college of engineering white

Group 12: Mechanical Horse


The goal of the project is to fix, improve, and redesign a mechanical horse simulator to better suit the needs of the client for teaching people with special needs the proper basics of riding an actual horse.

Group 12a: Walker Hudlow Warren Sims Haley Smallwood Cason Worthy Group 12b: Gavin Dies Joseph Gordon David Richey Noah Simpson

Problem Statement

As stated on their website, “Manna’s HANA is a nonprofit corporation founded through love to provide recreational riding for individuals with special needs by means of equine-assisted activities.” Manna’s Hana Riding Center has already received a mechanical horse from Tennessee Tech, but has found some issues with it. The biggest issue is that it is too big for many of the kids to properly straddle. There is also an issue with the fact that the mechanical horse had been broken once before because of the insufficient weight limit. This has led to the client asking for us to design a horse that can handle more weight. Reigns were installed on the horse as well that would light up yellow for left or right steering, and red for braking. These were not properly installed in the first iteration, and as a result, this feature does not work. The movement also needs to be fixed, as the client does not feel that it moves quite like a horse should, and there is a bit of rubbing of materials. The head is also a little on the heavier side, so the means of attachment needs to reconsidered for it to not have as much of an impact on the system.

Design Specifications

  • The customer wants to redesign the body of the mechanical horse to fit a smaller 30 gallon barrel vs 50 gallon barrel to allow smaller children to ride it
  • Improve weight capacity from 160 lbs to 180 lbs
  • More realistic movement of the mechanical horse in X, Y, and Z directions
  • A more responsive and reliable electrical response system for the reigns with increased sensitivity of LED steering application for better learning technique

Concept Design 1

Body and Motion:

  • The goal of this concept is to create a “body” for the horse that is easier for students to mount and straddle.
    • The horse simulator is currently equipped with a 55 gallon barrel for the body, but it is a bit too large for some of the students.
    • The client has suggested maybe using a 30 gallon barrel instead.
    • One solution is to use a 30 gallon barrel.
    • Another solution is to potentially strategically cut and bend the existing 55 gallon barrel.
  • The goal of this concept is to create a realistic walking and trotting motion in the machine that is also rigid and capable enough to bear the specified weight.
    • Ideally, it will properly simulate the rolling walk and dramatic bouncing of a non-gaited horse trotting
    • A posting aid will also be incorporated to help clients practice posting before getting on a real horse.
    • Drawbacks of this design are
      • Would need a much stronger motor for guaranteed performance
      • Requires more than one motor or a computer system

Concept Design 2


The new design will be based on the old design, and will feature some sort of tubed aluminum, most probably 7075. The purpose of this is that  aluminum has an  even Axial and Bending strength to weight ratio compared to the wood.  This and the final dimensions of the full assembly, which depends on concepts from the other team, will be decided after the initial concept review.  Strength to weight ratios come from makeitfrom materials database

Material properties database. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2021, from


Concept Design 3


  • The goal of this concept is to fix the issue with the reins not properly lighting up when the students pull on the reins.
    • The reins are currently not lighting up when you pull them because of wiring issues.
    • The clients want to have a bit of adjustability in the sensitivity of the reins.
    • One solution is to set up an Arduino and allow the client to adjust the sensitivity while repairing the previous design.
    • The other solution is to use a pull switch that we redesign.

Selected Concept Design

Motion and body:

  • The contour of the horse they use will be most accurately modeled with smaller barrel as the body.
  • The motion will be more realistic than before and can help even experienced riders with nearly no risk of injury.
  • Smaller learning curve going to the real horse from practice.
  • Allows for a realistic equine experience even during periods of bad weather
  • Capable of withstanding more weight than original design

Frame and Reins:

  • A better functioning and more responsive reign-pulling system. At the moment, it  has not been completely decided as to which system will be used.
  • A strengthened base for higher strength and durability along with wider design to accommodate the customers’ want for a higher maximum weight limit.
  • A better design for transportation and movement that allows anyone to easily relocate it.


Decision Matrix

Overview of Selected Design

  • Motion:
    • “Fancy Horse”
  • Body:
    • 30 gallon plastic barrel supported by metal “skeleton.”
  • Frame:
    • Metal 4-leg frame
  • Reigns:
    • Arduino microprocessor.

Engineering Analysis 1

Your goal for analysis, your method of analysis, and results.

Document Fabrication Process

Document your build process with text and images.

Testing Results

Describe testing to ensure the system is safe.


2021 Spring