Q&A with Nadia Hernandez-Plumb, business owner and MSc Equine Science graduate
Meet Nadia, one of our online masters graduates. She now runs her own equestrian business and helps other owners and professionals with their horses, including behavioural problems and developing the bond between horse and human.
1. First of all, please tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far.
My name is Nadia Hernandez-Plumb, I was born and raised in Luxembourg to an English mother and Spanish father. I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Edinburgh Napier University and then decided to throw myself into my passion for horses, with the clear goal of, one day, combining my passion for horses and my love of human wellbeing.
While I was studying for my MSc in Equine Science, I was working full time at a riding school. I was learning to coach riders of all levels, how to develop young horses, keep the riding school horses fit and healthy, while also training my own horses. Meanwhile, I was also developing my business which I have now launched. Connect Equine is what I call an equestrian holistic support system. I help owners or professionals address undesired behaviour in their horses.
In addition to this, I support both human and horse in developing a better connection with each other through learning theory, positive reinforcement training and understanding the whole horse, from nutrition (though I am not a nutritionist) to saddle fit (nor am I a saddle fitter).
I have developed relationships with a team of professionals (an independent nutritionist, an independent saddle fitter, a farrier, a vet and a physiotherapist) that I can call in to help my clients improve all areas of their horse's life.
I am currently undertaking a second online MSc in Psychology this time in order to become a qualified psychologist and be able develop programmes to support people who are struggling with a variety of issues alongside my horses.
Horses have incredible therapeutic power and my goal is to share this with people as much as I can throughout my professional life.
2. Why did you decide to pursue online study? What was your motivation?
Online study wasn’t something I had really considered until I found the Equine Science programme.
I was looking for a way to further my knowledge on horses and when I stumbled across it on the University website, I knew immediately that it was the perfect choice.
It meant that I could move back home to Luxembourg after my undergraduate degree and accept the internship I had been offered at a riding school alongside my coach, while also developing my knowledge at a University level. It was a win-win for me!
3. What was your favourite aspect of the MSc Equine Science? And what was the biggest challenge?
I have two favourite aspects of this course. One is the fact that we have lecturers from all over the world that are experts in their field, and we connect with people all over the world as well with a common interest and passion.
The horse world can sometimes feel very small and isolated, so this widespread connection was absolutely amazing to me. The second thing is more personal. Because I was working with horses on a practical level during my degree, the MSc brought so much depth to my internship that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
The two parts of my life really came together in such a profound way, that one was reinforcing the other and I was in constant revision for the MSc material while I was at work. This meant that I really retained the information I was learning and I also came home to study in the evenings with a much clearer idea of what I was reading about.
The biggest challenge throughout the course was learning to balance the demands of a Masters degree while also working full time. The course is really flexible to accommodate for the demands of a professional life and the professors are really supportive if you communicate about an issue.
There’s no doubt though, if you want the best from the course, you have to put the hours in. I would very often get home after a long day on my feet at the riding school and be falling asleep within minutes of getting through the door, especially in the winter when I had been at work all day in subzero temperatures.
I learnt how to manage my time in order to cope with it all and learn to the best of my ability. The support from the university and my programme director, Bryony, in particular, was invaluable during the toughest moments.
4. How will the Masters degree benefit your career?
The MSc has provided me with a lot more credibility and respect in the area I work in, despite being very young compared to many professionals around me.
I often have clients ask me about what I studied during my course and I often get consulted before they take decisions regarding their horses, to see if I know of any research that supports this decision.
I feel the MSc gives me a platform to stand on that already indicates my approach – academic, science-based and committed to training and horse ownership.
I definitely feel that I would not be taken as seriously as I am in the industry without this MSc behind me.
5. How has this programme impacted your work with horses?
This programme has been such an asset in my work with horses. It has provided me with an in depth global understanding of how horses work, from how they learn to how they digest to how to optimise their breeding.
Everything I learnt on this course would have taken me years of practical, on-the-job work to learn. I definitely feel that I was given a huge boost forward during this course and my work has developed from it since in a positive way.
Thanks to this course, when I meet a new horse, I am able to look at all aspects of their life and understand where there might be issues as well as how to begin addressing them.
Though I am by no means a vet, or a chiropractor, or a physiotherapist, I can have detailed and fascinating conversations with all of these professionals as colleagues from different areas of expertise.
This I could never have done before my degree. It has definitely contributed to me having an equally important role in the team of professionals as the farriers, vets and so on, working to improve the lives of the horses they follow.
6. Would you recommend this programme to other people? If yes, why?
I would wholeheartedly recommend this programme to anyone looking to further their knowledge of horses in a serious way and to anyone looking to work in any area of the equine industry.
It opens doors to many different equally interesting areas of work – you really can step from this course straight into working in the equine industry at a high level.
If you love horses, you love learning, and you want to contribute to changing the industry, this is without a doubt the right course for you.