Brynn Jones is an event rider who holds a warm spot in her heart for off track thoroughbreds. Brynn recently joined Hylofit in a Sales role where she will split her time between Lexington, Kentucky and Ocala, Florida. She has been using Hylofit for several months to train her horses in preparation for the winter season and is excited to head to Ocala, Florida in the coming weeks. Hylofit makes her feel confident that she will be able to attain her goals because she will have real-time insights into her horse's well-being. Brynn will then be able to share these rides with her trainer to come up with the appropriate plan to reduce stress for both herself and her horse, which will help get the pair fit as they move up the levels. This is Brynn’s story with her horse, Preacher’s Son.
"In a sport where galloping full speed ahead at stationary objects needs communication from both Horse and Rider, one miscalculated decision can be detrimental." - Brynn Jones
As you train for the sport of Eventing, you ask questions such as “Is my horse fit enough?” “Am I fit enough?”, “Do I remember the course?”, “Are we ready for this level?“, etc. These are all questions you go over in your head when preparing to leave the start box. An old trainer once told me, you can’t control the height of the jumps because that is the level you signed up for, you can control where you are going. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I agreed with this statement. There were only two things you could control, but now there are three. With Hylofit, I know my ride, I know my partner, and I know what I need to be successful for both his fitness and my own. Hylofit has given me insight into what my horse is actually feeling versus what I think he feels and has allowed me to adjust my training plan off of the information I attain.
At 22 years old, right before I graduated college, I purchased Preacher’s Son. A beautiful, 9-year-old, 16.3 hand bay thoroughbred with a white face. He was fancy on the flat and could jump anything, so he had to have something wrong with him, right? Preacher had a USEA record with only one finish, one withdrawal, one retirement, and one rider fall and he was neurological behind with a condition called Shivers. I was told he was a gamble because no one knew how long he would hold up or how long he would stay sound. After turning the horse down three times, I took a risk and purchased him because we clicked almost immediately. At the time I didn’t know this, but when looking at my Hylofit app, most of the rides I have with Preacher, our heart rates are identical. I would have thought this wasn’t true until I rode other horses in the barn and saw that our heart rates are all over the map due to nerves, fighting, or just a miscommunication between horse and rider.
Two winters after I first bought him, Preacher and I spent the winter down in Ocala, Florida training to try to make it around my first training level with hopes of moving up to Prelim and doing the 1*. We had a great winter trying new things and competing with some of the best equestrians in the world. I was fearless until I wasn’t. We shipped back to Lexington, Kentucky after a great winter of training and Preacher started stopping in the Show Jumping. He would canter up to the fences and at close distances would plant his feet and I would fall off. This was a horse that went from jumping 3’3 consistently to not being able to get over a 2 ft vertical. The next five shows I went to, I fell off. I was embarrassed, my ego was hurt, and my confidence was gone. The trainer continued to tell me it was me, not Preacher. We needed to train harder, our fitness wasn’t there, and that we had taken too much downtime after Florida.
With all of the negativity that surrounded me, I became a very mental rider. I imagined things would go bad so they continued to go badly. My gut told me something wasn’t right and we had to vet out only to find out Preacher had severe EPM, but because of his shivers the symptoms had been masked and we missed it. With a 50/50 recovery rate, we started treatment and a year later his deficits had recovered, and his nerve damage had regenerated. We took a year off from competing and immediately moved to a new barn with an indoor for the winter to focus on easy flat work, cross rails, and no off-farm field trips to reduce stress. I stopped training and started focusing on my partner and what he was telling me.
A couple months later, I began training with Chelsea Kolman, a person who I am now happy to call one of my best friends. Chelsea is someone who has always had the deck stacked against her with horses no one wants. This resonated with me because everyone around me stopped believing in me and told me I should consider getting another horse. My new barn was an atmosphere where I felt comfortable, everyone supported each other through the highs and lowest lows, and Preacher and I felt like we could succeed. As a result, our stress levels went down. Little by little we worked on building up my confidence and slowly the jumps got bigger. Almost a year and a half later, I have my partner back and due to my barn support system at Dauntless Performance Horses; we have had multiple top placings.
Recovering from EPM can be scary and relapse is very common. I trained slowly, I listened to my horse, and I switched trainers because my confidence had gone with the number of times I fell off in the past year. During this time, I was introduced to Hylofit co-founder Kate Motley through a mutual friend from college. She told me about Hylofit, a product which at the time was not on the market and was still in production. At the time I couldn’t even begin to imagine the impact Hylofit would have on my life. In the Fall of 2018, I began my journey as a member of the Hylofit team because I am passionate about equine welfare and I want others to feel supported during the recovery process. It takes a village to do any equestrian sport and Hylofit not only brings a state of the art heart monitoring system, but it brings a support system of team members and owners who care about the well-being of the animal.
Everyone knows riding a horse that stops can be tough, and because of this I have become a very nervous rider in the show jumping ring. I anticipate the jumps, I throw my body forward too soon, and I get defensive because I am anticipating a fall. The first time I jumped with Hylofit, my trainer started with jumps that were at the 2ft. I previously would canter around and, every now and then I would encounter a stop and suddenly panic. With Hylofit, I felt safe. I cantered around with ease, stopping every couple of minutes to check my app on my phone and see that his heart rate was recovering well and that he was within the normal activity zones for his level of work. From here she put the jumps up to 4ft and I cantered down and over a 4 ft vertical and oxer with ease not second-guessing my striding or position. Again, I checked my app to see that his heart rate was still in active recovery and that this was easy for him. I have also found that when he stops, his heart rate spikes and if I discipline him it upsets him. I find the best solution to this for my personal horse is to pat him and his heart rate immediately goes down and we try the jump again, usually with no issues.
With a great support system from both my barn and Hylofit, I’ve gained a huge increase in confidence in the show jumping ring. Although I still get nervous, knowing that Preacher is okay and not stressed really helps to bring my stress level down and helps me feel confident in my decision making while riding. For up and coming amateurs with goals of going professional one day, setbacks like the one I experienced can cost us our career, especially when we fund our own string of horses and that is what makes Hylofit so important. When you know your ride and see what your horse is feeling through the application, it opens up a world of insight into what your horse needs. It not only helps me to save money by avoiding large veterinarian bills, but I am able to upload my video and seeing what was hard for him, track how many times in the month I have ridden him, and see what activities (jumping, hacking, dressage, etc.) I lacked in within the month and what I need to do more of in the future.
"Some say eventers are comparable to Navy Seals: poised enough to dance in dressage, fast enough to gallop and make time on cross country, and able to recover to be calm and collected in the show jumping ring. But even Navy Seals need help to get to where they are today." - Brynn Jones
For me, Hylofit is that training tool that not only tracks my rides and progress but keeps my partner and I fit enough to keep chasing our dreams. With that being said, Preacher and I are headed down to Ocala almost two years later to try again for the preliminary and the 1*. Heading to Florida with my Hylofit makes me feel confident that I will be able to attain these goals this time around because I will have real-time insights into his well-being.
Will you be in Ocala, Florida this winter and want to ride with Hylofit? Brynn Jones will be on the ground for anyone who wants to ride with the new system. To set up a demonstration with Hylofit please contact Brynn@hylofit.com.
The Hylofit system is now available for $349 plus a membership plan.