Hylofit, a horse and human heart rate tracking system, is bringing data-driven training to the equestrian sports arena.
If you’ve participated in a group run or bike ride in the last few years, you know one thing’s true: Data has taken over the exercise world. Part of the experience of a group workout involves standing around with others afterwards, discussing pace, heart rate, temperature and how said temperature affected pace and heart rate, and then going home and uploading your GPS-equipped watch or bike computer data into Strava for even more analysis.There are a few downsides to all that data, sure, but there are plenty more upsides, which is why Hylofit is aiming to turn the equestrian world into the next tech-obsessed zone.
The company was founded about two years ago by Kate Motley, Laxmi Wordham and Grand Prix dressage rider Eliane van Reesema. Wordham and Motley met while attending Princeton University (New Jersey). “We had started a separate business—we were doing a lot of marketing consulting—and had worked with Eliane in a different capacity,” says Motley. “She came to us with an issue: She had a horse she was bringing back from injury. He had been cleared by the vet to start work again, but then he very quickly aggravated his injury and was unable to compete.”Van Reesema thought there had to be more she could do to rehabilitate her partner. “She was referred to a gentleman in the Netherlands who works with equine heart rate,” continues Motley. “He came over to the United States and took a lot of heart rate readings of her horse while she was riding, and then he went home and a few days later sent her all this data and was like, ‘OK, this is what’s going on with your horse.’ She thought, ‘This information is all great, but this is several days later, and it’s very cumbersome, and there must be something I can be doing by myself.’ ” Motley’s background was in healthcare and new product development, and Wordham’s was in digital technologies.
The two started brainstorming a solution to van Reesema’s problem. “We took a deep dive into this space, and we realized the equestrian world is very interesting,” says Motley.
It’s way behind the human athletic world in terms of technology, and so there’s a real opportunity and a trend towards embracing technology and using it in training, but it’s slow coming, and it’s probably about five years behind. There’s a lot of talk about a horse who’s not with fitness trackers, would be comfortable, and they would understand, - Kate Motley
But since it’s not just the horse being measured, the rider also wears a heart rate chest strap. Riders can see the horse and human heart rate data via an Apple iWatch app in real- time while riding, or they can just check out the phone app afterwards for a full summary. “Most people go into this saying they don’t care about their own heart rate at all, but then they start using the product, and they say, ‘Oh, I do care!’ ” says Motley. “People come from this place of, ‘I know my own body,’ and then it switches over to saying, ‘Wait a second, this is really interesting to see us working together.’ ” The system is useful for fitness—to see if a horse’s heart rate gets lower over time as it adapts to work, or to notice if you’re reaching the correct zones during specific conditioning work—but it’s also useful for seeing trends. If a horse’s heart rate is much higher one day, then the rider is alerted that something is up—maybe the horse isn’t feeling well, or maybe the day was just more humid, and then the rider knows the horse doesn’t handle that weather as well and needs more acclimatization. If the horse’s heart rate is higher when tracking to the left than the right, that could be a signal that something subtle is awry in the soundness department.
Another plus of the system is if an owner is traveling, a trainer or exercise rider can use the heart rate system to provide an accurate picture of what the horse did each day. At the Land Rover Kentucky CCI**** this spring, Hylofit fitted Liz Halliday- Sharp with a system for a few test rides on Deniro Z, displaying the data on a big screen in the main stadium. They did the same thing, using different riders, at the CHIO Rotterdam in the Netherlands in June. “We’re not only launching a product, but we’re also creating a category,” says Motley. “There’s this whole educational awareness around: ‘Why should we care? Why should we train with heart rate?’ With Hylofit, it’s the horse and rider’s heart rate, so you can see: Are you in sync with your horse? Maybe you thought a workout was really hard, but you look at the data, and you’re like, ‘Hey, I was doing all the work,’ or vice versa. Are you two athletes working as one? “It also becomes almost diagnostic,” she adds. “It’s this notion of having some objective measure to back up that gut feeling. The gut feeling is huge and critical, but technology is here, and it’s here to stay. Your horse can’t talk to you, so the more we have products like Hylofit that can be a voice for your horse, the more it can give you a real understanding of what’s going on.”