Inspired by the same technology that brought the world heart-monitoring lingerie, “smart” tack may one day be a critical health tool for horses.
With ears, eyes and bucks, horses can be quite expressive. However, as anyone who’s forked out tons of cash for dead-end diagnoses, equines are not always the best at expressing exactly what’s wrong with their bodies. Scientists are working on something that could help.
Blending the stretchy, wicking fabrics that have made it possible for well-endowed women to ride horses without getting black eyes, and hi-tech sensors, researchers in Sweden and Australia are working on smart textiles that could be integrated into tack to help monitor physiological changes in horses.
“Riders and trainers are looking for ways to improve the performance. The racing industry wants to study the pulse in an as easy a way as possible,” Johanna Ternstrom, a master’s student at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology who is working to develop smart textiles for equine sports, told Popular Science.
The idea, Ternstrom said, came from technology already in use in sports bras and chest bands that monitor our pro athletes’ heart rates, with one tricky difference: “Humans don’t have fur.” She and other members of her team have developed a prototype material that overcomes that obstacle, according to thehorse.com.
They’ve come up with two varieties of the fabric so far. One is a textile ECG sensor that measures what the horse’s heart’s doing. The other’s an elongation sensor that can, for example, monitor a girth or breastplate to see how a horse’s muscles are contracting.
Is your horse’s suspensory ligament on its way out? One day, there might be an app for that. Your smart tack might send a message to your smart phone that your horse is, well, smarting.
Check out this video about hi-tech tack:
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