TTE Advisory Board: Tech Enabled Horse Shows
August is an exciting month in the horse show world from top European Championships to the Pan American Games to Pony Finals and more - the spotlight shines on equestrians and their equine athletes. With that in mind, we posed two questions to our horsetech experts on how technology is either changing or will change the way we compete. This month’s questions included:
1) How will technology change the way horse shows are governed? Will technology be seen as a help or will it be scrutinized for giving horse/rider an 'advantage'?
2) If you were a horse show producer - how would you leverage technology to help in providing a better experience?
When the American Horse Council (AHC) updated and issued their updated Economic Impact Report last year, I think we were all on pins and needles to learn if our suspicions of a slowing industry were true. AHC’s report showed nearly a 22% decrease in the US horse population of 7.2 million, which is approximately 2 million fewer horses than just 15 years. However, this report also showed there was only nominal economic impact from this population decrease, and further indicated the number of horse enthusiasts in the US continues to remain very strong at around 38 million, which is nearly a third of all US households. It is therefore very important for the future of our industry to continue to attract, engage, and convert these horse enthusiasts to become active owners/rider/competitors. It’s time to make the equine industry relevant and accessible to all, not just the wealthy.
To this point, if I were a horse show producer, I would make horse shows more engaging and experiential for all by leveraging some of the most basic of technology (i.e., audience response system, ARS) to appeal to those outside the ring in the same way we cater to those inside the ring. For those classes where horses and riders are judged subjectivity, I would deploy ARS technology and allow spectator voices to be heard and matter more. If ARS technology was made available to everyone at horse shows, including novice spectators and horse enthusiasts, we have a real opportunity to make our sport inclusive and more approachable.
Just imagine if a rider’s final score/ranking included a weighted component from spectator votes outside the ring. Further imagine if spectators were motivated to become educated on breed and discipline standards in an effort to win prize money by matching their scores/rankings with those of the professional judges. The youth of today represent a very large and strong voice within the industry, so why not collaborate with the 170+ US academic centers who offer equine study programs, and empower our junior riders to compete for scholarship by learning about all breeds and disciplines and not just the discipline they may compete in. Finally, let’s not limit our reach to only those onsite at horse shows as real-time, web-based ARS technology can open up a whole new audience of enthusiasts and provide a wonderful opportunity for on-demand education to complement on-site learning centers, first-time meet-n-greets, etc.
After a little more of a year of my son and myself competing in local events, one of the things we found that is frustrating is trying to figure out what place we won in an event and the issues we encountered that resulted in our placing. I decided to add what I call the “Award Tracker” in The Equestrian App because of this. I can now follow my local organizations, shows and the classes I entered and the award we won in one place. I can easily track placing points etc., but we can also track time, number of competitors and more. The members of our app really enjoy the Award Tracker because it allows them to see their progression of success over time. We just do this on an individual basis, but can we do more with it?
Ultimately, we’re going to take this the extra mile and extend it to the horse show organizers. This will allow members to register for events and show organizers can manage them in one place without a whole bunch of data entry. Then the cool part, imagine the judge or the ring steward using an iPad to enter those results in real-time and the rider having it shown and history captured on their phones too! To me, that just makes sense after volunteering and watching the out of control show staff trying to figure out the who, what and when during and after a class. Stay tuned.
- Patrick, The Equestrian App
I think technology is and will be helpful for riders to train smarter and avoid injuries. Knowing the body, the genetics and also analyzing the movements will help to improve the training. If you see any human athlete, their training is supported by technology and a lot of different experts that help them improve every single muscle they need for their specific sport, now if you see horses, training has changed in the last few decades but not at the level of human training.
As a horse show producer, I would automate the process, from entries to closing at the offices, linked with the USEF or passport number. I imagine the user just entering the USEF or passport and choosing the classes, then when the show concludes they can see all the costs, classes, results, prices and pay automatically. I know some shows have it but is not a global system.
- Juan, Equo
It has been a while since I've had the good fortune to participate in a horse show, but I remember how Shownet pretty much revolutionized showing at WEF. I used to work and ride at barns that were off the show grounds, which has its challenges, but the Shownet app was so easy to use and so reliable that it made it easy to get your horses to the ring on time. At around the same time, I did ride and work at other horse shows that did NOT use Shownet, and the experience was very frustrating - you would be stuck in the "hurry up and wait" game all day long. Based on my past experience, I would highly recommend that all shows use a program like Shownet to enable competitors to access reliable up-to-the-minute information and timing for all the rings at the show.
At Stable Secretary we have worked to facilitate entries and documentation for our users who go to horse shows. Using our mobile app makes it simple to access and share all necessary information for the show about your horses and your people (riders, owners, trainers) while you're at the show office. In addition, you can produce your Coggins and your Vaccine Certificate, or a report of Temps, when requested. We are looking to integrate our software with some key entities to further facilitate the transfer of information for our users at shows.
For horse show producers, it seems like communication, safety, and convenience should be important priorities. Apps like Shownet and Stable Secretary certainly facilitate communication and convenience. I'd love to see technology come into horse shows - and racetracks, for that matter - to gauge the safety of the footing for the horses. Overall, I think technology can certainly improve the experience greatly, but it can only act as a supplement to having caring, smart, hardworking, experienced people that are working in front of and behind the scenes to help exhibitors have a fun, successful, and safe time at the show.
- Kate, StableSecretary
Increased spectator engagement is key for delivering a better experience at the horse shows. If I were a horse show producer I would look for ways to provide real-time stats on the athletes during competition. Allowing spectators to understand how fast horses are moving, how far they have traveled, how hard the horse and rider are both working (heart rate) etc. brings a whole new level of understanding and appreciation for the athletic performance.
- Kate, Hylofit
I believe that as technology advances we need to embrace that it will change the competitive landscape. Think of tennis as an analogy: until the 70's tennis players were using rackets made out of wood which made them play a totally different game than what we see nowadays on the pro tennis court with rackets made of high tech material fabric which allows them to play at a very different level. I would like to see technology as an aid in the equestrian world and not only used for competition purposes but also to help improve the horse quality of life and general well being.
- Nick, Ekinox