Roush's Racehorse Training Vehicle Is Crazier Than Any Mustang It's Made
Training racehorses is a serious business. Winning or losing could mean a lot of money changing hands, and a lot of women in funny hats at the Kentucky Derby gasping audibly. It's serious stuff. That's why Turkish-based Kurt Systems contracted Roush Technologies—the people who make the fast Mustangs—to see if they could come up with a vehicle that would also help make real horses faster too. What it came up with was this, the Roush racehorse training car.
To start, the RRTC (as I've dubbed it) is likely one of the strangest vehicles you've ever seen, assuming you don't spend a lot of time searching the word custom on Craigslist. Its floorpan is shaped like a giant U, with an enclosed cab at the back and a racehorse-in-training strapped into the empty space between the two front wheels. There might be some slightly unnecessary curves in the final design, but really most of its inherent weirdness comes down to its incredibly specific function. Let's talk through some of the technology in this thing.
First of all, the four-ton RRTC isn't being pulled by the horse for strength training as you might surmise. The rear wheels are powered by a 2.4-liter five-cylinder diesel engine out of a Volvo via an automatic transmission, and it can run from a gentle trot up to 37 mph. Suspension parts are sourced from a Ford F-150, while the cross-braced frame and hydraulic steering system are custom jobs.
Beyond the drivetrain, things get stranger, because again this is all designed around the horse up front. For instance, there's a battery of sensors attached to the animal that can monitor things like oxygen levels, heart rate, and general fitness. The RRTC also has a custom silicone saddle that fits on the horses back, which can enable one of the people inside the vehicle—there's room for a driver, a trainer, and a vet—to simulate the weight of a jockey using hydraulics. The horse's reins are also electronic, so you can direct the animal to turn one way or the other when the vehicle is turning as well.
As for the big U shape? In addition to making room for the horse, the open area between the operator and the animal is there so the horse can walk forwards into it and turn around 180 degrees to get set up.
I haven't been able to track down a video of it in action, but here's a look at a similar machine:
What all of this technology and car parts adds up to is an all-in-one racehorse training machine. According to Kurt Systems, the company that commissioned the vehicle from Roush back in 2008, it's a "successful on-track and off-track single-horse trainer, able to meet the increasingly sophisticated demands of the race industry worldwide." It was supposed to enter serial production, though I've only been able to find pictures of a couple models, which makes sense given the incredibly specific market for it.
But this whole horse racing deal might as well be on a different planet as far as I'm concerned, and I'm a pretty experienced horseback rider (not in a jockey kind of way). This car honestly just weirds me out. It shows how industrialized we've made the business of horse racing. Not quite as soulless as those overhead rail-based training systems, but still kind of unsettling.
Or maybe it's just those two headlights that look like eyes. Yeah, it's that.
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