Tech to help alert riders to horses behind the vertical and measure rein pressure

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) may not ever replace human judges – but products incorporating the technology may help them, and horses and riders.

    Two such creations on the market are aimed at improving equine training and performance; Ridesum’s AI Horse Analytics and the TeleRein C IT.

    The former is designed to benefit performance and welfare, by acting as an objective measure of a horse’s head and neck position – with data fed to a smartphone app.

    Karin Lindell, chief executive and co-founder of Ridesum, said that by offering real-time feedback on the horse’s head position, “riders can make informed decisions that enhance both performance and welfare.”

    Ms Lindell told H&H that by removing subjectivity, they are also “taking out the emotion and the uncertainty”.

    “We’re also not judging the rider,” she said. “This is a learning tool, designed to give riders simple, objective feedback, not to chastise or shout at anyone.

    “At Ridesum, we’re not just employees, but passionate riders ourselves; we are aware there can be many reasons for a horse to be behind the vertical, it doesn’t necessarily imply cruelty.”

    She added: “Horses who are still building strength often drop behind the vertical, despite the best efforts of the rider. Similarly, it’s important for horses to work in a consistent contact with engagement, not poking the nose.

    “In taking measurements at regular intervals, riders can measure a horse’s progression. Every horse and rider combination is a work in progress; it can sometimes be hard to remember that when you feel stuck in the middle of that journey.”

    She added that this is not about replacing feel; the goal is to give riders additional information.

    “You can think of the AI Horse Analytics like a high-tech mirror, one that not only shows you an image of the horse, but gives insights and feedback into his way of going,” she said.

    “Using Ridesum’s AI horse analytics can help a rider to marry up the feeling they get from their horse to his objective way of going.”

    The question of whether AI tools could have a place in competition is a talking point in dressage, and the wider sporting world (news, 12 October).

    Ms Lindell said she does not believe that AI will ever replace a dressage judge, but that AI tools could assist a judge.

    “AI could be used to focus on the technical aspects of a performance and the humans on the artistry,” she said. “AI can also be used to give statistics about a horse’s performance; what was his average stride length in the extended trot? How much of the test were they behind the vertical? In showjumping, how much clearance is the combination giving fences?

    “Statistics like these could be used both for a more in-depth analysis of a horse’s performance, but also from a welfare standpoint to monitor for signs of distress and fatigue.”

    BHSI Jennifer Howard is the creator of a different objective device – the TeleRein C IT – which uses technology to measure the amount of pressure the rider is putting on a horse’s mouth.

    Ms Howard told H&H she was inspired after learning about how other sports track and record data. The C IT version allows riders to see pressure in real time via lights on a poll unit, and download a detailed graph from a training session.

    “The major benefit as I see it is that the results [from the Telerein] are objective, not subjective,” she said. “It is private and only the rider knows the findings, though if a coach is watching the work it is quite possible to see the lights as the horse goes by.

    “There is no exact word to explain ‘feel’ but the lights tell the true amount that the rider has [in their hands].”

    She said that as the data is so easy to record, it is a “dream” of hers to have the technology used in competition as another judge, adding it could also provide useful information for judges and could be a welfare project of “great benefit” for some.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits. 

    You may like...