Computer modelling is being brought into play as researchers work toward a better understanding of cross-country eventing mishaps, in the hope they can identify ways to prevent forward momentum turning into a dangerous rotational fall.
The study team at the University of Kentucky hope that fresh insights garnered during their ongoing research will ultimately provide guidance and lay out requirements for the sport’s course and safety device designers.
Dr Suzanne Weaver Smith, in an update to the US Eventing Association, has outlined progress on development of rotational fall computer simulations, the use of video analysis, and on-course fence-contact data processing.
Weaver Smith, the research team leader, brings a lot of skills to the table, combining the eventing experience she gained through testing safety devices, demonstrations for course builders and designers, and participating in research that led to development of FEI Eventing standards.
The focus of much of her career has been in aerospace, where she developed expertise in complex dynamics, computer simulations, and field testing. Her skills have enabled her to apply or develop techniques that can be used to understand and help prevent rotational falls.
“To understand and take into account the variability of the many conditions and situations that lead to rotational falls, we will use a Monte Carlo simulation similar to those used in weather forecasting,” she explained.
“The computer models developed will enable us to consider thousands of different combinations quickly. Our goal is to understand this complex motion thoroughly, and thus how to best prevent the conversion of forward momentum into a rotational fall for various fences.
“The model incorporates approach speed and direction, contact force and duration, horse and rider weight and size, among others.
“Our progress to date has been to bring together the best information available on each aspect of the motion.
“Unfortunately, one of the key pieces – horse size and shape – has very little information available from previous studies.
“We decided to ask the Eventing community for help with a “citizen science” survey that requests a few measurements of eventing horse size, weight, and rider height/weight.
“This survey aims to help us understand the sizes and weights of Eventing horses and riders to use realistic information in our study of collapsible and deformable fences to improve safety.”
Weaver Smith is joined in the study team by Gregorio Robles-Vega, a Masters student in the university’s Mechanical Engineering Department who is developing the rotational fall computer simulations for his thesis; Lange Ledbetter, a senior in the department with experience in photography, software and data processing, which he is using to perform video analysis and on-course fence contact data processing; Christina Heilman, a rider majoring in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, who contributed to Spring 2016 efforts before graduating in May; and Shannon Wood, an Eventing rider and Engineering Physics undergraduate at Murray State University in Kentucky who joined the team for the summer, developing the horse size and shape survey among other contributions.