The latest in engineering science has been applied to a new horse riding simulator which opens the door to new approaches to riding training and welfare of the ridden horse. The new equipment was unveiled at the Saddle Research Trust’s 4th International Conference, December 2021.
In the first of four comprehensive conference sessions, entitled ‘Applying the Science,’ Professor Heikki Handroos PhD, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology in Finland presented the most important outcomes of the “Horzim Project” to show how engineering science has been applied to develop the next generation horseback riding simulator.
“This realistic horseback riding simulator can benefit riders with different skills in many ways,” said Professor Handroos. “Beginners can learn how to sit on the saddle during the basic gaits before starting to ride a real horse, which reduces injury risk and improves the horse welfare. The simulator can also carry heavier riders to help them to access the hobby with reduced welfare risks. For more advanced riders, the technology will enable them to practice and enhance their skills as often as they wish.”
The high-performance novel robotic motion platform has been designed to provide the necessary motion capabilities for the simulator in all gaits, including jumping. The ground-breaking advance from previous generations of simulator is the extended, freely programmable motion capability, that provides a real-life learning tool for riders by making it possible to replicate the actual motion of real, individual horses. The current test simulator is programmed with motions which were measured from advanced level dressage and show jumping horses while being ridden by advanced riders.
The new simulator also has potential as a hippotherapy tool. “It has the potential to enable the ideal gait pattern to be programmed for each patient,” explained Professor Handroos. “We should also be able to use sensors to monitor the rider, while the simulator is performing different gait patterns. The same sensor technology could also be used in riding schools to monitor the learning curves of riding students. Our next project is going to be on sensing the rider’s bio-signals when riding the simulator and intelligent processing of sensor data to assess the progress of riding school students or hippotherapy patients.”
Professor Handroos joined world-renowned researchers and vets at the Conference, which explored the ‘Welfare and Performance of the Ridden Horse: The Future.’
The inaugural session ‘Applying the Science’ was preceded by a keynote presentation from Hilary Clayton on the past present and future of research in this field. The following sessions covered ‘Through the Lens,’ ‘The Horse as a Stakeholder,’ and ‘Hot Topics.’
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