BRIC professor’s invention transforms horse therapy field

Rylee Seavers | Broadcast Reporter

Dr. Brian Garner, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is breaking new ground at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) with the invention of the Mechanical Horse Simulator.

“It’s a stationary apparatus, but it has a moving seat and the seat recreates the complex, three-dimensional motion pattern that a horse generates when it’s walking,” Garner said.

The machine is the product of 11 years of work. It was inspired by horse therapy and Garner said the project began by studying the movement patterns of horses in 2007.

“I began by just projecting those motions on the computer screen and staring at them and looking at them and analyzing them to see what kind of mechanical apparatus or mechanism could we use to recreate those motion patterns,” Garner said.

The first prototype of the Mechanical Horse Simulator was built by students in 2009. Now, there are 20 completed units, five of which are being used for research and 10 of which are being used by customers.

Garner’s said the vision behind the Mechanical Horse Simulator is make the physical motion from horse therapy more accessible, regardless of location, weather, allergy or fear.

Garner said the machine can be beneficial for people with different types of neuromuscular conditions, like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. This is because the movement stimulates the neural pathways, making the body respond and in turn, strengthen muscles and improve posture.

“We really hope that it will have a wide impact on a lot of people and benefit them and increase their quality of life. And, we’re already seeing that in a number of people’s lives of individuals that are using this in the clinic and the couple that are actually using this in their own home,” Garner said.

The machine is sold through the company Chariot Innovations, which was created in 2014. Garner said the company’s goal is to provide therapeutic benefits through motion. All construction and research is done in the BRIC.

Dr. Truell Hyde, Vice Provost for Research, said they are not aware of any other machines like Garner’s, which is not unusual for the BRIC.

“I think at least part of that is because you have the overlap between research industry, workforce development and all the other things we’ve talked about in one building,” Hyde said. “So that when they run up against something that they have a question about, sometimes it’s as easy as walking out of their lab and walking across the hall to somebody else’s lab and asking a question.”

Garner said the opportunity to conduct this research has been humbling and truly a blessing.

“We really want to bless people and help people as we’re able to,” Garner said.