The article that was published last Tuesday, about the Olympic Committee ordering rein sensors from horse tech company Ipos Technology, was an April Fools joke! Or wasn't it? Actually, it was really a wake-up call for riders. It's not so much a question IF rein sensors will be used to measure 'Lightness' and 'Symmetry' during the assessment of riders, but WHEN. The sensors are already being used to objectify rideability scores of breeding studs abroad.
With this joke Ipos Technology also wants to show the potential of data. For a large-scale comparison between countries our user group is still too small, but research with smaller groups of horses has already taught us a lot. For example:
The higher the level of a rider was, the less pressure they used while riding an exercise. Imke Schellekens- Bartels is actually able to ride an entire test under 2 kilos.
Ambidextrous riders (who can write with two hands) perform significantly better in equestrian sports. Riders with a preferred hand make crooked horses and these don't perform as well.
There is a lot of variation in the amount of pressure riders use. This ranges from 2 to 25 kilograms. In itself this is a good sign, because this means it is possible to ride a horse with light contact. It's up to you to learn how.
For the first time in the history of equestrian sports we're making these feeling aspects measurable. So, if you'd actually like to know where you stand, let yourself be guided with technology. Data will never replace your trainer or coach but it will give you confirmation whether you're on the right track, and what you can improve. It will also be able to help coaches convey their feeling and confirm when you're on the right track. Exactly because equestrian sport are based in feeling, it can be hard to convey that feeling, and to be (and stay) aware of habits you may have developed over the years.
The newest rein sensors have been on the market since late last year and are currently being shipped all over the world. The "early adopters" are lyrical: "Finally there is a tool that can measure exactly what the rider has in their hands."
Training with data, to measure is to know
The data that appears on the screen of your smartphone in real time, says something about the pressure applied to the bit of the horse, on the left and right side. The aim should always be to give the right aids with minimal pressure (which should never be 0), and to train as symmetrically as possible. This way we can correct the natural crookedness of horse and rider and prevent injuries!
What serious rider would not want to measure and improve this? Ipos imagines a future in which every high level rider will work with this and rein sensors will become part of the default equipment of both riders and instructors, and will serve as an aid for competition judges. This way judges can quantify " lightness" in riding horses and giving aids during competitions as well.
Next Gen riders
We're noticing that the new generation of riders, who are used to doing everything digitally, think this is only logical. Who goes for a run without data nowadays? They are used to apply technology as a tool to generate insight and improve.
Besides young, well-known riders like Britt Dekker, Matt Harnacke and Jesse Drent, riders at the top like Imke Schellekens-Bartels (dressage), Bianca Schoenmakers (showjumping) and Claudio Fumagalli (driving) like being measured to keep developing their riding style. Besides riders, many instructors use the sensors as a communication tool while teaching. They are also being used by specialists and organizations that are involved in the welfare of treatment of horses, like bitfitters, physical therapists and veterinarians.
“Naturally we can’t comment on individual riders, who have as much right to privacy with us as their horses, by the way," assures Menke Steenbergen, founder of Ipos Technology. "Our data is anonymous and well protected, so well that, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t even access my own data without logging in.”