Journal Club #1 How can ‘performance analysis’ support our riding and coaching? Researcher Dr Jane Williams discusses the practical implications with showjumper and coach Emma Slater.

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Welcome to Episode 8 of The River Tiger Podcast and our first journal club episode where I choose a research paper from a journal that I think would be great to unpick and explore the practical ‘so what’ with one of the research team and a coach/rider.

The paper I have chosen for this episode is called ‘Faults in international showjumping are not random’ by David Marlin and Jane Williams (Comparative Exercise Physiology: 16 (3)- Pages: 235 – 241. 2020).

Jane Williams introduces her research, including the why, what, when and how of the study before Emma and I ask some questions and the three (well mostly my two brilliant guests) discuss the implications of the research and findings to everyday riding, coaching, horse and rider welfare, and competition performance.

The podcast is available to listen to here, or on your favourite podcast app.

Emma Slater
Emma Slater is an experienced and respected showjumping competitor and still competes at an elite level. Emma has competed and trained at the highest level of Showjumping in the UK and around the world. She is a British Showjumping UKCC Level 3 Coach and Excel Talent Coach who supports national development and coaching programmes including the DiSE (diploma in sporting excellence) programme. Emma is also a level 2 and 3 Assessor and the lead coach from British Showjumping Gloucester.

As a coach Emma specialises in the performance management of showjumping and eventing riders from grass roots to the International level. “I really enjoy working with people to develop their long-term goals and to help them achieve success”. Emma has excellent technical knowledge and is used to working in high pressured environments, maintaining a calm, confident manner. In her coaching as well as life Emma is empathetic, honest, motivated and a fair person.

Developing potential in horses and riders, it’s all about the partnership, growing confidence through knowledge and seeing them succeed – I love it!

Get in touch with Emma –
FB: Emma Slater Showjumping Page
Instagram: slateremsj

Dr Jane Williams
Jane is an Associate Professor and Head of Research at Hartpury University. She is an experienced researcher, with a passion for enhancing equine performance and wellbeing through industry-informed, real-world research that generates change. Jane qualified as a Veterinary Nurse then gained her Masters in Equine Science before completing her doctorate exploring the application of surface electromyography as a tool to assess muscle adaptation during training in racehorses and sport horses.

Jane’s main areas of professional interest include scientific evaluation of equestrian performance, training and wellbeing, rider impacts on equitation, reliability assessment across equestrian science and veterinary physiotherapy, and human-animal interaction. Jane co-edited and authored ‘Training for Equestrian Performance’ with Dr David Evans, to showcase how science and research can be applied practically to improve performance for horses and their riders, and has published over 100 research articles as well as regularly presenting at international equine conferences. She is also Honorary President for the International Society of Equitation Science, which promotes the application of objective research and advanced practice, to improve the welfare of horses in their associations with humans. Jane is also a founding member of the Sport horse Welfare Foundation.

Jane’s research outputs can be accessed here.

Participants needed for PhD study: What are skilled showjumpers paying attention to?

‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.” Schopenhauer

As this quote suggests, skilled performance is not just about what we do (movement), but what we perceive (for example; see, hear, feel), and the decisions we make.

Despite a wealth of applied and evidence based research into skill acquisition, there is very little research published that is specific to equestrian sports. Equestrian sports are unique in that the performance partnership is interspecies, requiring the horse and human to become skilful in their interactions and relationships with each other, practice activities, and performance environments.

Becoming skilful at showjumping
The aim of this study is to gain a better understanding of the perceptual and decision making skills of showjumping riders. To do this we are using an adaptation of a tool called ‘Think Aloud’. Think Aloud has been used in many sports including golf, cycling and rugby to elucidate what athletes are thinking and noticing. As well being used for research, Think Aloud has also been shown to improve skilled performance and be a valuable coaching and reflection tool.

For a brief overview of Think Aloud listen to the short video in this link.

This study is part of a wider project investigating how showjumpers become skilful and how this knowledge could be applied to coaching.

How can you help?
Who are we looking for?
Group 1 = Highly skilled show jumpers – need to be, or have been, competing at National Level and at 1.30m or above.
Group 2 = Competent novice show jumpers – need to be competing confidently at British Showjumping 80cm – 100cm.

There are two parts to this study and we are looking for participants to volunteer for either part, or both parts 1 & 2.

Study 2 Part 1
What will you be asked to do?
You will be asked to give about 45 mins – 60 mins of your time (done virtually on Zoom or another platform of your choice) to take part in a semi-structured interview and some ‘Think Aloud’ where you will be asked to comment on what you notice while watching a series of video clips from a National Final 90cm class and a Grand prix final.

Study 2 Part 2
What will you be asked to do?
For this part of the study we will join you at a competition (it’s ideal to choose one that is not a serious competition for you as participating should be beneficial for your training/ coaching support).

You will be asked to ‘think aloud’ as you walk the course and to wear eye tracking devise. Once you have jumped the course you will be asked to reflect on your round.

What this research aims to achieve
Our aim is to see if there are differences between highly skilled and competent riders in what they see (are aware of). We will use this knowledge to add to the body of equestrian sports specific research into skill acquisition and development and inform future research, coach training, development and coaching practice.

For more information about this project or about how you can help be participating, please email Marianne at
Marianne Davies is a PhD candidate at Sheffield Hallam University and a Senior Coach Developer at UK Coaching.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Marianne Davies
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