Equitana Melbourne


A/Prof Ben Sykes is the world leading expert on Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) who is actively changing the way we think, talk about, treat, prevent, and manage EGUS in our horses both in Australia and internationally. He has pioneered research on EGUS with a focus on Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD) and has numerous peer reviewed publications to his credit including being the lead author of the current international consensus statement on EGUS in the adult horse.

A/Prof Sykes is an equine veterinarian with over 23 years clinical experience who is boarded with both the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in large animal internal medicine and the European College of Equine Internal Medicine in equine internal medicine. He graduated from Murdoch University in 1997 and completed an internship at Randwick Equine Centre in 1998 followed by a residency in Equine Internal Medicine in Virginia (USA) before gaining his ACVIM Diplomate status in 2004. He then spent 7 years in Finland both in university and private practice and was also a visiting Professor in Equine Medicine and Surgery in Estonia during this time.

In 2011, he was awarded his ECEIM Diplomate status. Dr Sykes’ research has focused on gastrointestinal diseases of the horse with a specific focus on EGUS. In 2016 he was awarded his PhD in Veterinary Pharmacology for his thesis that focussed on factors affecting the efficacy of omeprazole therapy for the treatment of EGUS. He speaks on EGUS and gut healthy regularly at veterinary conferences around the world and is well known for his ability to communicate complex processes in a simple and easy to understand way. He is an Associate Professor in Equine Internal Medicine at Massey University in New Zealand, and he holds adjunct positions as an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Liverpool (UK) and as an expert advisor to the Hong Kong Jockey Club on gastrointestinal health.

Dual Paralympian, Atlanta 1996 & Sydney 2000, Bronze Medalist at the 1999 World Dressage Championships in Denmark where she was ranked 4th in the World, Top 10% of Elite Dressage Riders in Australia, Cancer Survivor, Fundraiser of $3.2 million for various charities doing 10 marathon long distance endurance rides, Director on the Paralympic Games Committee Board, Author, Wife, Horse Addict.
Mudgee born Sue-Ellen Lovett lives with husband Matthew on a property in Dubbo. Sue-Ellen has had six Guide Dogs in the past 38 years. Always accompanied by one of her guide dogs, even when competing internationally at World Championships and Paralympics. Her most famous Guide Dog was Eccles, a creamy lab with golden spots on his ears who accompanied her to Denmark, Atlanta, and Sydney. Sue-Ellen endearingly refers to him as her Suit and Tie dog, always so professional.

She continues to overcome the limitations of total blindness after being afflicted by the hereditary disease Retinitis Pigmentosa. Sue-Ellen doesn’t let her condition stop her achieving her goals, on or off the saddle. Sue-Ellen ‘Lives to Ride’, competes at FEI Inter 1 level, and trains Grand Prix. As well as riding, Sue-Ellen’s life is devoted to helping and motivating people. During the marathon rides she raised the $3.2m, she spoke at functions in over 600 towns, and gave inspirational talks to thousands. One of her longest rides was Cairns to the Gold Coast in 1988, 2400 km, 54 days in the saddle, with the funds raised going to the RDA. Another was from Melbourne to Sydney in 1998 to raise money and public awareness for the Sydney Paralympic Games. At that time she was short listed to be competing at Sydney but still did the 38 days in the saddle and raised $1.1m.

In 2020 Sue-Ellen published a heart-warming story about love, achievement, overcoming adversity and daring to dream through the big brown eyes of her horse Johno

As young as walking age I was on the back of a horse at any given opportunity, normally courtesy of a close family friend. Living in the suburbs I never had the option to ride regularly but always trail rode and took the odd lesson during school holidays. After years of begging I finally convinced my parents to let me join the closest pony club to us that had a riders without horses program.

When I was old enough to get my first job and could afford to, I leased my first horse and eventually went on to purchase my first horse in 2012, a Standardbred named “Tribal Dynasty”. We dabbled in a bit of everything, not really finding a solid strong point but I really enjoyed showing the most. I completed my Certificate 2 in Equine Industries during VCE and after graduating high school, moved North to do further study in breeding and performance horse management. I worked in racing stables, broodmare farms and yearling prep to cover the costs of living out of home and supporting the 3 horses I had at the time.

I have no idea where the notion came from as I had never seen anyone ride side saddle before but it was something I had always wanted to try. Like most, I didn’t think it existed anymore but went trawling the internet and facebook to find out. On facebook, I joined a side saddle group that was worldwide but largely UK based. I put up a post and ended up connecting with a lady who was actually local to me! She ran a leather working business and had restored a side saddle which sadly didn’t fit her horse. She came out to fit the saddle to my horse and gave me a ‘side saddle 101 crash course’ and said if I like it, I can buy the saddle and if not well at least I gave it a go. Seven years on, 8 side saddles and counting, I have shown up to Royal level aside and given just about every other discipline a go from show jumping, dressage and hunting. I specialise in teaching side saddle within pony club and have introduced 100s of horses and riders to this amazing discipline.

Dan grew up in the South West of Western Australia and was first introduced to horses in his early teens. At 15yrs of age he began working for master farrier and horseman Pete Webber. It was here Dan developed both his horsemanship and farrier skills. At 17yrs of age Dan began working for cutting trainer Corry Holden in Cobram Victoria where he spent the following 6 months starting and training young horses – it was here that Dan was first recognised in the show ring – winning many senior & junior cutting events.

In early 2002 Dan returned to WA and began working at Taunton Vale – a large Thoroughbred and Australian Stock Horse stud in the southwest. He was involved in all aspects of breeding, training, showing and yearling preparation. In 2007 Dan won the ACA Western Australian Reserve Champion Open Campdraft rider after winning multiple campdrafts and Stock horse futurities. Dan’s love of horses and desire to diversify his skills led him to gain part time work with master farrier Brent Tyler. He was now conducting regular horsemanship clinics and was well respected for his horsemanship skills and talent in the arena.

During 2008 Dan joined his good friend Dan James at El Caballo Spanish Horse centre, Wooroloo WA – where they performed as “The Dan & Dan Show” each weekend – refining his showmanship and training skills. In 2009 – Dan & Dan relocated their training business to NSW and “Double Dan Horsemanship” was born. The boys have raised the bar in horsemanship, education and entertainment. Both highly skilled horsemen are sort after for their ability to entertain and thrill audiences of horsey and non-horsey people alike. Under the Double Dan Horsemanship banner they travel Australia and more recently the USA teaching, educating and competing.

Adam Sutton: From cowboy to horseman. He’s not your run of the mill cowboy but he’s always got something quirky or funny to say . . . Adam has had over 24 years’ experience working with horses from riding unruly horses in rodeos, catching brumbies in the snowy mountains, campdrafting to now travelling around Australia teaching his methods of making connections through transitions for horses & riders from the basics to the more advance stages in all disciplines. Everything comes together though to form his own unique way of working with horses. “Based on the experience I’ve had with some of the finest horseman here and overseas, I’ve developed a systematic approach to horse training that works well for me. It is a system that allows each horse to develop suppleness and obedience in his own time. My approach involves eight separate steps and exercises that build upon each other. There’s no point expecting exercise three to work at 100 per cent if the horse is still only comfortably being 70 or 80 per cent effective with exercise two.” Sutton starts all his exercises on the ground so both horse and rider understand which zone controls what movements. Adam’s calm, caring, knowledgeable, fun personality allow him to communicate openly and freely with clients to help them build the confidence and restore trust they need to progress through the levels. I can be flexible on how I develop my horsemanship to my clients. I can develop better relationships with my clients slowly over time and watch them succeed together and through a harmonious balance to develop their confidence at their own pace. He has a great ability to understand people & horses and the processes involved with achieving their desired outcomes. He uses a more holistic approach to his training methods and can break down the barriers in a simple, and humorous way.

Joshua Knight Born in Palmerston North, NZ, Joshua Knight started riding at the age of 11 and progressed quickly to pony club and then onto show jumping. At the age of 19, Josh moved to Australia’s Gold Coast in QLD, and became a performer/stunt rider for the Australian Outback Spectacular show.   Skye grew up riding horses and was very competitive to National level in Dressage and showing, being a member of the QLD Young Rider Squad and a HOTY winner.  She spent over four years as a trick rider/performer at the Australian Outback Spectacular.

Josh and Skye had the opportunity to move to Tom Price in WA for two years, before following their passion for horses to North America. After spending time working with horses in Canada, the pair had the amazing opportunity to work as assistant trainers for Dan and Elizabeth James of the Australian Equine Performance Center in Midway, Kentucky. Working for Dan James gave Josh & Skye many unique opportunities and the experience of working with a large range of horses, including Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, Quarterhorses and Mustangs. Some of Josh’s main roles at the Center included starting the young horses under saddle and teaching them groundwork and liberty methods.

A highlight of Josh’s time in the USA was winning the Overall Champion, Crowd Favourite and Rookie awards at the Kentucky 100 day, wild Mustang Makeover in Lexington with the mustang mare Bindi.  Josh also competed in the Fort Worth Texas Mustang Makeover with another mustang to win the crowd favourite award and place 4th overall.  Just before coming home to Australia, Josh successfully competed in a Colt Starting competition in Ohio to place second.

While in the USA Skye’s took part in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover.  Training her Thoroughbred ‘Brumby’ over six months they won the Dressage Championship & placed 4th in the Freestyle in a field of one hundred.


Amanda grew up helping her uncle break in Shetland’s and other cross-bred ponies. Receiving a 5-year-old Thoroughbred for her 13th birthday was the beginning of Amanda’s love affair for training horses.

At 18 years old Amanda worked for the Heath & Rozzie Ryan in Lochinvar. Achieving her NCAS Level 1 coaches accreditation at Lochinvar set her on a life long path. The one main benefit from Amanda’s 12 months at Lochinvar was learning to be a ‘thinking rider’. “We were encouraged to find a way to fix a problem, to watch, listen and learn from each other while developing our own skills and methods.”

On return to Victoria Amanda coached for a small riding school in Seville, worked for a Grand Prix showjumper, rode track work and coached children’s camps at the Victorian Equestrian Centre. While doing all of this she had approximately four horses in work, owning only the little TB she was now heading into 2* with. The other horses were clients who needed cross-training using jumping grids and poles, hill work or re-education for behavioural issues.

When the little TB injured himself in the paddock, Amanda gave up competing and coaching full time. Instead, seeking a secure career in the police force. Amanda’s love of training horses carried through her 8-year career in VicPol. She didn’t particularly want to compete anymore but maintained a passion for rehabilitating very broken horses and coached a loyal tribe of students. Amanda’s time in VicPol taught her how to be a better communicator and enhanced her observation skills. These two skills improved her ability as a coach, which started to get recognised amongst her equestrian peers. Amanda resigned from VicPol, returning to a career coaching and training full time, ten years ago. Helping equestrians improve and ride in harmony with their horses has become Amanda’s main objective as a coach.

Jane is an expert in authentic leadership development, combining her lifelong passion for, understanding of and extensive training in everything horses with her long history of corporate leadership experience both in Australia and internationally.

Over the past several years, Jane has immersed herself in the world of equine assisted learning and all that she can learn from horses about herself and others. Applying this in her leadership training brings a whole new depth and dimension to professional development. After establishing her own performance horse facility in Sydney, Jane soon realised that there was much more to being with her equine partners than riding and ribbons.

Keen to share this special insight with a broader range of people, she qualified as an Equine Assisted Learning facilitator with Equine Connection Inc. “ The Academy of Equine Assisted Learning”, and established Leading Edge Life Skills. With the success of her own business, Jane was invited by Equine Connection to become the only certified instructor in the southern hemisphere for Equine Connection and underwent intensive training at their headquarters in Canada. Together Jane and her team  ‘both human and horse’ have hosted personal and professional development programs and workshops for literally hundreds of individuals. Jane believes that horses are the ultimate life coaches, as they provide honest, immediate and unbiased responses to individual and group energy, intention, actions and body language. She says, “Quite simply, horses help people become better humans”.

Jane is an introductory riding coach and competitive amateur show jumping rider. She is married, has four children, three dogs, three cats and too many horses!

Hannah has ridden all her life across multiple disciplines including Eventing, Dressage, Showjumping and Mounted Games. Hannah studied a Bachelor Degree of Sport Management specialising in Sport and Active Communities and the effects sport has on communities. Sarah-Jane (B.PhsEd) is a dedicated personal trainer and physical education teacher. With a passion for a healthy lifestyle, Sarah provides great knowledge on the specific fitness and health trends and tools that apply to Equestrians alike.

Combining their passions resulted in the design and development of The Riders Pod, a mobile application dedicated to rider health and wellbeing, assisting riders to live their healthiest, happiest Equestrian Lifestyles with simple tools and expert guidance all in the palm of their hand. The Riders Pod encompasses five interactive features that aim to benefit riders on and off the horse. Features include rider fitness, rider nutrition, a dedicated Equestrian planner, goal setting and results library. With hundreds of workouts and recipes, easy to use tools and built with Equestrians in mind, The Riders Pod is a one stop application for riders of all ages, disciplines and levels. Available on both the Apple and Android app stores.

Annette Willson sole operator of Applied Posture Riding. Annette is a Physiotherapist (Masters Degree) Horse Rider, Horse Retrainer, Performance Horse Trainer, Rider Biomechanics Coach.

33 years as a Physiotherapist working in private practice, Annette has extensive post-graduate knowledge in injury rehab and Chronic Pain Management. She has done much study on the topic of Equine Biomechanics and performance horse training. Annette was an elite event rider training all her own horses from track to 3DE level. Competing successfully up to Advanced level (in her day) and gaining selection onto the SA state squad. Raising three boys as a single parent and fulltime carer for a son with a disability made a busy life. Numerous injuries forced her to abandon competition and set her on a new path in her career.

Annette is passionate about biomechanics and correct horse and rider training applying this knowledge to her patients and pupils. This was the seed to start her business Applied Posture Riding which offers posture assessments for riders, training programs for riders including mounted and unmounted routines. She also offers mounted rider coaching. In recent times Annette has studied and designed a weight training program for horses. This is a new concept in the equine industry and is in its infancy requiring more research for future application. However, excellent results are being achieved. The idea came when she has rehabbed a horse with Suspensory ligament injury but the horse had not returned to full strength as happens with many horses. A human would go to the gym and do strength training. The idea to do the same for horses was born. Annette has designed weight pads and boots and introduced weight training for horses for strength, power and balance and better health and performance outcomes. Her passion for correct movement for both horse and rider health and performance drives her to apply up to date evidence and stay moving forward in this industry.

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