Blog by Sophie Wyllie
The thing I really love about equitation science is that it’s not discipline specific, or even method specific. People can take ES in all different directions, and our students are a good example of this as they all have a broad range of interests, and have used their knowledge of equitation science as a spring board to pursue these interests. So, I thought I might start looking into the different places our students have taken their knowledge of equitation science by interviewing some ES specialists!
I’m starting with someone close to me and my family, in fact he’s my uncle, Jonathan McLean. Jonna seemed like a good person to start with as he is deep in the horse world, just like the rest of my family, but his story is slightly different, because alongside his eventing career, he’s had a lot to do with the racing industry and is now also getting involved in large animal rescue.
Jonna started riding as a child on King Island, and as a teenager he began track work at a racing stable. Later in life his experience in race training lead him to Hong Kong where he broke-in, pre-trained, transported and breezed-up horses for the international buyers of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. He was also a keen eventer, competing up to 3* level, and qualifying two horses to 4*. As he continued through his career in equestrian with a specific passion in re-training and coaching, the term Equitation Science started to become known, and Jonna completed the Associate Diploma in Equitation Science, when ESI was in its very early stages.
Since then, alongside coaching, Jonna’s involvement in the racing world has lead him to lecturing at Melbourne Polytechnic college for Cert II Stable Hand and Cert III in Racing. This is where the exiting stuff begins because our students can really influence all facets of the horse world and start to implement evidence-based horse training! Jonna is now involved in helping develop more ethical and modern training packages for the future of racing which should commence in 2018. By gradually modernising the racing packages to produce safer and more effective graduates into the racing industry, we will start to see improved safety statistics for handlers and trainers, and hopefully better trained race horses to enable longevity in their lives after racing.
Anyone who knows Jonathan and has trained with him may remember learning to ‘fall off’ safely. This was a large part of our Pony camps at AEBC (huge fun!) and he has since held clinics on the topic, teaching people emergency falling techniques to avoid injury. He’s pushed this program to the point where it will now be an elective in Cert III Racing.
In addition to the racing side of his work, Jonna has trained with CFA to assist with large animal rescue. This then lead to him training large animal rescue volunteers as a horse behaviour specialist because there was a huge gap in understanding horse behaviour which makes the process quite dangerous for volunteers, the public and the animals. He now runs a Basic Horse Handling and Advanced Horse Handling workshops for large animal rescue volunteers.
So, despite already taking equitation science to new and exciting fields, I wanted to know what he hopes for next:
“I would really like to try to get Large Animal Rescue packages developed as a nationally recognised course for CFA members and volunteers”
And for racing? “I’d like to push to bring learning theory in to racehorse handling industry, which is a notoriously dangerous industry, for better welfare of racehorses and safer outcomes for handlers and the public. If the horses are trained really well from the start, it is safer for the trainers and jockeys, and promotes life after racing as the horses become easier to manage and train”.
And finally, if this doesn’t sum Jonna up in a nutshell, I’m not sure what will – “Equitation Science has taught me that behavioural problems provide an opportunity to train the horse better. Most people see behavioural problems as a negative, but I see it as an opportunity to become a better trainer, to improve life for that horse”.
if you wish to get in touch with Jonna, his ES Specialist profile can be found here.