Digitization in equestrian and equestrian sports – that sounds like a little provocation. The discipline does not necessarily have the reputation of being quick to rely on innovative technologies. And yet equestrian sport has more to offer in terms of digitization than most people would be aware of: it is precisely here that new technologies are emerging that are likely to bring not only sports and the market forward in the near future, but also other endurance sports such as can radiate the running and the cycling. Central element of this development: A leap in quality of equestrian sports across all disciplines is possible when the training and health of the horse are tracked in real time thanks to accurate data collection and control.
This data, combined with well-proven training methods and the experience of athletes and coaches, can be used to increase performance efficiently. But even more: At some point it will be possible for spectators to witness a horse race from the jockey’s point of view. The equestrian sports industry is opening up new growth opportunities, for horses and riders the sport will be healthier.
Between tradition and digital innovation
That there is a fairly active equestrian sports industry in Germany is known even to non-horse lovers from the news, as it regularly reports on the successes of German riders in international tournaments and championships. Equally as popular as the sports football and tennis, the equestrian sport is not, but according to a survey of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) of 2017 equitation with 687 036 members in position 8 among the strongest members sports in Germany, even before swimming.
According to a study by the Allensbacher Markt- und Werbeträgeranalyse (AWA) of 2016, 3.89 million people describe themselves as riders, 1.25 million run this sport intensively. There are also about 900,000 horse owners in Germany. Horses are thus a not to be underestimated economic factor: Not only in Germany, but also worldwide. More than 10,000 companies, craft businesses and service companies in Germany directly or indirectly have the horse as their main business object. The turnover of the German horse industry is estimated at 6.7 billion euros.
In fact, equestrian and equestrian sports in both amateur and professional areas is an enormously large, lucrative and important economic market with different interests. It is organized by individuals, stables, farms, riding clubs, various associations and organizations and there are quite a few companies that offer products and services in this area. In short, a very diversified market.
What many of the participants have in common are traditional values and attitudes that shape equitation in general. Innovation drivers, such as digitization in a wide variety of applications, must therefore be enormously beneficial and demand-relevant in order to be successfully accepted in this market and to overcome existing barriers. Whether training apps or computer-aided management in the barn: The digital transformation and digital aids have also reached the equestrian sport. The equestrian and equestrian sports is currently not very technology-driven by and large, but is currently undergoing a transformation. Here, too, the zeitgeist of digitization is slowly but surely gaining ground.
More on the subject: Sport becomes digital
Live tracking, live coaching, live streaming
Comparing equestrian sports with other popular sports such as football, Formula 1 and cycling, it becomes clear that there is a need to catch up: digital aids, such as the controlled measurement of performance data, are increasingly being used not only for training optimization, but also for visitors of events in the infotainment area successfully used. Here is a transfer of the benefits of live tracking on the horse easily: For what interests a rider – whether for example gallop, eventing or distance rider, during his training the most? He wants to know how his horse is doing, whether he is over-demanding or over-demanding, whether he is running faster than during the last training session. So far, many answers to these questions have been based on the experience and gut feeling of the rider and his trainer. New technologies and digitization now open up the opportunity for data-driven decisions.
An example is ColiCheck. The monitoring sensor for the early detection of colic hazard detects movement patterns of the animal and warns in case of deviations. The Zurich-based start-up Piavita received more than € 5 million in funding last year to globally market its medical wearable for veterinarians. The innovative training and performance system GTS Live Pro, which launches a Kickstarter campaign at the beginning of October, is aimed at equestrian athletes and coaches.
Riders can use a pulse belt to track the vital signs of the horse and other central training parameters – in real time, at many other speeds, distances and times – and watch them live during the training session without distraction via an integrated smart sports goggles with integrated performance technology called ” Cockpit for the rider “. Thanks to digitization, the scenario of individually optimized training can also create added value for the trainer: The training data is stored in the cloud and can be immediately analyzed comprehensively via an app and retrieved from anywhere.
After all, it is the dream of every coach, no matter what sport, to track the performance of his athlete in real time, to control it and to be able to control the training directly. And from here, the use of live streaming for an audience that wants to follow a race from the rider’s perspective is just the next logical step.
The important incentive: the health of the horses
The equestrian sport must not lose the connection in view of the attractiveness of other sports, in order to bind the public and fans to themselves. Another important aspect that should convince the industry of the need for greater digitalization: Especially the intelligent and useful monitoring of data during training is a must, since it is about the health of the horse. Also in the field of horse breeding, the collection of vital and performance data of horses and breeding lines, ideally in conjunction with an information database, is an important parameter in order to be able to calculate and estimate future breeding successes better. Of course, this only applies if other relevant parameters intermesh on this basis, such as training by prudent and experienced people. Because the risk of flooding by digital products and offers also exists for equestrian sports, especially because here was a long sleep: If the end customer the know-how for a purchase decision is missing, we are in demand as professional athletes and professional breeders to try out new and to provide orientation.
As far as live streaming and other technological advances are concerned, the art will be to strike the right balance between digital and real-life experiences. Should it be possible in the near future to experience the race at a tournament, for example through the eyes of the rider, this will positively emotionalize every equestrian event. Such a unique experience consciously anchors itself in the hearts and minds of the people and can be an asset for equestrian sports all along the line.
More on the subject: Digitization of sport: Transparent athletes for the masses
Oliver Lück is a consulting partner of GTS LIVE PRO. As a successful rider and world-renowned sports horse breeder, he brings his experience and passion for equestrian and competitive sports to the GTS LIVE PRO corporate and brand development consultancy.
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