I am somewhat of a techie junkie. That is probably a bit unusual for someone in the Medicare age range! Nevertheless, I really like computers, smart phones, smart watches and other technological advances that provide me with data about what is going on around me. I like the concept that, “There is an app for that!” Except that, when it comes to equestrian apps, there really isn’t…
I wrote a blog a three years ago about horse-related applications. I Googled “horseback riding applications” and was a bit surprised at the unsatisfying results. Fast forward three years later, and the results are still poor. (Not to mention the fact that most of the apps I wrote about in 2019 are no longer available!)
I suppose it has much to do with what you want out of an app. Currently, Alan and I simply trail ride. We aren’t doing extensive ground work or arena training. We want to map our ride distance, plan trails in advance, and find our way home in a pinch.
During the two summers of ’13 and ’14, I rode in Rocky Mountain National Park, often by myself. I purchased a top-of-the-line Garmin GPS unit equipped with a walkie-talkie feature that would allow me to connect with park rangers on the park frequency. I figured if I had a problem, and I was conscious, I could at least reach out for help.
Eventually, that unit failed, and Alan and I replaced it with the current version of the same thing. Additionally, I have a Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch. When we hit the trails, I am usually depending on my watch to keep track of the distance, weather conditions, and terrain changes. I downloaded a “horse riding app” as an adjunct app on my watch. I’m honestly not sure that it does anything different than a “hiking” app or something similar. It does pull a lot of battery power, and thus far, the only way I have found to shut it down is to power down the watch!
If we are repeating a trail I have done in the past, I use the bigger Garmin unit. I can follow a trail on the digital map. The Garmin unit that we have has all kinds of bells and whistles, most of which I don’t use. The same holds true for the Garmin Base Camp application on my PC. As techie as I am, and as unafraid as I am of applications and software, I find Garmin Base camp and the larger GPS unit not very user-friendly.
If I am interested in quickly searching out a recent trail activity, I first turn to my watch recordings that are stored on Garmin Connect. My daily walks with the dogs are stored here as well, but thanks to the additional app that I downloaded, my horseback rides are labeled “Horsemanship.” The Garmin Connect app is very user-friendly in my opinion.
If you click on each activity above, it gives you details of ascent, descent, time, weather data, etc. There is a map of your route. That map can be exported as a GPX file. I have been known to export a GPX file from Garmin Connect and throw it on my phone. From there, I will open the file on my phone and follow the trail on a simple GPX viewer.
AllTrails and a GPX Viewer
AllTrails free version allows you to export GPX files as well. Many times, I have researched trails on AllTrails and used my phone GPX viewer to follow the trail. It is simply easier to follow the map on my phone than on my expensive Garmin unit! However, I must be aware of how strong my cell signal is, as the Garmin unit works in many places where my phone will not.
Other equestrian apps
Horse Riding Tracker is only for you Apple folks. Therefore, I can’t really review it as I am a Droid girl through and through. However, it does appear to get great reviews. There is a free version and a “Pro” version. It seems to me that it might be more applicable to track workouts and arena training than trail riding. One gal gave it 4 stars and wrote the following review:
The best app available currently. Annoying that features are presented initially and then turn into ‘pro account features’ only…not sure it’s worth paying for yet and I don’t like the auto-renewal as the only option. The map for the most part is accurate. It gets wonky in some areas where I assume the signal gets lost or bounces around. You’ll want to adjust the speeds for each gait depending on your horse—there’s no way to tell other than riding a few times and playing around with it. Like that it shows at least distance, speeds, map (although in arena it’s just one big blob), time of ride. Anything more intuitive really requires one of the girth monitor systems. Not bad for being free and working with your watch and phone. I recommend it to other riders for basic info tracking.
Rideable Horse Riding Tracker was developed in Ireland. It is available for both Apple and Android phones. It also gets pretty good reviews. However, this goes back to my initial comments about apps… it totally depends on what you want in an app. I downloaded this but it isn’t what I want. I am not doing arena work, and if there is a way to log a trail ride, it was not obvious to me. Way too much stuff to navigate when I want a simple trail ride tracker. But it might be just the ticket for you!
Equilab is one of the few apps that I reviewed 3 years ago that is still functioning! It appears to be the “crème de la crème” of the apps, although it gets 4 stars overall from its users. It is available for both Apple and Android phones.
Much like Rideable, it is way more than I want. In fact, it appears to be very similar to Rideable. There is a free version and a paid version. If I was looking to document every time I walked past my horse, this would probably be the app I would choose.
Sena Pi, a cool gadget
Another techie gadget came to my attention by way of my friend Elise. Elise and her husband have been full-timers on the road for a couple of years. She writes some great blogs about the places where they camp and ride.
Elise and Ari found it difficult to communicate while riding single file on the trail. We all know how hard it can be to hear what your partner is saying when they are in front of you and their words project forward. Plus, it isn’t any fun to twist around in the saddle and shout at your companion!
Elise found the Sena Pi Universal Bluetooth Intercom Headset system on Amazon. I believe that it was originally designed for motorcycle riders. To be sure, you must be wearing a helmet to use this techie tool. I purchased two of these for Alan and me to use. The setup was easy. We have only used them once (we have again been traveling without the critters!) but they worked very well. It was awesome to be able to stay facing forward and speak in a normal tone, but still easily communicate with Alan. You can read Elise’s complete write-up about it here.
I would love to find an app that is specifically designed for horseback riders, or an “all-sports” app with horseback riding as one of the options. When I use my smartwatch, I really should disable step tracking, but I don’t. I am less concerned about the calories it says I burned, and more interested in the route, distance, time, and other parameters. If someone designed an app that already knows that it is my horse that is doing the walking, that would be great!