Using Equine Simulators in all-round rider development

15th September: using Ithacus to help the rider achieve more confident, effective jumping technique. Emma’s comment after training day: “Definitely feeling the muscles today The practice on the mechanical horse before getting on the horses is great for a workout and getting in the practice without worrying about what the horse is doing. Thank you for a wonderful training day!!”

It’s been crazy two weeks with an especially busy last weekend so it’s now back to the blogging board with updates 🙂 On Saturday 14th I had a pleasure to run a training day at Milton Keyens Eventing Centre for a fantastic group of riders whose horses underwent rehabilitation at Rockley Farm. I will write a longer blog about this tomorrow as it deserves a proper write up on its own.

Today, I will chat a little about the Sunday 15th training day during which I used a Racewood equine simulator again. I am becoming increasingly fond of Ithacus, the mechanical horse, because he is showing me his fantastic value in training of amateur riders. As I am sure you can gather from this blog, my particular coaching interest lies in training a kind of “in between” type of rider…The clients who tend to find their way to Aspire are not professionals but neither they are average recreational riders per se (even though many would be classified as such in theory).

Over time I realised that the riders who enjoy Aspire ethos are those who, like me, love exploring their own abilities, knowledge and skills. They are seeking riders with inquisitive minds. They work hard to both understand and help their horses develop physically and mentally, to help the animal be in best shape for carrying a rider.

Teaching riders like this makes me too feel challenged and encouraged to enjoy learning everyday.

Mechanical Powers

Ithacus is a many riders’ dream horse. He never colics, he never has back issues, his legs and feet are never a problem. He doesn’t buck, rear or bolts. He is a perfect body awareness schoolmaster…

If I was to describe an ideal way to learn to ride (not just for rider but also for the horse…) I would combine classical in-hand work with many different horses with lessons on a mechanical horse. The former teaches the future rider about equine body language, balance control, suppleness, one sidedness, stronger and weaker limbs and their significance,  equine behaviour and how subtle changes in handler’s posture have amazing effect on effectiveness of an exercise (same as in the saddle). The latter develops basic mechanics of the seat in all three paces as well as sitting and rising trot, light seat, two point position without making life of many beginner school horses rather miserable.

Warm Up

For more experienced riders, I now use the simulator in the morning of the training day to work on any usual postural habits the rider might have. This method allows me to always seek the reason of the issues rather than putting band aids on symptoms. I enjoy my detective role in teaching, quick fixes are boring and never long lasting. Quickly come, quickly go…

In the below video I am working with Emma on one of several exercises I have planned for her. She is a good all-round rider but I want her to be less defensive in her position as she jumps. I am pulling on the reins here in an attempt to unseat and unbalance the rider whilst her mission is to remain supple and balanced at all times. It’s a step one to an improved jumping technique for this rider.
Next time we will work on one of my favourite exercises – a rising canter – which gives the rider a good feel for up motion from the thighs rather than from upper body.

The process of acquiring a skill

Those who are against learning on simulators usually claim that you can only really learn to ride on a real horse in real life situations. Maybe. The way I see it, when we first learn to do something or to do something differently, we focus on our motor skills, on the basic mechanics of a movement or action. This is the roughest part of the whole process and I am yet to see a horse who enjoys it.

The best thing about Ithacus from my point of view is that he lets the rider go through that first stage in acquiring a new or upgrading an existing skill in a fun and challenging environment.

Pros and Cons? 

Have you guys ever used simulators in your training? What are your views? Any pros and cons?

2 thoughts on “Using Equine Simulators in all-round rider development”

  1. Hi Aspire
    I’ve never used a simulator, but I think it would be an excellent idea, as an add on tool in the training process. I’m quite an ‘analytical’ type and I would love to be able to get visual feedback about weight distribution in the saddle etc.. It’s a case of do-feel-see-… -and change, hopefully. Obviously, not the same as being on a real horse, but probably a fair approximation.

    1. Hello DG,
      Yes I do think it’s an excellent tool for analytical riders. It lets you focus on the “thinking” first so you are free to focus on “feeling” once on real horse.
      A win-win situation 🙂
      All the best,

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