Ride Amerika, a fully interactive dressage simulator, provides a way for horsemen to improve their riding. The simulator was developed by Racewood Industries
"Most (of the simulators) are on the West Coast, where Amerika was before she was moved to North Carolina," Beth Esfandiari said. "She is the first and only simulator of this type in the Southeast."
An opportunity to work with horsemen, mostly women, who were returning to riding after a number of years served as the impetus for Esfandiari to start working with the simulator, she said.
"They were fearful and lacked a solid foundation in proper seat and aids," Esfandiari said. "Amerika enables them to gain confidence, fitness and practice proper application of aids, so that when they return to working with their living horses, they are able to continue to progress. Their horses are spared the steepest part of the riders' learning curve."
The simulator is equipped with rein, leg and seat sensors that interpret input and provide answers accordingly, said Esfandiari. The simulator has five gaits - a walk, a collected and walking trot and a collected and working canter.
The simulator has the ability to provide horsemen with a number of therapeutic riding benefits, said Esfandiari.
A rider who is returning to the saddle after time off as the result of an injury or who has disabilities can use the simulator as part of their rehabilitation program to improve their fitness, coordination and balance, said Esfandiari, who is a John Lyons certified instructor and has found natural horsemanship and Lyons' conditioned response system to be extremely beneficial in helping her evolve as a horseman.
The simulator has controls on the left shoulder and can be operated by the instructor while mounted by the horseman.
Esfandiari is a student of dressage and attends clinics with dressage instructors but doesn't compete. She sees how the simulator has been a powerful resource in providing riders with insight into how they may improve the inconsistencies associated with their seat. Horsemen have a tendency to repeat their riding habits - good and bad - while on the simulator, she said.
"Most of the habits the riders aren't aware of, and some of the subtleties couldn't possibly be detected and addressed on a living horse moving at speed across a dusty arena from an instructor," said Esfandiari. "The rider is able to concentrate completely on themselves without the added challenge of controlling the horse, and the instructor is within a foot of the rider, even at the canter and has the ability to manually adjust the rider if needed."