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Improving assessment of postural balance control and locomotion through horse riding in children with a movement impairment


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  Prof K Nankervis  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Title: Doctoral Studentship (PhD)

Application Closing Date: Sunday 11th September 2022

Location: Hartpury University, Gloucestershire.

Stipend: £16,062 per annum

Contract Type: Full Time (3 years)

Area of Research: Equestrian Performance  

A small number of studies have currently evaluated the benefits of horse riding on motor function and balance in children with Cerebral Palsy and other movement impairments. Most studies do indicate horse riding leads to improvements in motor function and/or balance. However, it is not fully understood how improvements in motor function, gait and balance occur as a result of horse riding. This PhD will use the riding simulator and biomechanics data collection tools (EMG, motion capture, IMUs) in the Hartpury Margaret Giffen Rider Performance Centre to develop a framework to measure the relevant features fo balance and stability in children with movement impairments. The project is a collaboration between Hartpury University and Manchester Metropolitan University. The successful candidate will have supervisory guidance from both universities and the opportunity to gain experience in biomechanics labs in both universities.

The overarching aim of the project will be to understand how horse riding influences clinical and quantitative measures of postural balance and locomotor performance. To establish this, the project will need to:

  1. To identify/propose the key features of postural balance and locomotor performance influenced by hippotherapy/simulator riding
  2. To develop a framework to measure relevant features of balance and stability using the riding simulator, or other approaches as per initial results.
  3. Use the framework developed to understand what levels of postural control and functional movement are associated with off-horse balance, stability and gait, simulator riding and horse riding.

For more information and for an initial discussion please contact Dr Kathryn Nankervis [Email Address Removed]

Students will be based in Hartpury’s Equestrian Performance Research Centre. This is a unique and exciting opportunity to become part of vibrant postgraduate community in an idyllic rural setting, with world leading facilities and undertaking impactful cutting-edge research. The University of the West of England is the awarding body for this degree.

Studentships comprise of tuition fees at UK home rates and a stipend of GBP £16,062k per annum tenable for 3 years; for international students, studentships comprise international tuition fees and a reduced stipend of GBP £8,031 per annum for 3 years. Alongside their research projects, successful candidates will be asked (as a condition of their stipend) to deliver up to 7 hours per week teaching or research support within the University.

PhD Studentship Selection Criteria:

Please demonstrate the following criteria in your CV and/or covering letter:

  • Essential undergraduate degree or MSc in a field relating to either biomechanics, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, sports therapy or related field.
  • Essential biomechanics-related skills (motion capture, EMG, IMU, force plates).
  • Essential quantitative data analysis skills in Excel.
  • Demonstrable interest in postural balance and locomotor control.
  • Desirable experience/background knowledge in motor control.
  • Desirable to have experience of using a coding language (e.g. MATLAB, R or Python).
  • Desirable skill/experience of having worked with children (ideally with disability).
  • Ability/willingness to travel to Manchester Metropolitan University and be based at Hartpury University.

Candidates should also be aware of the following:

The normal expectation is that applicants will hold at least a 2:1 or a Masters qualification from a UK university or a degree of comparable standing from a university outside the UK. The candidate’s degree relevant to the studentship should demonstrate their potential for practice-led research or alternative evidence of research aptitude.

Applicants whose first language is not English require a recognised English language qualification. The minimum entry requirement is GCSE English at grade C or above or IELTS score 7.0 or TOEFL score 600 (or demonstrable equivalent).

Applying for a PhD studentship

To apply for a PhD studentship you must send the following documents to [Email Address Removed]:

  • A curriculum vitae (maximum 3 pages)
  • Copies of academic transcripts
  • A covering letter outlining your suitability for the studentship
  • Your undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation or another relevant piece of research you have completed or contributed to.
  • If English is not your first language, certification of English language qualification

Applications that do not arrive by Midnight (UK time) on Sunday 11th September 2022 will not be considered.

If your application is selected, you will be invited for interview on Tuesday 20th September 2022. All applicants must ensure their availability on this date.

Key Dates:

  • 11th September 2022: Deadline for submission of applications
  • 14th September 2022: Interview invitations sent to shortlisted candidates*
  • 20th September 2022: Interviews at Hartpury*
  • 7th October 2022: Deadline for accepting studentship
  • January 2023: Studentship begins

*Please note that by submitting an application you are confirming your availability to attend an interview on Tuesday 20th September 2022.

We are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and expect all staff and volunteers to share this commitment. We will ensure that all our recruitment and selection practices reflect this commitment. All successful candidates will be subject to Disclosure and Barring Service checks along with other relevant employment checks.

Hartpury values a diverse workforce and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.

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