Photo: Tammy checking out her horses’ data while they graze.
by Liv Gude, Guest Author
There’s a lot about horse ownership that’s amazing, such as riding and bonding and long romantic rides into the sunset. And then there’s the “worry factor.” Is your horse lonely? Hurt? Frisky? Not feeling well? Having fun with his herd? Horses could literally fill all of our hours with watching and caring for them.
Luckily, this golden age of innovation is upon us and now we have many technological choices to help us keep tabs on our horse’s health. If you need fitness tracking, health tracking, or even behavior tracking for your horse, there’s technology out there that can help you. All of these systems provide peace of mind, and sometimes that technology is specific to a herd, hospital, foaling, barn management, or fitness situation.
Why use technology to help monitor your horse?
If you board at a farm or training facility, there’s a good chance that someone is around during the day to keep tabs on things. Most boarders are also great at noticing things when they are at the barn, and it becomes a group effort to keep tabs on all of the horses. But what about overnight? Or when the owners are away?
If you have your own farm, you are responsible for every creature on the property, which can be a daunting task. It’s a lot like boarding your horse, but with more stalls to clean and mouths to constantly feed. Taking some of the burden of tracking behaviors and health and shifting it to technology is a welcome treat.
Most of the current technologies for horse monitoring link up to your smart phone, tablet, or desktop.
Technology options for monitoring your horse!
Perhaps you just need help being organized in the barn. There are several apps for your phone or desktop that can organize your horse’s life and remind you about things to do. Schedule the Farrier? Get a notification. Log riding time? Easy. Keep track of vaccinations and shows? Look it up! These programs are wonderful for barns with many horses to manage by one person, or for the person who loves to keep track of their horse’s schedule on their phone!
What about if you really want to have eyes on your horse at all times? You can invest in camera systems that let you peek on your horses at any time. These are typically for trailers, foaling stalls, and hospital settings. However, cameras can be used to monitor stalls, fields, and gates if need be. Cameras also provide an additional layer of security if that’s something your farm needs. Depending on the system, you may need to invest in more technology to be able to live view the camera’s field. There may also be additional investment for weather-proof equipment and wiring it over many acres.
If fitness tracking is what you are interested in, there are devices that your horse can wear while being ridden that track his heart rate. This is useful when conditioning a sport horse or bringing a horse back from an injury. Heart rate monitoring is the best way to gauge fitness levels. These wearable devices are intended to be used while exercising only.
Years ago, there was early technology developed for Veterinarians to assess lameness in horses. We’ve come a long way, and you can now analyze your horse’s gaits on your phone. Similar programs can track your horse’s gaits and performance under saddle. This might be helpful for horses that are in training, or recovering from an injury, or you are just curious about how your horse moves through his exercise routine.
Your horse’s vital signs can also be monitored with wearable devices, like halters. Vital signs measure your horse’s pulse, respiration, and temperature at any given time. While vital signs are fantastic for pointing out changes, the context in which those changes occurred is not readily available. Let’s say that your horse’s heart rate is elevated when you check in, but did this happen because he’s hurt, or because he and a friend did a few laps around? You won’t be able to track your horse’s behavior or see more of the big picture.
There are also technology systems available that help you track your horse’s behavior with wearable sensors and location. These systems, like Farm Jenny, allow you to learn, predict, and notice behaviors that indicate your horse’s health and safety. Technology like this allows you to get a much broader picture of your horse’s life, his movements, his habits, and more. This allows you to have a greater understanding of what’s normal for your horse, and to be alerted to abnormal behaviors.
Additionally, systems such as Farm Jenny for Horses allow you to see trends. Horses experiencing illness, injury, problems with their daily routine, or being treated for illness, injury or arthritis will show behavioral changes such as overall increased or decreased activity levels, increased or decreased steps/travel per day, increased or decreased grazing times, changes in sleep patterns/quality, and so on. Daily reports of movement, historic trends, and even heat maps give you peace of mind and help you take care of your horse.
With the advancements in smart technologies, we now have better ways to monitor our horses and help keep them healthy. Most of these new programs also allow for tracking trends over time, which can only help you to better know your horse’s habits and behaviors. This frees up time, energy, and worry to do more fun horse things – like riding!