Innovative new equine fitness tracker wins award

  • A horse fitness tracker that can also be used to detect problems with gait has been launched in the UK, receiving a highly commended award at the BETA International trade fair.

    The Estride can be used with one, two or four nodes that are fitted to boots on the horse’s legs and collect data on training time, stride count, gait pattern, session regularity, horse stability and calorie burn for both horse and rider.

    Utilising machine learning algorithms, the equipment is able to “learn” from the horse’s stride patterns to build up a pattern of consistency. When used with all four nodes, the tracker will flag early indications of changes to the stride, making it a useful tool for rehabilitation.

    The device has been invented by Chichester-based leisure rider and analytics specialist Arpan Bhatia, who has also created a pressure sensing mat — the Estride harmony — to feed back data on saddle fit.

    The two devices can be used together to show the impact of saddle and rider on the horse’s way of going.

    The harmony device is the first time a pressure sensor has been available at a price point aimed at home users, and employs 920 sensors to capture data as fast as every 200miliseconds while a horse is being worked.

    “There are similar devices out there but they are not quite the same — at this point no one else is really using stride-related algorithms. The other mats that are available are 10 times more expensive and haven’t evolved over the past 10 years, even though the technology has moved on,” said Arpan, who been working on the products for the past year-and-a-half, along with a team of 15 others.

    “I made it because I bought a new horse and the saddle it came with wasn’t right. A saddler came in and helped me, but couldn’t give me evidence of why the existing saddle was a problem and I needed to spend £2,000 on another one.

    “Using the mat and tracker together, you can check the stride patterns between two different saddles and have biomechanical evidence of a problem. If the horse is skipping or missing a beat, and the saddle is OK, then you might have an inherent problem with the horse,” he explained.

    Both devices sync data to a cloud via an app, with the information accessible from anywhere in the world. Users can also input data on the types of surfaces they are riding on to build an accurate picture.

    “Everyone likes to use a smart watch fitness tracker and horses are as expensive and important as anything else,” said Arpan, who describes himself as “a lover of data”, with a background working in analytics for media, government and military.

    “Even if you just use the tracker for hacking every day, it can record useful information on stride and calorie burn — I have a mare who is a bit fat at the moment and I know what I need to do to control her diet. I’ve use data from various research papers based on breed, age, sex and weight to assess calorie burn and we might also create a calorie consumption model going forwards,” he added.

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    As well as horse owners, Arpan sees the products as being a potentially a useful tool for saddlers and vets.

    “We had good feedback at BETA and the Society of Master Saddlers were interested. We also have a couple of vets trialling it at the moment,” he said. “I could see the mat being used by individual yard owners with one mat for every yard — every season horses change shape and it would be useful to check saddle fit.”

    The tracker comes with an option on the number of nodes and costs between £299 (with one node) and £599 (with four nodes), while the harmony pressure mat has an introductory price of £349. Both devices are available on pre-order, with a six to eight week wait on the tracker and a 12 week wait on the mat.

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