“Smart Design and Equine Sports” – Naomi Tidball
“Moving together means working together.”
Menke Steenbergen, founder of IPOS Technology.
On April 28th, 2021, the Transmission in Motion Seminar hosted a discussion on ‘smart technology’ in fashion with Pauline van Dongen (fashion designer) and scholar Lianne Toussaint (Media and Culture) (Utrecht, 2021). As part of their Ph.D. projects, van Dongen and Toussaint reflect on their project, wearable designs,’ and the intersection between Academics and Design (Ibid, 2021). From this discussion, keywords/concepts/theories such as post-phenomenological, mediation, and materialism made me think about other innovative designs created for equestrians.
Like other sport disciplines and companies, the equestrian industry has also created clothing and equipment under smart design for equine disciplines. For example, a body protection line by the equestrian company, Charles Owen. As a company, they sell various protective gear, such as sports vests, which inflate when a horseback rider falls off their horse [i]. However, in many areas of equestrian activities, fashion, and equipment design often focus on the safety and benefits of humans instead of a deeper engagement with their “furry” partners.
Despite a heavier focus on human safety in equestrian sports, there are, however, recent technological designs that also focus on the safety of horses. For example, in Eindhoven Netherlands, Ipos Technology[ii] created a wearable rein sensor that monitors the connection between the rider and horse. By attaching the small tracking monitor to the reins, the sensor device can record the rider’s contact with the horse.[iii] These recordings transmit results through any smartphone device. Thus, coaches and riders benefit by tracking (Bluetooth) and ensuring pressure changes they put on their companions.
The comparison that I draw from Ipos Technology’s products and the seminar with van Dongen and Toussaint (2021) in the context of “Material and emotional durability” (Van Dongen & Lianne Toussaint, 2020). In the article, “In Touch with the Now: Stimulating Mindfulness Through a Smart Denim Jacket,” van Dongen and Toussaint reflect on their test; on the third aspect of the experience with the Issho, van Dongen and Toussaint researched the experience of wearing the denim jacket which they designed; what were the emotional factors? What were the emotional states of the wearers? (ibid, 2020) Although I could not retrieve testimony on Ipos’s products, what I take away from the images of the sensor, and their target (advertisement/mission) is that the monitor is attached to the reins of the bridle. Thus, it is a device that is not invasive to the horse, and the overall goal of the device is to benefit the partnership of both participants.
From my experience in the equestrian world, I believe that this specific device is another material artifact that seeks to alleviate and better communicate contact pressure between a rider’s hands and their horse; thus, rendering it a smart design.
- van Dongen, Pauline & Lianne Toussaint. 2020. ‘In Touch with the Now – Stimulating Mindfulness through a Smart Denim Jacket.’ ArtEZ Platform for Research Interventions of the Arts (APRIA), 1 (1), (pp. 112-119) (8 p.). https://apria.artez.nl/in-touch-with-the-now/
- Steenbergen, Menke. 2018. “Ipos Technology| About.” Ipos Technology. https://nl.ipostechnology.com/about.
[i] These vests are very popular in the equestrian discipline known as Cross-country, or Three-Day Eventing.
[ii] Menke Steenbergen, the founder of Ipos Technology, did her studies in veterinary medicine, and also a qualified dressage instructor. From her experience in veterinary studies, Steenbergen wanted to create a device that would benefit both rider and horse balance and well-being (Steenbergen, 2018).
[iii] The term contact refers to the pressure/aids a rider has with their horse. For instance, a rider uses their ‘legs’ to ‘aid’ movement.