The Sport Horse Podcast – Expanding the Toolbox

There’s no such thing as “too much information” if you are the hosts of IGNITE’s Sport Horse Podcast. Nicole Lakin, MBA, is an amateur jumper competitor and Tim Worden, PhD, is a self-confessed geek about research or thinking that helps elite athletes—horses or human.

It’s tempting to try every idea they come across. Wisely, that’s tempered by the value of distilling all they learn into strategies that make the most sense, and are feasible to implement, for their own horse or a client’s.

With over two years of bi-monthly podcasts, there is a lot for Tim and Nicole to distill.

Actionable Ideas

Valuable consensuses have emerged from the Podcast’s wide-ranging exploration of all things that can help high-performance horses excel in good health and through long careers.

Finding ways for horses to spend more time outdoors and to move their bodies more are themes integral to many Podcast topics. Tending to the horses’ mental health is hot topic, too.

And Tim and Nicole are just getting started.

Tim’s PhD in biomechanics underlies his pursuit of evidence-based training and management practices for sport horses. He has consulted for Equestrian Canada and works with several FEI athletes.

Nicole rose from self-described “barn rat” to accomplished amateur jumper competitor. She has an MBA in entrepreneurship and is CEO and founder of the platform.

An IGNITE Endeavor

The Podcast is produced by IGNITE, the educational entity through which Tim and Nicole channel their commitment to improving the lives of high-performance horses.

Targeting the busy audience of horse owners and equine care providers, the Sport Horse Podcast is a relatively short and easily consumable complement to IGNITE’s extensive library of educational content.

Launched under IGNITE’s predecessor, the Equine High-Performance Sports Group, the Sport Horse Podcast has covered topics ranging from new technologies and nutrition to coaching, communication, bone health and back problems.

Tim and Nicole delve into human athletic performance when it can inform and inspire equestrians and equine athletes.

Looking into the science related to commonly held beliefs is a priority. All Podcast speakers and topics amplify IGNITE’s mission – “to advance leading-edge knowledge, evidence-based approaches and collaborative, proactive practices focused on injury prevention, peak performance and longevity for equine athletes.”

Expert Input & Solid Science

Several of IGNITE’s leaders are ideal guests because of their work and areas of expertise.

Executive director Joop Loomans, DVM, PhD, DAVSMR, speaks on effective communication in the equine industry to enhance health and performance. (Listen here.)

Advisory board member Emmanuelle van Erck Westergren details the unique cardiorespiratory challenges sport horses face. (Listen here.)

One of IGNITE’s founders, Tim Ober, shares insights and behind-the-scenes realities from his 22 years as team vet for the United States Equestrian Show Jumping squad. (Listen here.)

“Any topic that we think riders and owners should know about is a good place to start,” Tim says of planning the Podcast’s agenda.

Next, it’s a matter of having “quality science” that relates to sport horses. Research with horses is difficult. Much of it is conducted on horses living in small herds maintained by veterinary hospitals or clinics. Their athletic demands, nutrition and daily lives have little in common with those of high-performance horses.

Tim regularly reviews new research published on, Google Scholar and elsewhere for results relevant to sport horse management. Veterinarians, farriers and other care providers with the expertise to present Continuing Education credits are often great guests.

It’s gratifying to bring researchers and experts’ work to a broad audience. “A lot of our guests haven’t had an opportunity to reach the sport horse community,” Tim says. “They have a lot of knowledge that just isn’t exposed being exposed to riders. Academic life keeps them very busy, but I wish they would go on speaking tours because their research could make a huge difference.”

Tangible Takeaways

After interviewing an athletic trainer, Carl Valle, Nicole got excited about measuring and monitoring variables in her mare’s daily schedule to accommodate strength training, muscle recovery and mental health days.

“It’s about what are the actual tangible things I can try and building a strategy around that. It comes back to the whole premise of the Podcast – that everything involving horses is part science and part horsemanship. Measuring and recording things doesn’t mean you are making major changes. But it does allow you to see things with a new perspective and identify what is or isn’t working.”

Through the Podcast and her work with IGNITE, Nicole has internalized a long-term management strategy for her mare.  She knows it’s working when the final prep before a targeted competition is all about managing the mare’s energy level – not her fitness or soundness. Those critical aspects of performance are addressed in daily routines and care long before the big day.

During this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival, Nicole added a management layer targeting her mare’s mental state as they challenged themselves to step up into the 1.45-meter jumper division.

Through the opening weeks of the circuit, Nicole built the mare, Hamora O, up in graduating fence heights, then gave her a three-week break before returning to the ring.  “We worked in the canals, the polo field and other places to sort of let her regain what we had come into the circuit with.”

That paid off with a solid round in their debut at the new level, plus the great feeling of having a happy, fresh horse.

Expanding the Toolbox

Nicole’s scenario embodies the Podcast’s priority of helping an owner or care provider expand their toolbox. “For them to think that, if an issue arises, maybe they can actually go and explore something they heard about.”

The eventual hope is that Podcast followers will apply what they learn in a preventative context or think differently and about preventing problems as well as solving them.

It’s natural for people to stick with trusted horse management methods when everything is working right, Nicole notes. “For someone to try something new, something has to not be working.”

Both agree the reactive mindset is gradually shifting toward proactive, preventative management practices, with several Europeans leading the way in horse sports. Mainstream sport prize money in equestrian sports there strongly incentivizes the embrace of reliable science that can improve performance and lengthen a horse’s career.

The broader the range of topics discussed on the Podcast, the clearer consensuses emerge, Tim notes. “Most of our guests wish horses had more time outside. Trying to balance that with constraints of how today’s horses live is a recurring theme. Its variations include treadmills and water treadmills and other different ways to keep the horse’s body moving for more of their day.”

Stress mitigation is getting airtime, too. “Sometimes this gets lost,” Tim continues. “But if you have a horse that is in a good place mentally, it has way less resistance to what we ask it to do.”

What Would You Tell the Horse?

At the end of every Sport Horse Podcast, Tim and Nicole ask their guest “If you could talk directly to a horse, and they could understand you, what would you tell them?’”

It was only fair to ask them the same…

Nicole – “I see you. I see all of you. Your generosity and willingness in all that you give to us, even though sometimes we ask a lot, and you do it in exchange for a little dry food.”

Tim – “I wish you were not so focused on pleasing us. In terms of training, you are so agreeable that it sometimes hides an underlying issue. If there is pain, I wish you would speak English and let us know.”

The Sport Horse Podcast is available complimentary to all. It can be found on IGNITE’s website, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. After a brief summer break, Nicole and Tim will resume new episodes in September.

IGNITE is a platform for advancing leading-edge knowledge, evidence-based approaches and collaborative, proactive practices focused on injury prevention, peak performance and longevity for equine athletes. The resulting information is available to a membership community comprised of veterinarians, physios, farriers and other equine health care providers, plus riders, coaches, trainers and other sport stakeholders.

Various levels of IGNITE membership offer options suited to the interests of its diverse, global membership.

For more information, please visit

PR: Kim F Miller

Photos available on request