My quest to be a better rider was possibly helped slightly at BETA, where I spied the Racewood jumping simulator on the Classic Showjumps stand, and managed to get a chance to try it out.
The simulator can be programmed to go over a course of showjumps, or cross-country. Having decided it was a bit slow, we asked if it could be put up to Advanced XC speed/setting, probably not the best idea on my first go!
There are sensors in the bit rings and on the horse’s sides, to measure the intensity of the aids, and on the stirrups, to measure the rider’s left/right weight distribution. This was the main reason I wanted a go – to see whether I am skewing on my own in mid-air (due to previous right knee injury), or whether my horse is doing the skewing, throwing me sideways. The print out at the end showed that it isn’t me, once I’m on a neutral mount, which is a big relief… so, definitely more work required on my horse’s straightness, and less paranoia about myself, which means I can relax a bit and stop trying so hard!
This video shows the simulator being used.
It is a really good experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Of course it isn’t exactly like riding a real horse – it doesn’t look where you look, or start to turn when you turn your shoulders, for instance. I found it difficult to get the ‘horse’ to ‘lock on’ to fences – it is in fact pretty difficult to turn, and of course the fact that you haven’t walked the course first doesn’t help either. I watched a few people have a go before me, and they all had major steering difficulties… once I had a go, I realised why!
I’ve been concerned that I’m weighting my left stirrup more, but in fact the print-out showed that I only ever weighted my right stirrup more, almost invariably when also pulling harder on the right rein, so when attempting to steer to the right! Inside leg was definitely working, then. The fact that I was in ‘Gallop’ while pulling the reins to the max, and still managed to get a ‘Late’ take off spot to the last 3 fences, proves that I definitely hadn’t got the hang of how to slow down and rebalance this artificial horse yet!
It’s hard-mouthed compared to a real horse (well, 99% of the ones I’ve ridden!) but that might be because I just didn’t manage to slow it down enough for the turns. But the cantering/galloping motion, and the way it feels when ‘jumping’, are surprisingly realistic.
It’s not exactly easy to judge a distance on, which resulted in quite a few embarrassing ‘no jumps’ (horse canters straight through obstacle) as I tried to get the hang of it, but of course there’s no danger of falling either! I’d have loved another go, once I’d been round once.
It would be incredibly useful to ‘ride’ with your instructor standing beside you and making helpful comments and perhaps hand-on adjustments to posture and position, since the latter of course is impossible once you’re going at speed on a real horse. It’s a good fitness test too… I’d not say I’m horribly unfit, but after 3 minutes on this, mostly in the 2-point position, I was quite puffed out!
The simulator can be hired for events, parties etc when one is in stock, otherwise they are made to order. Must admit I would love one for fitness, if I won the lottery!
For details, contact Mary McGuffog on 01829 732006, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by kind permission of Bruce Haskell.