Virtual-Reality Experience Puts Participants in Saddle

Pop CultureContent provided by Blood-horse
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association

Attendees at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg have been lining up to try a newly developed virtual-reality experience that allows users to experience horse racing from a completely new perspective: through the eyes of a jockey or harness driver. 

The 360-degree virtual reality experience — using video filmed during actual Thoroughbred and harness races in Pennsylvania — allows individuals wearing a virtual reality headset to look left, right, and behind them as they race against other horses toward the finish line.

To complete the Thoroughbred racing experience, users can even experience the simulated virtual reality race while riding on an Equicizer, a mechanical horse that mimics the motion of a 1,200-pound horse galloping at top speed.

In the coming months, the creators of the virtual-reality experience plan to debut a specially created race bike that will mimic the feel of a harness race as well.  

The virtual-reality experience was created by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association as a way to allow more members of the public to experience the excitement of horse racing with the hope of enticing them to later visit one of Pennsylvania’s six racetracks.

“This is our way of bringing the racetrack out to the public and giving them a taste of what it’s like to experience horse racing live and in person,” said Pete Peterson, president of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association. “We are literally putting fans in the saddle or in the driver’s seat and allowing them to experience a race from the perspective of a jockey or driver. It’s unique, exciting, and gives fans a new appreciation of the sport that we hope prompts them to visit one of Pennsylvania’s six racetracks to enjoy the races in person.

“Before, most people could only imagine what it feels and looks like to guide a magnificent race horse through the curves and down the backstretch,” Peterson added. “Now they can experience it for themselves.”

Attendees of the Pennsylvania Farm Show can participate in the virtual-reality experience free of charge, although it is limited to individuals 12 year of age and older. The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association is located at booth 599-600 in the main exhibit hall. 

The footage for each experience was shot during races at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville and The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington using a 360-degree, high-definition camera mounted on the helmets of both jockeys and drivers.

After the Pennsylvania Farm Show, the PHRA plans to take the new virtual-reality experience to fairs, festivals, and other events throughout the state in 2020.  

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