Dressurstall Volker Eubel, outside Cologne, Germany.

In December 2018 the Audiovisability team flew to Germany to meet at Laurentia’s training centre near Cologne, where her horse Sherlock is based. Here, the team met Volker Eubel (Laurentia’s German coach/horse trainer), Penny Pegrum (UK coach), and groomers Celine and Julia. The day was about introducing Sherlock to the SUBPAC and giving Laurentia the chance to practice her floorplan while wearing the SUBPAC. In preparation for this, the marimba recording of Evelyn Glennie had been added to the composition and Chris had created the custom track for the SUBPAC which made the overall vibration much clearer.

Following Laurentia’s rehearsals, the Audiovisability team were given a talk about the technical aspects of Dressage, complete with demonstrations of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ technique on the horses. This made it easier for all the AV team members to understand what the judges look out for at competitions and would be useful information for the following day.

At the end of the day, the team discussed the benefits of the SUBPAC with Volker, Penny, Celine, and Julia. Both Volker and Penny were extremely impressed with the technology and said they had seen a marked difference in Laurentia’s performance with the vest on. Penny felt very strongly about the vibrotactile technology and said she would work on raising this issue with the Paralympian authorities to enable Laurentia to have equal access to the music through this technology.

Day 2: On the concluding day of the R&D, Laurentia performed two identical freestyle performances – one with the vest, and the other without – to Germany’s national competition judge, M Zimmermann. Without knowing which performance was which, Zimmermann awarded Laurentia an overall score of 6% higher in the performance with the technology.

This demonstrates a remarkable difference in Laurentia’s performance with the vibrotactile technology, and as reported by Zimmermann, resulted in a much more relaxed and consistent performance overall.

Laurentia was also astounded by the results:

“This made my team and I realise how much of a disadvantage a deaf rider is at compared to our hearing peers, both in training and competitions. As a profoundly deaf rider, I am unable to hear anything, but with the vibro-tactile vest I can follow the beat of the music compared to nothing but the memory from training. This will put deaf people on a more level playing field… And hopefully inspire other deaf riders in the equestrian field of dressage!”