Finalists named in 2018 BETA Equine Thesis of the Year competition

The first round of judging is now complete and the finalists for the 2018 British Equestrian Trade Association Equine Thesis of the Year Award have been announced. The competition, a celebration of excellence in academic undergraduate study, received a record 12 entries from universities and colleges offering equine-related degree courses across the UK and Ireland.

Each one took up the challenge to submit one student thesis, with the following making it through to the finals:

Harper Adams University – Laura De'Ath. Thesis: An Investigation into Whether or Not Hay Nets as a Feeding Mechanism Induces Muscular Discomfort in Certain Cervical Muscles in the Horse.

● Myerscough College – Natalie Owen. Thesis: An Investigation into How Judgements are Formed Regarding Acceptable Quality of Life of Leisure Horses.

● University of Limerick – Maureen Cunningham. Thesis: Validation of the RumiWatch System to Measure Chewing Activity of Horses on Restricted and Ad Libitum Feeding Systems.

Writtle University College – Caitlyn Cuthbert. Thesis: The Effect of Isolation on Equine Behaviour, Heart Rate and Heart Variability While Exercised on a Horse Walker.

Each student will present their thesis to a panel of expert judges during a special reception at the De Vere Staverton Estate Hotel, near Daventry, Northamptonshire, on Sunday 28 October. This is open to the public and members of the academic community. Those wishing to attend should contact the BETA office in advance.* During the event, the winner and runner-up will be announced and awarded a trophy and cash prize.

This year's final judges are:

Dr Georgina Crossman – a research consultant with the British Equestrian Federation and coordinator at Advancing Equine Scientific Excellence (AESE). She is also the owner of GK Crossman Consultancy. Georgina is a guest lecturer at a number of institutions, speaking on subjects such as the structure of the horse sector and the relationship between the horse industry and government.


Katie Williams – an equine nutritionist with 20 years’ experience. She gained a master’s degree in equine science from Writtle College and received the Edgar Pye Scholarship for her dissertation on the effects of prebiotics on racehorses in training. In 2017, Katie embarked on her PhD in veterinary medicine research at the University of Glasgow. As technical and product development manager at Dengie, she is responsible for creating new products and ensuring they are legally compliant. Katie also sits on the BETA Feed Committee, provides technical support for key customers and works with the Queen's studs at Sandringham and Balmoral.

• Karen Coumbe – a vet for more than 30 years who began her career in a mixed practice but in 1989 co-founded a specialist equine practice, Bell Equine, in Kent, subsequently developed into a 17-vet equine hospital approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Karen has been a partner there since 1995 and became a director in 2012. She has a particular interest in equine anaesthesia and pain management, as well as sports medicine and equine performance, pre-purchase exams, ophthalmology, dermatology and ultrasonography. She writes veterinary books and is a regular contributor to magazines, including Horse & Hound.

Liz Benwell –- editor of leading trade title Equestrian Trade News. Liz began her career in journalism as a newspaper reporter. The first editor of Your Horse magazine and a self-confessed horsey “anorak”, Liz has enjoyed competing in many equestrian sports at amateur level, with long-distance riding a particular favourite. She has three horses, two of which are rehomed from World Horse Welfare, and rides most days.

 “The level of undergraduate work submitted has been of a fantastically high standard once again,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “I know our first-round judges enjoyed reading their huge pile of theses on such an interesting and diverse range of topics – although selecting the finalists was no mean feat! However, they rose to the challenge and have identified four extremely strong candidates whom we wish the very best of luck and look forward to hearing their presentations on the day.”