Friday, March 29, 2019

Equine Research Live at the 2019 FEI World Cup: Swedish university students measure velocity of world's top show jumpers

Jump crews work hard at a horse show. At next week’s FEI World Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden, one unique jump crew will be working hard in hopes of getting a good grade.

For the fourth consecutive year, Sweden’s premier horse show will have a mini research lab set up, right in the ring. But this year is a little different, since the Gothenburg Horse Show will also include the FEI World Cup finals in dressage and show jumping.

Students from nearby Chalmers University will have responsibility for one fence along the arena rail. They will be setting up radar-like cameras that will record the velocity of the approaching show jumpers--including the likes of the USA’s Beezie Madden, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, Germany’s Daniel Duesser, and Ireland’s Bertram Allen.

In previous years, the students buried force plates under the arena footing to measure force of take off and landing, and they also measured the height that different horses jumped to clear the rail, compared to its actual height.

Researchers at Chalmers say that this year's type of speed measurement has never been attempted on horses before.

This video features the 2019 research at the horse show; you can see the English translation at the bottom of the screen.

Not only will students be crouched by the fence ready to reset their equipment when and if the rails tumble from the jump cups, their data will also be projected onto the jumbotron screen, where the entire audience will be also be able to see how fast the horse approached, cleared and left the jump, in real time.

Back in their lab after the show, the students will use the data they collect as additional information to continue analyzing jump trajectories.

The state-of-the-art radar equipment, originally developed for monitoring self-driving vehicles, now comes in handy to measure the horse's speed towards, over and after the fence.

We’ve all heard of smart phones, and smart homes and smart cars, but this might be the first smart fence.

This video from 2018 explains the research conducted last year, and the students speak in English.

The students will also run an exhibition booth outside the arena, where they will be able to replay the fence video footage for riders, who will see their horse’s data on screen and be able to compare it with other horses.

Data collection stewards (i.e., students) will discuss the results with the world’s best riders.

“One great thing about having the exhibition stand in the Scandinavium lobby is that the riders get a golden opportunity to immerse in how their horse moves and thus how they can improve their training. And it also gives the audience a chance to meet their heroes”, says Chalmers faculty member Magnus Karlsteen, who is in charge of the project during the show.

Ultimately, the information from this year's fence measurements is combined with the results from previous years. And the goal is that the analyses of the horses’ movement patterns will result in a more sustainable training, competition and breeding environment in the horse industry.

This nice 2016 video introduces the project, and has English subtitles.

“The collaboration with Chalmers is part of Gothenburg Horse Show's work to support development. Equestrian sport has been given new scientific facts which support our work on horse training and competition”, says Tomas Torgersenshow director for the Gothenburg Horse Show.

The “Chalmers Fence” project is run by Chalmers students who use their knowledge to build world-unique measurement systems with a focus on the horse's well-being, health and comfort. Many of the students are intrigued by the possibility to combine their passion for horses with their studies.

If you'll be watching the FEI World Cup on television next week, look for the Chalmers Fence and the students who will be having the time of their lives, in the pursuit of science.

Learn more:

The 2017 video was in Swedish, but you can watch it here:

Information from the Gothenburg Horse Show, the FEI, and Chalmers University was used in the preparation of this article. Top photo is by Amy Goodman.

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