Challenge:  Horse Simulator
Challenger:  Richard Cicero
University Partner:  University of South Florida
Student Team:  Travis Williams, Dale Shirley-Potopsingh, Giang Diang, Jonathan Sangiorgio, and, Amanda Hymer
Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Stephanie Carey and Laura Byrnes-Blanco
QL+ Program Manager:  Barb Springer

Project Summary:

There are different forms of rehabilitation that exist to improve upon coordination, balance, and strength. Our project specifically works with hippotherapy which is basically a form of rehabilitation from riding horses. This works with all types of people who are looking to rebuild their strength for physical therapy or simply want to learn how to ride a horse. The horse simulator project will work with disabled veterans with learning how to mount, ride, and stabilize themselves on a horse while rebuilding their own core muscles. All of this will be done with the advancements of the CAREN system working along with the simulator.

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The CAREN (Computer Aided Rehabilitation Environment) is the main focus of this project. This machine is being used throughout the country in the biomedical industry and is thoroughly used for rehabilitation purposes. The horse simulator will provide a new opportunity for these machines by allowing a user to feel the true motions of a horse in their own rhythm at their own pace. The ultimate goal for the user would be learning how to mount, balance, and ride a horse through the different aspects of the simulator.

The simulator itself will have a variety of settings to allow for different speeds. It will reflect upon the walking, trotting, cantering, and running speeds of a horse. In each of these speeds, the legs of a horse move differently. In walking, only one leg is off of the ground at a time while in running all four legs are off the ground at a time. The complex motion will be done through the individual legs that have a pair of actuators on each leg. These actuators will allow for the needed displacement of stress that a rider feels on an actual horse. The final goal with these actuators is to provide the most realistic situation possible with feeling the legs of the horse moving the rider back and forth. The motion will force the rider to balance themselves on the simulator in the same way that they would need to balance on a true horse.

The final design of the horse simulator is four individual legs that attach to different parts of the CAREN system, a base saddle that allows for the installation of a normal horse saddle, and a balanced structure that works for the natural rocking motion of a horse. The balanced structure allows for the user to move forwards and backward to get the final feeling of being balanced on the horse simulator. The individual legs with the actuators will provide the feeling of the hips and shoulders moving in unison with the rider. On a normal horse, the legs and joints force the rider to bounce up and down to the point where they begin standing up as the horse runs faster. This motion is mimicked through the motion of the actuators upwards and the four-bar mechanism that works in proportion to a horse’s leg. These two structures combined have the same result to replicate the muscle form of a horse to provide the most realistic form possible. The figure down below shows the final design completely installed on the CAREN system.

The horse simulator is broken apart into six pieces; four legs, base saddle, and balancing support beam. Each of these parts is made up of 3003 aluminum alloy to make them easy to carry and transport onto the CAREN system. The size of each part is small enough to be portable. Once installed, two legs will go into the sides of the treadmill, two legs with the balance support beam will sit on the treadmill, and there will be clamps to connect to the back railings. All of this is centered below a harness on the CAREN itself that the user is strapped into for safety.
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Altogether, this simulator works to be around two thousand dollars for both the material and labor needed. The final design works to provide the most realistic movements of a horse while providing complete safety to the user themselves. The design also works with an external user to be able to change the speeds and work with the motion of the rider to provide the best experience in their own physical therapy. The horse simulator project will be a great addition for any CAREN system, and it will allow for any person to work a new way into physical therapy or to simply learn how to ride a horse with these new advancements in technology.