MIKE the mechanical horse is number 34 staying at Derby College’s new equestrian centre.
While he is needs a great deal less upkeep then the other 33 real horses, he plays a vital role helping people who have not ridden before to start them off while perfecting techniques of more experienced riders.
Steph Meadows, equine lecturer at the centre, said: “He helps students who come here with less experience get used to the movement of a horse and helps those who are experienced improve their posture and riding position.
“He walks and trots and students can focus entirely on what they’re doing when they use him.
“They don’t have to worry about what’s going on around them as they would on a horse.”
The other 33 horses live on site in stables built as part of a major revamp of an old farm.
Old barns have been transformed into stables, a horse walker has been installed and the biggest addition to the site, an indoor school, opened at the start of the year.
“We still use the outdoor school but having the indoor area has been brilliant for the students,” added Steph.
“The indoor school really is top of the range and is an excellent facility that we are very privileged to have here.
“It’s meant that we’ve been able to continue teaching throughout the winter without worrying about the weather.
“It also gives us opportunity to use the centre in the evenings for our short courses.”
Students studying at the centre learn everything about horses and how to care for them on the courses offered.
Everything from grooming and mucking out to jumping and first aid make up the modules.
They use the college’s 33 horses, most of which are on loan to the college in return for stable accommodation and care, to learn everything they might need to know for a job in the equestrian industry.
Theory lessons involve everything from the skeleton of horses and the science behind them to the types of food the animals should be fed.
“Our students go on to do any number of jobs related to horses,” said Steph. “We have a student here now who is already working at weekends with a lady who has a horse-drawn carriage that she uses for funerals and she’ll have a job at the end of the course.”
She added: “We’ve had people go on to work in yards and stables and students who have gone on to work in the feed and nutrition side of things.
“Some go on to study at university when they complete. People don’t realise the amount of opportunities there are.”
For a full list of the full-time, short-term and evening courses on offer visit www.derby-college.ac.uk or call 0800 028 0289.