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Off to the Races

UDRI is the Sole Sulky Certifier for USTA Harness Racing

When the gates open and the horses fly at the Montgomery County Fair harness races this summer, the University of Dayton Research Institute will be riding along - in spirit. In fact, UDRI rides with every sulky in every race sanctioned by the United States Trotting Association.

Before a sulky can be manufactured in the United States or abroad and sold for use in USTA races, which encompass most harness races in the U.S., it must be certified by UDRI as track-worthy - sturdy enough to stand up to the beating it will take at the track. To certify a cart, researchers put it through a rigorous fatigue test that replicates the conditions of a race.

The Research Institute began testing sulkies about 10 years ago, when manufacturers started using lighter-weight composite materials in their carts. "The USTA was concerned that composites might not hold up as well as traditional materials," said Peter Sjöblom, research group leader for UDRI's structural test lab.

To create a fatigue test that would closely simulate what a sulky actually experiences during a race, researchers went to a racetrack. They rigged a laptop computer underneath a horse-drawn sulky to record various levels of stress and load. "Sometimes the horse kicked so hard, he'd kick the computer," Sjöblom said.

Data in hand, researchers recreated the jarring shocks in the fatigue-test machine in UD's Kettering Labs. Sulkies that endure hours of testing and remain sturdy are certified for reproduction and sale.

Sulky testing is one example of UDRI's capability in structural test methods development. For more information, contact Peter Sjöblom at (937) 229-4704.

August 2003


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