Participation in equestrian sport is a high risk activity for both horse and rider. In particular, the frequency of accidents associated with jumping has highlighted the need to identify contributory factors. In the sport of eventing, the number of human injuries and fatalities have resulted in the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) commissioning an audit of risk factors associated with the cross-country phase of this discipline. Certain features of jump design were found to relate to an increased risk of the horse falling, including those built using frangible pins (which can be knocked down), downhill fences, water jumps and specific jump configurations. Other contributory factors included the speed of approach to the jump, rider skill level and additional factors that may affect visual judgement and successful performance. This aim of this project is to conduct an in-depth evaluation of these factors to further inform jump and course design, and to use these findings to develop video-based rider training methods.
This project will involve an inter-disciplinary approach, incorporating expertise from the areas of Psychology and Equestrian Sports Performance, together with the opportunity to work with an international company, An Eventful Life. An Eventful Life’s video team attend eventing competitions in Australia, New Zealand and the UK to video the cross country rounds of every rider in each class. Their aim is to film all riders over a minimum of 95% of all cross country jumps for each class by positioning approximately 30 cameras on course in fixed locations that run continuously for the whole day. This will provide a unique opportunity for data collection and contact with equestrian athletes, course designers, event managers and competition officials at events from grassroots to international level.
A range of methods will be used to identify the key factors that contribute to successful jump clearance. This may include the following:
- A comparative review of archive video footage (available from An Eventful Life) to assess factors associated with successful and unsuccessful jump clearance at past events
- On-site evaluation of course conditions and horse / rider performance (to include approach speed, equipment and other factors, to be determined)
- Conduct focus groups with elite equestrian athletes to identify potential cognitive mechanisms underlying successful jump performance
- The collection of visual data from a sample of elite athletes in a non-competitive scenario, using mobile eye-tracking equipment
The findings will be assimilated to enable the development of video-based training approaches and where appropriate inform jump and course design. The potential for video data to be used in other applications to improve safety in eventing and other high risk sporting activities will be assessed.
The successful candidate will be involved with An Eventful Life’s video team ‘in the field’ at approximately 25 events per annum during the UK eventing season (early March – late October) to create footage and collect data pertinent to each event (ground and weather conditions, level of event, rider feedback, liaise with event officials/gain feedback). The events normally run for two days on weekends and require some set-up the day prior to the start of the event. These tasks take place outdoors in all weathers and require a physically fit person with a strong working knowledge of the sport of eventing (particularly the cross country phase), basic video filming skills, strong inter-personal skills to work with event personnel and good computer based skills. The successful candidate must be comfortable with learning to use new technology. Previous experience of monitoring human gaze behaviour using eye tracking technology would be an advantage, but is not essential.
The majority of the data collection for this project will take place during the UK equestrian eventing season, with additional trials to be conducted as required. The successful candidate must be willing to travel, have a clean UK driving licence and be committed to spending at least 25 weekends ‘in the field’ during the season, and prepared for early starts (some events require starting at 5.00).
This is a 50:50 funded project between NTU and An Eventful Life.
Paul Higgs (An Eventful Life)
Applications are invited from candidates with a UK Honours Degree (or equivalent) at 2.1 or above in a relevant subject (for example, equine science, psychology, biological science, sports science).
The successful candidate must be comfortable with learning to use new technology. Previous experience of monitoring human gaze behaviour using eye tracking technology would be an advantage, but is not essential.
The successful candidate must be willing to travel, have a clean UK driving licence and be committed to spending at least 25 weekends ‘in the field’ during the season, and prepared for early starts (some events require starting at 5.00).
Fees and funding
This is a 50:50 funded project between NTU and An Eventful Life
The studentship will pay UK/EU tuition fees. It will also provide a maintenance stipend of approximately £14,777 per year for three years (the stipend is linked to the RCUK rate, starting in 2018).
Applications from non-EU students are welcome, but a successful candidate would be responsible for paying the difference between non-EU and UK/EU fees. Fees for 2017/18 are £13,250 for non-EU students and £4,260 for UK/EU students.
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