Two new steps as the Chalmers fence celebrates five years

​The Chalmers fence at the Gothenburg Horse Show 2020 measures the horse's jump curve, where the horse has its highest point in relation to the fence. As the Chalmers fence now celebrates its five-year anniversary, two new steps are taken – the technology used will for the first time be based on machine learning, and the previous measurement technology from the fence will move into the Swedish Equestrian Federation's educational facility Strömsholm.
The way a horse jumps over a fence differs between both individuals and equipage. Some horses jump off too early or too late, giving the highest point before or after the fence. In an optimal jump, the highest point is just above the fence, meaning the horse used just the right technique and amount of energy for its leap.

First time with machine learning
For this year's fence, the group of students will, for the first time ever, use the Image Processing technique, where a computer is trained through machine learning to detect the horse's hooves in a filmed leap and thereby calculate the coordinates for the highest position in the jump over the fence.

“This involves some technical difficulties. In previous years, the Chalmers fence has measured one variable at a time. We are measuring both the highest point in a vertical path from the ground, and where that point relates to the fence in a horizontal direction,” says Anna Skötte, student and project manager for the Chalmers fence 2020.

The Chalmers fence project is run by Chalmers students in collaboration with Gothenburg Horse Show, with the aim of using new smart technology to broaden the knowledge of the horses' jumping technique and thereby provide scientific evidence for sustainable training and competition of horses, as well as breeding. Like last year, the competing riders in the Gothenburg Horse Show are invited to the Chalmers exhibition stand in Scandinavium's foyer to see their own measuring results.

Swedish Equestrian Federation will use the technology​
The Chalmers fence project takes yet another new and important step as the combined experience from five years of measurements at the Gothenburg Horse Show will moves into the Swedish Equestrian Federation's riding house Strömsholm. The national team leaders in the Equestrian Association Federation have made a wish list for more developed scientific technology, and Chalmers University of Technology has been asked to engage, together with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the National Horse Industry, and further develop the connected riding house at Strömsholm and supplement with cameras and sensors for biomechanics, among other things.

What does this collaboration mean for the equine industry and equestrian sports in Sweden?
“In the horse world we have a lot of commonly accepted truths that we have not been able to test scientifically. With this collaboration we have that opportunity, so from now on it is only our imagination that sets boundaries,” says Tomas Torgersen, competition manager for the Gothenburg Horse Show.

Daniel Svensson is the head teacher in horse jumping at the Strömsholm Riding School and one of the driving forces behind the collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology.

What do you hope Chalmers will contribute to the development of Strömsholm's riding house?
“Just like national teams in other sports scientifically analyse how they can change their training and achieve better results, we need to examine how the horse behaves, what the riders do and how it affects the horses. Chalmers has developed scientific technology and methods for several years, and we want to share the experience, instead of reinventing the wheel, to investigate what is most favourable to the horse and give the best results in competition,” says Daniel Svensson.

With the project "The continuation of the Chalmers fence", which is part of Chalmers’ new educational initiative Tracks, students from different disciplines will continue to develop both new and existing techniques for horse welfare and performance.

What significance does the collaboration with Strömsholm have for Chalmers?
“This means that the technology demonstrated at the Gothenburg Horse Show through the Chalmers fence is further developed and given the opportunity to reach into the horse world via Strömsholm. In addition, Chalmers students and alumni will be involved in developing technology that can change equestrian sports at the highest level, in collaboration with people and horses at one of Sweden's finest equestrian facilities, and also at a later stage make the technology available to the ordinary rider,” says Magnus Karlsteen, responsible for the Chalmers fence and Chalmers equestrian sports.

Text: Helena Österling af Wåhlberg
Photo: Johan Bodell/Mia Halleröd Palmgren/Chalmers

Published: Wed 19 Feb 2020.