Hilary Clayton, McPhail Dressage Sports Medicine Chair, Retires from Michigan State

Researcher and Author Plans to Ride--and Write--On

Credit: Photo by Fran Jurga
Dr Hilary Clayton is retiring from her longtime position as Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

There are many ways to be a horse professional. Some horse professionals get up every morning, pull on their breeches and climb up on a mounting block. Others get up, pull on a tailored suit, and climb up to a lectern to give a lecture. Or pull on coveralls to collect data in a dusty, windy arena. Or wrap up in a blanket while they edit a chapter of a book.

Dr. Hilary Clayton of Michigan State University has done all those things, worn all those outfits. But she’ll be spending much more time dressed in breeches and climbing on mounting blocks now that she has retired from her position as the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

While a more formal announcement will be forthcoming, Dr. Clayton is continuing to lecture and share her knowledge. She expects to continue publishing research well into the future in her status as professor emeritus at Michigan State, since so much of her research relies on data interpretation and statistical analysis that requires a very long time to prepare for publication.

Some highlights from her biography as McPhail Chair from the McPhail Equine Performance Center website : 

Dr. Clayton was appointed as the first incumbent of the Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in July, 1997. 

A native of England, Dr. Clayton received her veterinary degree from the University of Glasgow in 1973. In 1982 she accepted a position with the University of Saskatchewan in Canada where she spent 15 years as a professor of veterinary anatomy. 

Dr. Clayton has been a faculty member in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and holds academic appointments in the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and the Department of Materials Science and Mechanics in the College of Engineering.

As a veterinarian and researcher, Dr. Clayton’s studies on the biomechanics of equine gait have focused on sport horses, including dressage and jumping horses. Some recent work has included videographic studies of Olympic dressage and jumping events and kinematic and kinetic research with some of the world’s top dressage riders and horses in the Netherlands. 

A lifelong rider, Dr. Clayton began her equestrian career as a Pony Club member in England. She later competed extensively in eventing, show jumping and dressage. Dr. Clayton is a USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist, and is a certified equestrian coach in the UK and Canada. She has been a member of the Canadian National Coaching Committees for the sports of dressage, jumping and eventing, and is currently a member of the USDF Planning Committee.

In addition, Dr. Clayton is a past president of the Association for Equine Sports Medicine, a member of the International Equine Veterinarians Hall of Fame and vice president of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. 

 Dr. Clayton’s Sport Horse Publications published three of her books on equestrian sport science: The Dynamic Horse (2004); Conditioning Sport Horses (1991); and Activate Your Horse’s Core, with Narelle Stubbs (2008). She is also the author of Color Atlas of Large Animal Applied Clinical Anatomy (with Flood in 1995), Clinical Anatomy of the Horse (with Flood and Rosenstein in 2005), and two editions of Equine Locomotion with Back; the second was published at the end of 2013; all the textbooks are published by Elsevier.

While the professional side of Dr. Clayton’s career is quite academic, she has had the unique opportunity to “translate” much of her research for equestrians and horse professionals like farriers and equine bodyworkers, as well as her fellow veterinarians. Dr. Clayton often speaks at meetings like the US Dressage Federation convention and teaches courses for Equinology, the innovative professional education program. 

In February, Dr Clayton welcomed President Obama to the McPhail Center, where he signed the Farm Bill in a festive ag/vet setting atop the dressage arena.

Look for Dr. Clayton to speak in the next few months at an Equinology “Equine Biomechanics” course in California October 28-30, the Balanced Hoof Symposium in Australia November 6-9 and the Saddle Research Trust conference in England November 29

But you might also meet Dr Clayton in the warmup ring at a dressage show, trying on boots in a tack shop or hacking out on the trail. She’ll have time to ride horses now, not just study, measure and analyze them on treadmills and forceplates. 

Congratulations to Dr. Clayton on a career full of accomplishments that is far from over.




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