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GPS for Rookies: Tracking Miles on Horseback

gray horse english riding trail ride
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Written by Holly N.

Get Your Steps In (Saddle Style)

Equestrians keep track of their rides for various reasons. Maybe you have a horse that’s just returning to work, and you want to monitor progress and fitness. Or perhaps you’re preparing for a big event and want to improve your time over a cross-country course. You might spend a lot of time riding solo and want the added security of someone else knowing where you’re located.

Utilizing GPS within an app or a wearable device is a great way to track your ride. If you’re training for a specific event, monitoring your rides can give you useful insights into your performance. GPS trackers also keep an eye on your mileage, track your routes, and monitor your exact location.

two horses riding into the sunset

Source: Canva

Why Track Your Ride?

Tracking your ride gives you an extra degree of safety, helps you monitor your horse’s progress and fitness, and provides insights into your training program, enabling you to create goal-oriented training plans.

Safety

One of the main reasons many riders use a GPS tracker is purely for peace of mind. No matter how confident you are in the saddle or how much experience your horse has under one, accidents do happen, and that can be scary, especially if you’re riding solo.

The best trackers and apps for safety send an alert to a chosen contact if you’re stationary for longer than a specified period.

The alert includes your GPS coordinates, so if you don’t make it home safely, someone will know where to find you.

Logging Your Training Miles

A tracker is a handy way of keeping tabs on your horse’s fitness levels and development, especially when there’s more than one person involved with a horse’s training.

You can keep track of exactly how many miles your horse is doing weekly, and schedule future rides to ensure your horse reaches peak fitness at exactly the right time.

Health & Performance

Tracking your rides gives you insights into your horse’s performance. Most apps and trackers monitor your gaits and transitions, as well as distance and duration, so you can establish which trail is best for speed work, and where you should go to test your horse’s endurance.

For instance, trails that involve a lot of hill work are great for building cardiovascular fitness, and musculoskeletal strength.

Trails covering flatter terrain are better for perfecting your canter work while improving flexibility and muscle tone.

There’s an App for That

Some equestrian apps, like Equilab or Ridely, allow you to track your rides for free and give you feedback on distance, duration, gaits, transitions, and elevation.

Alternatively, you can sign up for their premium packages and access more in-depth information, such as gait graphs and how the weather impacts your horse’s performance.

Best App: Training Log

With some horse-riding apps, you can specify the type of training session, from trail rides to dressage training or show jumping.

Logging these training sessions will help you develop a more tailor-made training program for your horse based on its current performance. Equilab is excellent for this, although Ridely also works effectively and provides additional training tools.

Best App: SOS

Horse Rider SOS is a simple app solely focused on the safety of the horse and rider and, once set up, will send an alert to a chosen contact the moment you stop for longer than the time you designated before you set off.

You can also cancel the alert if you’ve simply stopped to adjust your stirrups and don’t require assistance.

Best App: Equine Performance

Equilab is arguably the best app for tracking your rides, giving you detailed insights into how long you spent at each pace, how many transitions you performed, as well as the distance traveled.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Best Free Horse Tracker App

Equilab

  • Pro: Tracks every step, providing insights into paces, transitions, distance, and speed
  • Con: The free version doesn’t include safety tracking
Best App for Safety

Horse Rider SOS

  • Pro: Keeps track of your location and sends an alert if stationary for too long
  • Con: Doesn’t offer any insights into your pace, duration, or distance
Best Wearable Device

SaddleClip

  • Pro: Monitors horse’s movements to help you train effectively and reduce injury
  • Con: Upper price range
Best Smart Watch

Apple Watch Series 7

  • Pro: Features a dedicated equestrian category for tracking your rides and emergency fall detection
  • Con: Won’t offer any insights into your horse’s movement or fitness
Best GPS for Horseback Riding

Garmin InReach

  • Pro: Provides basic GPS navigation and satellite messaging
  • Con: Won’t monitor your horse’s fitness or progress
hors riding through gate into field

Source: Canva

Wearables

Wearable technology comes in many forms, improving safety and providing us with insights into our horse’s well-being and development.

Small, wearable gadgets can track your rides, monitor your horse’s movements, calculate the number of calories you’ve burnt, and act as an SOS alert system.

High-tech horse gear includes wearables like EquineTrac and SaddleClip, which track your rides, provide extra safety when riding solo, and help reduce the risk of injury by monitoring your horse’s movements.

Smart Watches

The best smartwatches for tracking your rides have a built-in GPS, dedicated horseback riding setting, and long battery life. Many also double up as fitness trackers.

Ride Tracking Technology

Whether you opt for an app, a wearable, a fitness tracker, or a satellite phone will largely depend on what you want to track. Wearables give the most insight into your horse’s movements, while fitness trackers focus their insights on the rider.

A satellite phone is ideal if you ride solo on remote trails but is virtually useless in an arena. Think carefully about what aspects of your ride you want to track before deciding on the best technology for the task.

When You Don’t Have Service

It’s all very well using your phone to track your rides, but what happens when you find yourself deep in the wilderness without any signal?

An app might continue tracking the ride but it won’t be able to send an alert if you run into difficulty.

Garmin InReach

Lightweight and compact, the Garmin InReach is a robust satellite phone that you can use to send messages even when there’s no cellphone coverage.

You won’t be able to make calls, but you can send a text message asking for help. You can also download maps onto the phone to help you navigate a new trail.

garmin inreach route example

Source: Bottomless Backpacks

SPOT Tracker

This satellite safety device is small yet robust and allows you to send a message to your loved ones to let them know you’re ok. If you run into trouble, press the SOS button, and the SPOT Tracker will send your GPS location to emergency services.

Satellite Phones

The best satellite phones for horse riders keep you connected no matter how far you stray from the beaten path and provide GPS navigation, maps, and, in some cases, voice capabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I track my horseback riding?

You can track your horseback riding and training sessions using an app on your phone, a wearable device like an Apple Watch, or a satellite phone or GPS.

Q: Can you add horse riding to Garmin?

If your Garmin watch uses the Garmin Connect app, you can enter horse riding as an activity.

Q: Can Garmin track horse riding?

Some Garmin devices can track horse riding, but even if yours can’t, you can still use it to track time and distance using its running tracking feature.

Q: Can you track horse riding on Strava?

This popular activity-tracking app still doesn’t cater to equestrians, although you can manually enter a horse-riding activity.

Q: Does Apple watch track horse riding?

Yes, Apple watches have an Equestrian Sports option that you can use to track horse riding.

Q: How long does it take to travel 20 miles on horseback?

A horse’s average walking pace is approximately 4 mph, so it would take around 5 hours to cover 20 miles if you only walked.

Most of us would mix up our paces a little, trotting and cantering whenever the ground was suitable, so would cover 20 miles much faster. Very fit endurance horses can complete 20 miles in less than an hour and a half.

Q: Can horses find their owners?

If you and your horse are separated on the trail, it’s unlikely they’ll come looking for you. Horses have a natural homing instinct and are more likely to head home (or back to the trailer), where their companions and food are, than search for their lost owner.

gray horse on trail wearing a double bridle

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

Tracking your rides has many benefits. Personally, it’s enabled me to see my horse’s progress since she returned to work following an injury. It also helps me keep an eye on my own fitness and ensure my training program is varied and balanced.

I really appreciate the extra safety it provides as I do solo trail rides several times a week.

Different trackers provide different insights. Apps like Equilab are great for measuring time and distance while gadgets like SaddleClip focusing more on gait, rhythm, and symmetry.

Whatever you want to track, there’s a piece of technology out there ready to give you the insights you’re craving, whether that’s calories burned or miles traveled. Some are even free, so why not try them out? You might be surprised at the impact it has on your training.

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About the author

mm

Holly started riding as a six years old in the UK and competed regularly in local events, including showjumping, cross country, showing, working hunter, and gymkhana. She now lives and rides in South Africa, working as a trail guide with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures. Her interests are primarily in the areas of DIY horse ownership, trail riding, barefoot horses, endurance, competitive trail riding, and South African breeds.