How would you feel if, on the first morning of a horse show, you walked into the show office - prepared to pay for stalls or shavings or add a class to your schedule - and the steward told you that instead of riding your own horse, you were going to draw a horse’s name out of a hat, get on, and go? Does that get your heart pumping a bit? Well, that’s the reality that all of my intercollegiate riders live with as part of Northwestern University’s Equestrian Team. As their coach, I walk a fine line between trainer, cheerleader, and psychologist for exactly that heart-pumping piece - my riders never know what they’re going to get on when they get to a show, so how do I prepare them effectively at home?
I’m so excited to start out 2019 using Hylofit and to officially introduce myself to the Hylofit community - I’m Meggie Cramer and I’m the head coach of NUET! I work with 35 to 40 talented riders and students ranging in skill level from never having been on a horse before to Maclay-calibur veterans. It’s a unique position I’m in, to cater to such a wide variety of athletes and find a way to adapt my training style to ensure they’re getting the most out of the limited lessons they have access to. So how do I know? Besides seeing their heels slowly get better, watching their lower legs quiet, and tracking just how effective their half halt is, I haven’t had the tools to go much deeper. As trainers, we all have benchmarks for success for our students and do our best to help them meet each, but now, with Hylofit, I can see what they might not be telling me. Because not every student is going to have the tools or the desire to tell me what they’re feeling or how their ride went to them.
Not only for my students, I was immediately intrigued when I was introduced to the Hylofit technology for my horses as well. As a trainer in a busy school barn with 19 horses, data hasn’t always been available to me. I’m only at the barn three days a week riding and training with my team and I’m often left to word of mouth hearsay when it comes to how the horses are feeling day after day. I know if someone is too off to use or if there was a serious incident, but the small, almost imperceptible changes from lesson to lesson can be a mystery to me since I don’t get to see every horse go every day. I have, more than once, put a student on a horse that I had assumed took it easy that day only to end up with a fatigued, cranky horse unhappy to have more work. How could I avoid this? How could I do best by the herd of animals that so honestly and graciously carry my team in addition to their jobs as members of a lesson program? The loss of a school horse for even days can be devastating to a barn like ours - loss of revenue, loss of opportunity for learning, loss of time - how could I better prevent injury to the animals on which my program literally depend?
All of this - students who often are unsure of how to communicate their own nerves or fitness level, horses who work hard but can’t communicate to me how they’re feeling, and a busy school program where detailed communication is impossible - makes Hylofit the absolute perfect tool for me, my team, and my barn as we aim towards future successes.
My team is currently on their Winter Break (lucky kids…) but there’s no break for me! I have my Hylofit in-hand and am going to be working over the next few weeks to determine the baselines for all of my school horses as well as start to understand my own heart rate data so I can introduce this tool as best as possible to my students. When they get back in early January, there’s a flurry of activity as we have just three short weeks to prepare to host our home horse show for the Region, welcoming 85-100 riders from across the Midwest to compete on our home horses.
I’m really excited to share this journey with the Hylofit community. My team and I offer a different perspective than the seasoned professionals and upper-level amateurs who are also currently using Hylofit data to operate at the top echelons of the sport. How do I use the data given to me by our Hylofit to best prepare my students to compete at their own top performance levels? How do I use Hylofit data to keep my horses happy and healthy, preventing the potentially devastating consequences of an unexpected injury to a school horse and knowing when I need to adjust their schedules to maintain their peak fitness? As someone who spends her time outside the barn in a 9-5 job that’s very, very data-driven I am over the moon to translate that into my equestrian life. I’ve been riding for 25 years, this is the first time I’ll get an inside look at myself, my students, and my horses and I cannot wait to see what’s there!
The Hylofit system is now available for $349 plus a membership plan.