How Technology is Shaping Equine Management
Forty years ago, the most “high tech” piece of horse equipment I owned was a hoof pick. Since then, the equestrian world has started opening its eyes to the potential of both new and existing technologies. Whether it’s an airbag jacket or a horse walker, there’s now an abundance of technological solutions for every horse owner’s problems.
Initially, equine technology developed slowly. In recent years, though, there’s been an explosion of new gadgets and apps designed to help equestrians of all levels and disciplines. From stable security to optimizing your workout in the saddle, the sky’s the limit when it comes to technological solutions for equine management.
High-Tech Eq: Equine Technology
What is equine technology?
Equine technology is a broad term encompassing any form of technology that assists the horse or rider. It includes safety equipment for riders, tracking technology for barn owners, wireless trailer cameras, and auto-tracking cameras. If you use one of the best apps for horse riders, you’re already using some of the latest equine technology.
It might surprise you to know that equine technology has been around for hundreds of years. The first mechanical horse was invented in 1867 but bears little resemblance to the mechanical horses of today.
How has equine technology changed over the years?
Equine technology is becoming increasingly available and affordable, making it more appealing to the larger equestrian world.
Gadgets and apps that were once only available to top equestrians and the racing industry are now becoming commonplace in most barns.
Advancements in microtechnology mean that wearable horse gadgets are becoming increasingly diverse, from sensors that monitor your horse overnight to apps that track your training sessions.
As people become more accustomed to the convenience technology provides in other aspects of their lives, they become increasingly willing to introduce it into their equestrian lives.
What is new in the world of equine technology?
Technologies that have transformed other sports are becoming increasingly popular and widespread within the horse community.
Apps and gadgets that enable horse riders to improve performance, access different training resources, and track their progress are gaining momentum, alongside other ground-breaking technologies.
For those in the horse tech business, collaboration is the future. Leading companies like Equo, StableGuard, and BarnManager are looking for ways to “grow and improve together.”
In doing so, they hope to introduce technology that simplifies the horse owners’ daily responsibilities and enables them to reach their goals.
Aside from more mainstream technology, advancements are also being made in big tech solutions.
3D printing could prove invaluable in creating ergonomic shoes, splints, and casts to treat injuries and hoof problems. Robots could support badly injured horses, facilitating their recovery, and drones may prove better at determining lameness than today’s leading veterinarians.
In the racing industry, millions of dollars are being invested to develop safer ways to train young horses.
A few years ago, a rollercoaster-style horse training machine was unveiled in Lambourn. By taking the humans out of the equation, they hope that this 20-million-pound piece of technology will “improve the preparation and pre-training of young racehorses,” reducing the risk of injury and enabling trainers to assess their horses’ physical development more accurately.
I don’t expect you to rush out and buy a 3D printer or start shopping for a robot, but there are ways you can embrace the world of new equine technology from the comfort of your saddle.
Top Equine Technology Gadgets for Horse Owners
Wireless Trailer Camera
A wireless trailer camera gives you eyes in the back of your head. Instead of pulling over every time you feel a slight movement emanating from your horse trailer, you can simply check the monitor screen and, if it’s just your horse shifting his weight, carry on driving.
In the UK, there are around “4,000 incidents every year involving trailers,” so there’s a good reason to be concerned.
A wireless trailer camera shows every move your horse makes so you can intervene quickly should he be in danger.
Bluetooth Speaker for your Saddle
I’ve spent a lot of time on trail singing to my horse in my slightly out-of-key voice, but with one of these, we could both enjoy melodious versions of our favorite tunes.
Listening to music while you ride is just one reason you might want to invest in a Bluetooth speaker for your saddle.
Other more practical reasons for owning one include being able to receive calls without letting go of your reins or amplifying your coach’s voice during a training session.
Heat Lamps for Horses
Heat lamps produce infrared heat that increases circulation and reduces the risk of injury. You can also use heat lamps to help dry your horse off after a bathing and to warm him up before riding.
Heat lamps, or solariums, can also be used to treat skin conditions and prevent sweet itch.
While you might be able to convince your mom to buy you a Bluetooth speaker or wireless trailer camera for Christmas, it’s unlikely her generosity will extend to a horse solarium.
These products are expensive and more suited to horses competing at an international level rather than a Shetland with a once-off bout of sweet itch.
Riding real horses isn’t the only way to attain the levels of fitness you need to compete.
Bad weather and dangerous conditions can prevent you from training when you most need to, which is where a mechanical horse proves handy.
You can ride a mechanical horse whatever the weather, providing for a safe way to exercise and perfect your skills. It can also give you a chance to ride a flying lead change and other more advanced movements that your own horse might not be capable of just yet.
Mechanical horses can be invaluable in teaching riders to fall off safely–while practice often makes perfect, the risks of falling off a real horse are great. Mechanical horses combined with with watchful eye and soft landing can teach necessary skills to prevent more serious injuries later.
Again, such advanced technology doesn’t come cheap and isn’t mainstream (yet!). Finding a nearby barn equipped with a horse simulator or mechanical horse may prove difficult.
Auto Tracking Cameras for your Ride
Getting a good video of your training sessions is challenging, even if you have a willing friend to assist you. The footage is often shaky, making an in-depth analysis of your riding virtually impossible.
Auto-tracking cameras resolve all those problems. Using wireless technology, the camera tracks every stride of a training session by communicating with a wearable watch.
Once you put the watch on, the camera automatically follows your every move. Not only that, but you can also live-stream your sessions to your trainer so they can follow your progress.
You’d never drive a car in low light conditions without your lights, so why should horse riders rely on hi-viz vests and reflective horse boots?
Tail Lights are small LED lights that fit neatly onto your horse’s tail, alerting other road users to your presence.
They are lightweight, waterproof, and easy to install. You can also control the brightness of the lights from your saddle, and the battery lasts for up to 30 hours on a single charge.
Top Equine Software Technology for Equestrians
There are some great apps for horse riders, stable managers, professional eventers, and everyone in between.
We highlighted some of the best apps in a previous article, but these are a few of the most recent highlights from the world of equine software technology.
Buying & Selling Horses
Artemis Horse Match is quickly the fastest and most efficient way of buying and selling horses in the US.
It works a bit like a dating app—enter the type of horse you’re looking for, and Artemis Horse Match will send you a list of potential matches. If a new horse is listed and matches your criteria, the app will send you an alert so you can respond quickly.
The app streamlines the online horse shopping experience and charges only a flat-rate subscription, so there are no complicated commissions or fees to get your head around.
Equo provides a simple, safe solution to transporting horses around the US. A smart yet simple app, it links horse riders with reliable truck drivers, helping your horse reach his destination on time and without injury.
There are three categories of rides available, including an emergency travel service and one that cuts costs by sharing the truck with others.
Equo works a little like Uber. Enter the type of ride you’re looking for (emergency, planned, or pool), select the pickup location and destination, and the app will do the rest. It will even help you fill out the necessary paperwork and advise on what health certificates and tests are required for the trip.
Equilab is a free app that gives detailed insights into every training session, tracking your speed, duration, and transitions. It can be used for any discipline and allows you to compare your progress against that of other users.
You can also use it to create a training regime for an upcoming competition and schedule visits from your farrier and veterinarian.
The paid version also includes safety tracking and gives more advanced insights into your horse’s performance.
Top Safety Technology for Riders
We’ve always known that horse riding is dangerous but a study conducted last year concluded that “the dangers of equestrian activities have been severely underappreciated.”
Researchers at the University of Texas found that “horseback riding resulted in a higher proportion of hospital admission than other higher-risk activities,” which is why safety technology for riders is here to stay.
Helmets have had a complete overhaul, making them more durable and safer than ever. At the same time, new technology has seen the development of additional safety features.
Body Protective Vests
By absorbing the impact of a fall, body protectors can reduce “the relative risk of injury by 56%.” That means fewer broken bones and less time recuperating.
The best body protectors combine rider comfort with safety and can be easily adjusted for the perfect fit.
Similar to protective vests, wearable airbags offer a more advanced level of protection. They are designed to reduce the seriousness of crushing injuries resulting from a fall.
An air vest connects to your saddle by a cord. When you fall, this cord disconnects, causing the air vest to inflate.
These vests are lightweight and more fitted than protective vests. They also provide more comprehensive protection, preventing damage to your neck, spine, and pelvis.
The only downside is that if your horse falls with you, the airbag won’t inflate as the cord will remain attached to the saddle. For this reason, professional eventers opting to wear an air vest are required to wear a protective vest underneath.
Getting your foot caught in a stirrup is one of the most dangerous things that can happen on horseback, putting you at risk of being dragged by your horse. Safety stirrups prevent this by providing an emergency escape route.
Original safety stirrups have elastic securing the outer side of the stirrup, but technological advancements have gone well beyond this, creating more aesthetically pleasing and potentially even safer stirrups.
The best safest stirrups feature a hinged or flexible outer branch and improved grip on the tread. These features allow your foot to come free in the event of a fall and reduce the chances of it slipping through the stirrup.
This innovative piece of equine technology was launched in September and combines tracking technology with safety.
The app tracks your ride time, location, and distance like Equilab, but when used with the saddle sensor, it’s transformed into a fall detector.
The moment you and your horse are separated for whatever reason, it sends a fall alert to your chosen contacts. It will also map your precise location at the time of the fall so you can be located quickly.
Top Equine Technology for Barn Managers
Managing a barn is a juggling act. The health and well-being of the horses come first, but after that, there are seemingly endless administrative tasks that need completing.
You need to stay on top of the horses’ training plans, schedule visits from veterinarians, physiotherapists, and farriers, monitor each horse’s nutritional needs and feeding regime, create invoices, pay equine practitioners, order feed… the list is endless.
It’s no wonder more and more barn managers are turning to technological solutions to help them keep their barns running smoothly.
Foals nearly always insist on being born at night, and many barn managers and their employees have sacrificed many decent night’s sleep to be on the lookout for any complications.
This new piece of equine technology does the night shift for you, monitoring a pregnant mare’s vital statistics and using them to anticipate when the foal will be born.
Piabreed is non-invasive and provides a “more cost-effective monitoring of foaling mares” than paying people to stay up all night. It also means the mares require fewer physical examinations, so they have more time to relax.
BarnManager streamlines every aspect of barn management, from managing nutrition to issuing invoices.
BarnManager is a cloud-based software for digitized record keeping. It lets you share a synchronized calendar with your colleagues, create feed and packing lists, and upload paper documents, so you’ve got all the information you need in one place.
The Pro version also helps you create invoices, track payments, and stay on top of your taxes.
This innovative new solution combines smart camera technology with artificial intelligence and an intuitive mobile app to give you 24/7 access to your horse wherever he is.
A wide-angle smart camera monitors your horse while the AI technology analyzes his behavior. Any unusual behavior, such as lying down for prolonged periods, triggers an alert on the mobile app, letting you know that something’s amiss.
NovoStable also enables you to familiarize yourself with your horse’s normal activity levels and adapt his training schedule accordingly.
Top Equine Technology Companies
Now you know a little about what equine technology can do for you, keep an eye on the top movers and shakers to see what might become available next year. Some of this year’s leading equine technology companies include:
- Boehringer Ingelheim
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there technology in horse racing?
Horse racing has embraced the most recent advancements in equine technology. The industry uses sensors to track each horse’s progress and performance, weather tracking software to anticipate the conditions for big races, and even rollercoaster-style technology to train young horses more effectively.
It’s also given enthusiasts new ways to lose money betting on their favorite horses!
Q: What wearable technology is there for horses?
Wearables are one of the fastest-growing areas of equine technology. From halters that monitor your horse’s vital statistics to saddle sensors that detect a fall, this fast-developing field offers equestrians peace of mind.
Innovations promise to keep riders safe on the trail, pick up on potentially worrying behavioral changes, and monitor an injured horse’s recovery.
Want to learn about eventing watches? This article tells you which are the best!
Q: What is a horse-tracking device?
Horse-tracking devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The most basic gives you the GPS coordinates of your horse’s location, while the most advanced will detect changes to your horse’s heart rate, respiration, activity, and behavior.
Q: What is a horse monitor?
A horse monitor utilizes a smart camera combined with artificial intelligence to observe and analyze your horse’s behavior. It monitors how much time your horse spends resting and eating and alerts you if these behaviors change suddenly.
Equine technology is developing fast, and as it does so, it’s becoming more accessible and more affordable. It can streamline horse management, track your training progress, plan your events, find your next horse match, and secure transport for that next big event.
Whether you’re competing at an international level or keeping a pony in your backyard, equine technology is there to help you get the most out of your experience.
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