Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports.
This young jockey is wired up with 14 motion tracking sensors that could determine his optimal riding position. It could also enhance the performance of the racehorse and reduce the risk of injury to both horse and jockey. Research led by the UK's Royal Veterinary College set out to see how more experienced jockeys' movement, stability and positioning differed from the novice. Dr Anna Walker is from the College's Structure and Motion Lab. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR ANNA WALKER, POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER AT RVC STRUCTURE AND MOTION LABORATORY, SAYING: "If we can identify how more experienced jockeys actually ride, then the aim would be to therefore increase the rate at which novice jockeys are able to train and also reduce the risk of falls. It's known that more experienced jockeys are less likely to suffer from a fall - but why is that? Do they ride differently? What is it in their position that means they are less likely to have a fall?" After lab-based tests using a racehorse simulator, they teamed up with jockeys and trainers from the British Racing School in field trials. Data is collected through inertial measurement units attached to the jockey. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR ANNA WALKER, POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER AT RVC STRUCTURE AND MOTION LABORATORY, SAYING: "So they basically measure the movement of the different parts of the jockey relative to the horse. We're also measuring the forces in the stirrup so we can look at the symmetry of the forces that coincide with the various movements that are measured." Previous research examined how jockeys isolate their centre of gravity - thereby reducing their load on the horse - using the so-called 'Martini glass' posture. But this is the first time it's been scientifically measured to help train junior jockeys. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR ANNA WALKER, POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER AT RVC STRUCTURE AND MOTION LABORATORY, SAYING: "If you increase the rate of training, therefore they gain experience or improve their technique very quickly then you reduce the risk of falls. And if the jockey is more balanced; the horse is more balanced because they're not having to constantly counteract a wobbly jockey." The team envison a streamlined training system in the future, using just a couple of small sensors built into a jockey's kit. The research is ongoing, but they hope it will ultimately quicken an apprentice jockey's transition to professional, while reducing risk of injury to both rider and horse.