We are a couple of months into using Rio’s Trackener now. I wanted to share our experience and my feelings on the kit for those who might be following its launch into the market. It might be best to grab a cuppa to settle in for this one!
I was very lucky to have the opportunity to trial the unit, complete with Bluetooth kit and heart rate monitor, for a month before deciding whether it was for us or not. I met up with Pauline, one of the co-founders, at Olympia to find out a bit more about the technology. It didn’t take much to decide I would take the plunge, so I brought a lovely fresh Trackener kit home for Rio to test.
I was a bit apprehensive on how it all went together to begin with, but I needn’t have worried. It all fits together very simply and you can’t really go wrong – unless you put the bib on backwards over their head (which of course I didn’t do…) The bib is lovely and soft, and very stretchy, with fleece lining on the withers and across the chest. We have lovingly christened it Rio’s bra, sorry boy!
Once you’re all set up, you can access the Trackener app from any web browser. Trackener updates you on what your horse is doing in intervals from 5 minutes up to 4 hours. Now, the first few days you’ll probably have it set to 15 minutes so that you can monitor what’s going on because let’s face it – this is a real novelty, being able to see if your horse is making a nuisance of itself?! I was also itching to see how the GPS side of things worked. A word of warning, it will take a few days for the GPS to settle itself, so give it chance. I didn’t, because I’m a bit impatient and thought it wasn’t working right. This is intelligent technology though, and with future updates, I believe the team are looking at the user being able to set GPS boundaries. I think this would be a perfect progression on this side of the tech.
So what does the Trackener tell me?
In short, it tells me whether Rio is coping better or worse under certain conditions. As an aside, he also has an Arc Equine unit, and I’ve always been fairly sure it was helping him feel more comfortable. With Trackener, I see the difference in how much more he moves around on the days he is wearing the Arc. This speaks volumes to me.
This is your main overview and shows where your horse has been. You can see how active they’ve been in each hour, and you have a direct link to check in with their heart rate chart if you’ve got this functionality. The screenshot from my laptop below is a day that Rio was wearing his Arc. You can see how active he was in the field. That’s the purple! I love the simplicity of this screen, so you can easily see a snapshot of your horse’s day.
Have you ever wondered if your horse ever lays down? I have – it’s such a rarity to see Rio laying down in the field I just concluded that he snoozes standing up all the time. Actually, he doesn’t. The clever thing about this is that the GPS unit has an accelerometer and a gyro which record when your horse lays down, but it also knows when they lay flat out. Suddenly we can see our horses resting patterns, and know if they’re getting proper sleep.
Next you can see what your equine friend has been doing in the field whilst you’ve been working hard to pay for his upkeep. Rio is about to start his rehab after being diagnosed with PSD. Having suspensory damage in both hind legs, being able to see whether he’s active or stationary in the field day to day is a valuable insight. I also hope that this will help me adjust his rehab work each day depending what he’s already done himself. In the two months he’s been wearing the tech he has been gradually getting more and more active, which is a small positive in my eyes. Trackener’s team are working behind the scenes on the accuracy of recording which gait your horse is in, but generally speaking, I’ve been quite impressed with being able to see Rio’s activity.
Your kit comes with a girth strap in addition to the bib, which I think does aid the accuracy of the unit. It fits any girth, and is completely comfortable for your horse – they won’t even notice it’s there!
When exercising, your data doesn’t stop being collected either. Go about your day as normal, and the stats will follow. Rio can be quite a jumpy horse, as you can see from below. I think if I’d had this on him when I first bought him, his heart rate would have been up around 100bpm more consistently. Since moving yards and treating his discomfort, amongst other things, he has been able to manage his adrenaline levels more effectively. As his charts show, this is still something we can improve.
You can also use the heart rate charts to monitor your horse’s recovery time, which will come more into play with Rio in the next few months.
Lastly, on the subject of exercise, the device keeps a track of which rein you’re on, and for how long. Perfect for schooling and keeping your horse on an even keel. For sessions that the GPS is active on, you’ll also get access to a map showing your hacking route, or even in the arena. There’s even a section where you can add your own notes to keep a track of what you achieved. Currently, the furthest we’ve taken it for a walk is around the block next to the yard. Fingers crossed this will soon be further.
Using the location data, you can also see registered ‘anxious’ states. The first is standing in the vicinity of the gate, so you can see when your horse is standing ready to come in. The second state of anxiety recorded is fence walking. Once it knows your horse’s boundaries, it can record when he (or she) is pacing close by. Bonus points if you can guess what time Rio usually gets brought into his stable from the below! Thankfully my anxiety is kept at bay with these stats as he doesn’t seem to be as much of a worrier as I feared.
I strongly believe that with Trackener you can and will have wealth of knowledge. Your initial investment will prove worthwhile in no time at all. As far as I’m concerned, any developments that the team come up with beyond the existing system will be an added bonus. For now, I can sleep easy knowing that I can check in with Rio and track our progress. In days to come, you may even do the same.
If you have a horse prone to colic, laminitis or other problems wouldn’t you rather spot a change in their daily routine early? I know I would. There are studies being undertaken as I type with colicky horses. The team aim to be able to send alerts to you for signs of colic in the future. That’s something I want to be on board with. How about you?
I also have a link that you can use to receive £10 off your first month’s subscription – just click through here!