Children in Warwickshire are taking part in an online race in which school-buses full of horses are powered by the amount of exercise they do.

Year six pupils at three junior schools in the county are piloting the Horse Power Challenge, which was developed by commissioning services provider Humana.

The company is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and it originally developed the game to tie-in with last year’s Kentucky Derby. It is now working with NHS Warwickshire to see how it goes down in the UK and whether it can effectively support fitness and anti-obesity initiatives.

Participating children wear web-enabled pedometers. The exercise they record generates “horsepower.” Each child in a class is represented by a cartoon horse riding in a yellow school bus. The buses and therefore classes race each other, although children can also collect accessories for their horse, such as sunglasses and hairstyles.

Lee Philips, Humana director of communications, said the US pilot had shown that children taking part in the challenge had become more active and so had their families.

“It really got families involved. They would make a point of going out for a walk or to do some other activity that would count towards the challenge,” he said. “We have been doing a lot of work around how children can influence their parents and it seems this is one of the things that can work.”

Humana has not changed the all-American look of the Horse Power Challenge for the UK pilot. Philips said it was interested to see whether children wanted a more localised feel, or whether they would like it “being a bit foreign.”

The Warwickshire pilot started yesterday and will run for four weeks. Philips said a number of primary care trusts had expressed interest in the idea. Humana is also working with NHS Warwickshire on communications and mental health commissioning.