by Jenny Richardson BHSAI
I am a big fan of so-called mechanical horses, or simulators – they are very useful training systems.
An equine simulator can accommodate riders of all levels, from beginners to the most advanced. It can be used to train riders in basic arena work and riding position, and if given the correct signals through its sensors, some of the most advanced mechanical horses can even perform dressage movements such as Piaffe, Pirouette, Half pass and Shoulder in!
Who is the riding simulator useful for?
Riding simulators are designed as a tool to progress a rider’s knowledge and techniques, so when horse riders return to the real thing, they have a better awareness of how they are riding and what they are trying to achieve. Riding simulators can be useful to equestrians for various reasons.
Firstly, many people in the course of their every day riding will experience something that causes them to lack confidence, such as a fall or returning to the saddle after a break. Utilising training sessions on a mechanical horse can be a highly useful . It helps riders to ‘get back in the saddle’ and also allows riders of every level to work on their position – which in turn reduces their chance of falling if they have a more stable position.
Alongside the confidence boosting benefits, equine simulators are fun, and much more comfortable to ride on than many first-timers realise! These useful tools ensure riders can hone their skills, teaching riders control and developing technique, skills and muscle memory. These clever simulators really do offer riders a revolutionary way to train, sometimes even offering visual feedback on a screen in front of the device, illustrating the seat position and riding manoeuvres.
The sensors are able to show how evenly your weight is being distributed from left to right, and whether riders are tilting their bodyweight forwards or backwards. Leg sensors can even pick up if your lower leg has a tendency to grip in at particular gait, while the rein sensors show what contact you have on the rein, e.g. if you are holding them evenly, too tight or to loose. Remember, a good, consistent contact enables a rider to ‘talk’ with the horse through the bit, while a polite contact enables a rider to whisper.
Tuition on the simulators is quite intensive, which means clients quickly progress and improve. The instructor can concentrate on things like core stability and posture, without worrying about what the horse is doing. Most people find tuition on a simulator especially useful for improving their seat, balance and effectiveness. Importantly, they take away the factors associated with all horses – their own foibles, stiffnesses, imbalances or inexperiences – creating a ‘blank canvas’ for the rider.
Why not consider a riding break at Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate, where Jenny Richardson BHSAI is Equestrian Centre Business Manager? This venue offers luxurious equestrian riding holidays and training breaks in the heart of Ireland, and has a reliable riding simulator named Prince!