Finalists announced for 2020 BETA Equine Thesis of the Year Award - Veterinary Practice
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Finalists announced for 2020 BETA Equine Thesis of the Year Award

The strong contenders will now present their thesis to a panel of judges during an online event

The search for the winner of the Equine Thesis of the Year Award, recognising academic excellence in undergraduate study, takes a step closer as four finalists are announced. The strong contenders have each made it through the preliminary judging round and will now present their thesis to a panel of judges during an online event on Sunday 25 October.

One student thesis was received per entry from universities and colleges offering equine-related degree courses across the UK and Ireland, with the following making it into the finals:

  • Royal Veterinary College – Victoria O’Hara. Thesis: Use of commercial ELISA for deduction of myostatin protein in equine serum and the examination of an MSTN gene promoter SINE insertion mutation in vivo.
  • University Centre Sparsholt – Rachel Smith. Thesis: The Effect of breast support on 3D relative breast displacement and upper body muscle activity in female horse riders on an equine simulator.
  • Aberystwyth University – Daniela Amiouny. Thesis: The effects of night light and bedding depth on equine sleep and memory consolidation.
  • Bishop Burton College – Nina Robinson. Thesis: A preliminary report of the pressure present beneath bitless and bitted bridles and the effect on equine locomotion.

The BETA Equine Thesis of the Year finals will run from 1 to 4.30pm and are open to both the public and members of the academic community. Tickets are available at a cost of £10 from Eventbrite. Attendance is free for students, who should contact BETA on 01937 587062 for a discount code or email

Once the finalists have presented their work and the judges retire to consider each thesis, there will be the opportunity for members of the audience to pose questions. The winner and runner-up will be announced at the end of the event.

“The award always attracts an incredibly high standard of undergraduate study and this year was no different – although the subject matter certainly was,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “It is good to see fresh ideas and some exciting, diverse content being put under the spotlight, and we are really looking forward to hearing about the different approaches and findings. They have all done tremendously well to make it this far and we send our congratulations and best wishes for the big day.”

This year’s final judges are:

  • Dr Georgina Crossman – a research consultant with the British Equestrian Federation, coordinator at Advancing Equine Scientific Excellence (AESE) and owner of GK Crossman Consultancy. Georgina is a guest lecturer at various 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, then in 1989 co-founded a specialist equine practice, Bell Equine, in Kent, which developed into a 17-vet equine hospital approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Karen has been a partner 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 such as Horse and Hound.
  • Liz Benwell – editor of leading trade title Equestrian Trade News. Liz began her career in journalism as a newspaper reporter, was the first editor of Your Horse magazine and is a self-confessed horsey “anorak”. She has enjoyed competing in many equestrian sports at amateur level, with long-distance riding a particular favourite, has three horses, all of which are rehomed from World Horse Welfare, and rides most days.

Veterinary Practice

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