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The Tech Equestrian

Welcome to the new normal. Technology is everywhere and effects everyone and everything.  To keep up with the changes and information that impacts the equestrian world, I hope you will enjoy the stories, profiles and insights that this blog will feature. In addition, stay connected on social by joining my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages!

WALKPRO: Your Digital Guide to the Perfect Jumping Round

WALKPRO: Your Digital Guide to the Perfect Jumping Round

Being a high school student and a young successful Grand Prix rider is demanding but you would never know it from speaking with 18-year-old Carolina Villanueva Suarez who was first placed in the saddle at the age of 3. The Tech Equestrian had the pleasure of interviewing her at the recent Longines Masters of New York in late April to find out more about her exciting new app. 

Converting Steps into Strides
Carolina is an inspiring equestrian entrepreneur and is on a quest to make the sport more tech-friendly thanks to her mindset of always looking for ways to improve her ride in addition to expanding her mind. So it is no surprise she came up with an app called WalkPro. “In creating the app I looked at how myself and other riders walked the course – from trying to figure out the strides and distances to aid in a solid round - is the line long or short? And then in some cases you walk it and then forget.” When Carolina was a freshman in high school she started doing extensive research to come to the conclusion that there was no product out there that converted steps into strides. “People need this in the sport but the conversion and how it is done, really hasn’t worked out.” She then set out to meet with trainers and other professionals in the industry to come up with a plan and document her ideas. 

Opening screen that you’ll see to start your course walk.

Opening screen that you’ll see to start your course walk.

“I’m always looking to create new things.” - Carolina 

“I came up with the name, WalkPro and found it to be catchy, plus as an equestrian you know exactly what it is,” she exclaimed. Luckily, the name was available to patent the app. “I worked with programmers and learned the ins and outs of programming, spending many hours after riding and studying.” 

Carolina competing at last year’s Hampton Classic.

Carolina competing at last year’s Hampton Classic.

Hard Work Pays Off
As she entered her senior year, Carolina launched the app late last year (2018). “It was a surprise for my family and trainers because it was a tangible representation of everything I’ve been working for the past four years,” she shared. Since its launch the app has been a hit. Available on the Apple App store for a one-time fee you can download and it comes complete with tutorials that offer a visual representation of how to use it in addition to providing more technical information. “Overall it is very simple to use – it’s as simple as one, two, three,” she explained. “You take your phone and put it adjacent to your chest, you walk the course, and then once complete it inserts a photo of the course you just walked and it registers all the numbers you recorded and it even works when you are on a horse.” Many times professionals will use it when they are at home setting up courses for students or themselves. “It’s proven to be very versatile,” Carolina said. The app is for all levels - pros and up and coming riders who need a little extra help and guidance. It uses augmented reality to count distances between jumps and converts them instantly into strides. The advanced technology enables the rider to save a course in the course catalogue and upload a photo of the course that can be saved and accessible for future use. “You can record all of the lines or select lines. It helps me personally to figure out the exact measurement and it gives me that precision.”

Top of the Charts
The app has grown exponentially and has been on the Apple App stores top chart for sports, since it launched. “We are fine-tuning WalkPro and adding new features,” shared Carolina. “I’m putting everything I can into its progression to help it grow and be something that everyone can use is my ultimate goal.” 

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“I’m always looking to do more and help out the sport in anyway I can.” 
- Carolina 

During our interview, you could hear the upbeat music of a clean round in the distance. The atmosphere was ripe with anticipation of what will happen next, a hallmark of a Longines event. Carolina was excited to be there, as it was her first Longines competing with one of her two mounts, Una du Keske Z, an 11-year-old mare. “Today the app proved to be amazing as it helped me figure out the striding for one line.” The pair finished sixth in the U25 Grand Prix along with it being one of her first international ranking classes and she has only been riding Una for five months. Carolina trains with Santos and Chelsea Lamarca from Stormfront Sales Stables in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

Carolina riding Una in the U25 Grand Prix at this year’s Longines Masters of New York.

Carolina riding Una in the U25 Grand Prix at this year’s Longines Masters of New York.

Showtime is also Promotion Time
“Every time I go to a horse show I try and talk with people and get them excited to use the app.” Carolina finds that social media can only do so much and appreciates having a personal connection and the ability to speak directly with riders and trainers is very important for increasing adoption rates. “I also have the support of the US and Spain Federations behind me since they are excited to see a young person pursuing the highest level of the sport in addition to trying to make a difference with the app,” she added.

“I feel that we (horse tech providers) all appreciate one another and with our small community can grow and learn from each other,” she said. “I’m definitely looking for new ways to promote WalkPro and reach new people.” 

College and Riding
“Education and going to school is very important to me and I’m incredibly passionate about laws including civil rights,” shared Carolina. She is looking at a few Ivy League schools in addition to a school in Spain that specializes in law for her college years. “Regardless of where I go to school, horses will always remain at the center of what I do – because at the end of the day I want to get to the top level of the sport; whether it’s representing the US or representing Spain (Carolina was born in Spain).” She feels that having a strong educational background is critical even if you want to focus on horses. “It provides a foundation that is unmatched and luckily my parents have instilled in me the importance of an education.” 

Team Beezie
Asked who her biggest influence in the riding world is, Carolina did not hesitate to answer – it is Elizabeth (Beezie) Madden. “I’ve always looked up to her since I was little and I’ve tried to emulate what she does and watch her in the warm up ring.” What strikes Carolina the most is seeing Beezie’s connection with her mounts not only in the saddle but also on the ground. “It’s impressive to see how she knows every single one of her horses and what they need to win a class. I think that is a talent most professionals have and she also brings an element of being humble. I’m Team Beezie all the way!” Carolina knows that to be at the top of the sport you have to work hard and that nothing has been handed to them. “As much as it is the horse, it is the rider as well - all the great partnerships include an amazing rider and an amazing horse,” she said.

A Successful Role Model 
We then moved onto who has been her biggest influence in her personal life. “My mom has been such a great role model for me,” stated Carolina. Due to her mother’s job they have traveled and lived all over the world. “She is someone I’ve always looked up to in every aspect – she has a high-profile position for an international company and is one of the few women at the top.” Carolina also loves the fact that her mom faces new challenges and continually conquers them.

Warp Speed Ahead
“I do see technology in five years taking off for the horse world and we will be immersed in all it can do for us,” she said. She is amazed by the fact that only a couple years ago there was little technology in the horse world and people weren’t using it; but is excited to see how well her app is performing today. “People are saying thank you – we needed this and we use this in our day to day,” said Carolina. “As consumers we appreciate technology and when working with live animals these apps help fill in the gaps. We are living in incredible times.”

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WalkPro is available on the Apple App Store.

Facebook: WalkPro 

Instagram: walkpro_ 

 





 

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