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Professor heading to Spain to present research

May. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Abbey Dondanville, an associate professor in the Marshall University College of Health Professions, will travel to Barcelona, Spain, in June to present her research on the jumping biomechanics of sport horses.

For the past 30 years, Dondanville has been an avid horse rider who experienced firsthand the power behind a horse's jump.

"In 2008, we started seeing a huge spike in rider and horse deaths from what is called a rotational fall," Dondanville said, in a news release. "The horses were hitting the obstacles with their legs, which caused them to pivot, fall and ultimately crush the rider."

Dondanville, who suffered a mild concussion from a rotational fall, said she decided to begin her research immediately by studying the angles of flight within a horse's jump path. She hoped to find the cause behind the rotational falls and determine a course of action to lessen the growing occurrence of rider deaths.

What Dondanville found out changed the way she will ride a horse forever.

"We are always taught for safety to have our horse jump close to the fence," Dondanville said. "Unfortunately this is instilled too much and we aren't taught to consider speed as this is happening. By training riders to maintain the right speed and the trajectory of a horse's jump point, we can save many lives."

Dondanville, who teaches athletic training in the School of Kinesiology, said her research on the biomechanics of a horse's jump was more than an area of interest. It was a labor of love.

"My desire when doing any kind of research is making it applicable," Dondanville said. "I have such a passion for this sport, which makes it all the more meaningful that my research may provide a quick solution for a common problem."

In addition to her extensive research initiatives, Dondanville volunteers with the Ohio University Southern Equestrian and Therapeutic Riding program as a clinician and member of its advisory board.