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I am an equine coach, trainer and BHS/Pony Club assessor and hold the Performance Coach, BHSI qualification, as well as the FEI recognised IGEQ International Level 3 in both riding and tourism. I also have an honours degree in Animal Science - Equine from UCD. On my equine journey I have coached and trained in the UK, Australia and Denmark broadening my horizons and developing my experience in dressage, showjumping and eventing before returning to my native Ireland where I continue training and developing with the help of my fantastic coaches and mentors. My key areas of interest are; biomechanics, how horses learn (Equitation Science) and mentoring competition riders and industry professionals to self actualise in their chosen field. One of the most important maxims I try to live by is that “Failure is the key to success, each mistake teaches you something” Morihei Ueshiba. It is not without it’s challenges but remembering this on the difficult days builds you attain success.
My wife and I set up Bergin Equine with a mission to be led by research rather than opinion. Our holistic ethos pivots around ethical training, management and treatment of the horse as our partners is sport. I remember I quote I learned when training with Dr.Andrew Mclean in Australia “The horse does not volunteer for the job we put him to it” this places a momentous responsibility on us as equestrians as horses do not get the choice to participate, we choose for them. That makes it important for us to make the right choices for them rather than ourselves. As we hinge around this core philosophy, we aspire to empower individual centred development while maintaining an holistic horse centred approach. We train and coach riders horses from grassroots to competition in all three disciplines. Our empowering process allows students to self actualise in their chosen field.
I discovered SMART™ saddles along my saddle journey after trying earlier models and enjoying the feel of a fully flexible sport saddle which allowed freedom of movement particularly through the shoulders with its flex-to-fit and modular deformability. After discussing the saddle with designer, Anne Bondi, I started to understand the cavity that this saddle has the opportunity to fill. When you remove the rigid parts from most things you lose the support framework but with the SMART™ saddles FlexTech technology you start to create true synchrony and synergy between horse and rider. With the patented and tested multi-layering system with variable density materials the rider and horse are mutually supported in an optimal balance in a paradigm shifting approach to saddle and horse integration. I have been able to try the SMART™ ELITE JUMP saddle for an extended period and where the saddle excels is in the support and secure close contact feel while offering the horse true freedom over the fence as it flexes and curves dynamically with the action of the horses back.
In my work I deal with lots of horses who come with specific problems; some of these problems are behavioural but usually the root of behaviour can be traced back to problems with equipment. The horse’s back is such a dynamic surface all you need to do to show this is film a horse from behind moving on a treadmill and suddenly you become aware of how much movement there should be. Anything that restricts this movement with rigid parts should be considered unacceptable. As a runner I have moved away from traditional cushioned shoes to minimalist footwear to promote a more natural movement pattern and since then my running form has improved dramatically. Equipment either supports comfort, welfare and performance or stifles it there is no true middle ground.
As our awareness of equine behaviour and particularly reading discomfort grows through the research and empirical data the ability to hide from our responsibilities is diminishing. It has always been incumbent on us as an industry to give horses the best possible opportunity for comfort especially when we put them to work. However now more than ever it is important to be playing our role well as an ever more “woke” public turns their eyes to us. With the general public having more understanding of reading equine discomfort we will soon have to become part of a cataclysmic shift not only in how we ride horse but in the equipment we use. Shifting the saddle paradigm to a new model is a change that can potentially lead to more equine comfort and ultimately more longevity in our sport.
I have two of my horses in the SMART™ ELITE JUMP saddle full time now one is a four year old who’s job will hopefully be to event although he will be brought along slowly and the other is a 88% thoroughbred horse who has evented but due to injury will not be going further in that discipline. I hope that she will turn her hoof successfully to dressage. She is competing up to medium level and is working towards advanced medium at home. There are certain pieces of equipment that are “essential kit” to me and the SMART™ saddle is one of them. I am so fortunate and privileged to have been chosen for their brand ambassador programme and hope to be working with them into the future.
Keep an eye on our social media to see how I am getting on with the saddle: