Students saddle up to learn how to ride on ‘RoboCob’

15 December 2023, 13:44

Rider on horse simulator
Rider on horse simulator. Picture: PA

A £100,000 horse simulator has been unveiled at Scotland’s Rural College in West Lothian.

Students are getting into the saddle to hone their skills in an innovative way – on Scotland’s first robot horse.

The £100,000 simulator, dubbed “RoboCob” by students, has been unveiled at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Oatridge Campus in West Lothian.

Horse riders can replicate jumps of up to 1.20 metres high on the simulator, which comes with three screens providing real-time and printable feedback.

They can experience everything from true-to-life dressage movements, such as piaffe and passage, to jumping grid work or negotiating technical combinations on the cross-country course.

The Racewood Eventing Simulator is described as an “incredibly realistic ride”, though a student studying horse care and equine studies at SRUC said it is “more forgiving” than a real horse.

Eilidh Simmons said: “It’s really realistic but it’s probably a lot more forgiving.

Student Erin Gillie has a ride on ‘RoboCob’ (Chris Watt Photography/PA)

“It doesn’t move unless you’ve got your balance right, so it’s good for improving your accuracy.”

SRUC said the simulator is the first of its kind in Scotland.

Horse care and equine studies programme leader Louise Bulmer said: “We are delighted with our new Racewood Eventing Simulator, the first of its kind in Scotland.

“It’s a fantastic learning resource for our students and a great addition to our outstanding equestrian facilities.

“The simulator will help improve rider performance and safety and thereby contribute to improving horse welfare.

“We also look forward to the simulator being used by equine industry groups and as a way to increase access to the equestrian industry.”

SRUC was previously shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award in the technical or digital innovation of the year category and for a Herald Higher Education innovative use of technology award for its use of robotic cameras to track and record riders’ movements and biomechanical jackets to measure their posture.

Mary Thomson, vice-principal of skills and lifelong learning at SRUC, said: “This is part of our innovative approach to teaching and learning, finding modern digital solutions to deliver active blended learning.”

By Press Association

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