Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Rajiv Dubey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Shuh-Jing Ying, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Craig Lusk, Ph.D.


disability, equestrian, hippotherapy, kinematics, rehabilitation


Equine-assisted therapy is a nontraditional form of physical therapy that involves riding horses as a form of rehabilitation. Limited access to these riding programs justifies a need to develop a horseback riding simulator capable of simulating the gaits, bend, and collection of the horse. Research involving the development of horseback riding simulators is limited, but the available research does show promising results in the ability to aid in physical therapy.

A two-dimensional model and simulation was developed using MATLAB. Using the results from the simulation, a horseback riding simulator was designed, fabricated and tested. The physical simulator was capable of simulating a walk, trot, and canter, bend to the left or right, and collection of the gait. The purpose of the testing of the horseback riding simulator was to evaluate the similarity of the physical simulator to the gaits of the data collected from a real horse. The results from the testing are compared with the kinematic data from the MATLAB simulation. The biomechanical effect on the hip flexion angle is also evaluated when the system simulates bend and collection of the horse’s back.

The motion data was collected using a Vicon system. Four cameras were set up to collect the data from the five reflective markers that were placed on the rider. The kinematic results of the horseback riding simulator were compared to the computer simulation using the measurements of the inclination of the ellipse, the major axis of the ellipse, and the frequency. The results from the hip flexion angles shows that the test that simulated bend only results in a significant increase in the hip flexion angle compared to the tests without bend. Simulated collection does not change the hip flexion angles of the rider.

Future work on the horseback riding simulator is needed in order to increase the safety so that a person with a disability would be able to use it as part of their physical therapy. Adaptive programming of the system is also necessary to make the horseback riding simulator more similar to that of a real horse.