitment, presented in a form appropriate to the field of study and reflecting the length and complexity of the investigation. A conventional, largely textual dissertation will contain a maximum of 15,000 words.

Candidates from the United Kingdom higher education sector will normally hold a first honours degree at 2.2 or above in a related subject .

Prospective students with a first honours degree at 2.1 or above in another discipline but with significant work experience in Equine Science or related areas will also be considered for entrance on the masters' programme.

This postgraduate qualification is aimed at those wanting a wide base of knowledge of all aspects of equine performance development and enhancement .

You may wish to apply this broad knowledge base into a practical business enterprise or use the breath of the transferable skills to gain career opportunities across the equine industry into a wide range of fields including nutrition, academia, research, consultancy, design and development of equine training aids and technologies.


* Subject to final validation approval