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Minister Heydon announces investment in equine skills simulators

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Farm Safety, Martin Heydon T.D. has announced investment in three equestrian training simulators at Teagasc Kildalton College at Piltown, County Kilkenny.

Minister Heydon announces investment in equine skills simulators

The simulators will assist students in the development of safe equestrian skills for riding and training horses. Two of the simulators are targeted towards riding skills on the flat, while the third is for jumping training.

Speaking at the launch of the simulators, Minister Heydon said: “Our equine industries are something we can be very proud of. They make a huge contribution to rural communities and are an intrinsic part of our culture and heritage. However, there are unique risks when it comes to working with horses. These simulators represent a significant commitment by my Department and Teagasc to ensuring that people in the equine industry get the best opportunity to develop their skills early in their careers, while also catering for more experienced riders who want to improve their skills.” 

A survey into equine related injuries shows that over two thirds of equine related injuries occur due to falling from a horse. The early development of safe riding skills is a key action to reduce the incidence of injuries in the equine industry, particularly for those who break and ride horses in training.

Minister Heydon added:  “Where possible we must minimise the risk of injury and these equine simulators will allow for training in a safe environment before students move to undergoing instruction with horses in a practical setting. Safety must be the priority for every sector of Irish agriculture.”

Teagasc Head of Education, Dr Anne Marie Butler thanked Minister Heydon and his Department for providing funding to procure the simulators. Dr Butler said: “It is fantastic to acquire these Equestrian Simulators which will greatly enhance our teaching and student learning and will improve both safety and equestrian skills.  Our students and staff are really excited to have access to these simulators.” 

Kildalton College Principal, Tim Ashmore stated that Equitation and Stud Management training is an expanding offering at Kildalton College, with safety training being an integral component of courses.

Rosemary Gaffney, Lead Educator of Equestrian training at Kildalton College said that use of the simulators will improve student safety by assisting to develop both riding ability and core strength for riding.  Use of riding simulators will assist in producing horses with consistent training for the sales industry both at home and abroad. The jumping simulator will give students an initial proficiency in riding and jumping, without a safety risk.

Teagasc Senior Health and Safety Specialist, Dr John McNamara said that plans are in place for use of the simulators by horse sector groups such as pony clubs, coaching and research related to riding techniques.  In this way the simulators will be a resource to improve safety standards in the equitation sector.