When you go out for a ride, you might take a tiny cell phone that fits into the pocket of your breeches, a GPS that you can attach to your saddle, or an MP3 player that clips to your jacket. Technology has helped make our riding experiences safer and more interesting, and according to a group of Dutch researchers, technological advances are now also helping equitation scientists behind the scenes better understand how we ride.

Luna

This rider is working with a saddle system placed under the saddle. A belt fitted around her waist securely holds the transmitting device and the battery.

Patricia de Cocq, DVM, MSc, equitation scientist in the experimental zoology group at the Animal Sciences Group in Wageningen, presented her review of equine biomechanics technology at the 2011 International Society for Equitation Science Conference, held Oct. 26-29 in Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands. She explained that through special strain gauges and sensor mats placed under saddles, attached to bits or nosebands, strapped in a girth, or fitted around a rider’s back, researchers can visualize real-time and highly precise force measurements on their laptops via Bluetooth. Horses can work on treadmills with or without a rider, in an arena, or out in the field while wearing this equipment. And as a result, researchers are able to gain "loads" of information about the kind of weight and pressure we humans put on many different parts of our horses’ bodies.<