Irish Student wins BETA Equine Thesis of the Year award

University of Limerick student Alison Brassil has won the BETA Equine Thesis of the Year award for her dissertation titled The Effect of Paternal Age on Progeny Performance in Thoroughbreds.

She joined three other finalists, Lucy Morgan of Harper Adams University, Anna Williams of the Royal Agricultural University and Tegan Hemingway-Wood of Moreton Morrell College, at Equestrian House, Abbey Park, Warwickshire, on 11 November to present her thesis to the judging panel.

Alison's dissertation, which aimed to determine whether the proportion of successful progeny changes as stallion age increases, was unanimously declared the winner by judges Dr Georgina Crossman, Dr Pat Harris, Ruth Bishop and Lucy Higginson.

Using extensive amounts of data and focusing on 20 stallions and 26,650 progeny over a 25-year period, Alison's research suggested that breeders could well benefit from breeding to younger stallions because age did appear to have a significant effect on all parameters of racing performance, with noticeable decreases occurring after 16 and continuing after 22 years. She also noted that the mechanism behind the effects of advanced paternal age was not clear and highlighted that this could be an interesting area for further research.

“I am absolutely delighted to win,” said Alison. “The competition is great for students and the industry. I am passionate about racing and breeding in particular. I want to work in the Thoroughbred sector and, while I know that my study is just a scratch on the surface and there is still a lot of work to be done, I would like to think that people will find it interesting.”

The runner-up was Tegan Hemingway-Wood with her thesis The Effect of Water Depth on Equine Limb Swing Phase Kinematics During Walk Exercise on the AquaIcelander Water Treadmill.

“The standard of work has been extremely high, with presentations that took complex data and presented it in a way that was easy to understand,” said Dr Pat Harris, chair of the judging panel.
“We have examined the written thesis, the literature reviewed, the way that information was presented, the level of understanding and potential relevance to the industry, and felt that Alison and Tegan did very well in a number of these areas.”

Claire Williams, executive director of the British Equestrian Trade Association – which relaunched the competition to put undergraduate study back on the map – added: “We would like to congratulate our winner, runner-up and the other finalists, who did so incredibly well. It was lovely to meet them, their tutors and families who came along to show support. Our thanks must also go to all the preliminary and final judges, whose expertise and knowledge has made this all possible.”

The Equine Thesis of the Year award was relaunched after a three-year break. The academic initiative was originally developed by Pat Harris and Graham Suggett in the late 1990s and designed to reward the good work done by equestrian undergraduates.