From Endurance to Dressage
I'll be honest. My first attempt to use the Pivo wasn't all that successful. I had practiced at home, I was familiar with all of the buttons, but it still lost me. I wasn't too worried about it though as a device like that has to come with some sort of a learning curve. There are just so many variables besides the settings on the app itself. I have a dark horse, a dark arena, deep shadows, bright light, and so on. So, I took everything back home and did some Google searching.
There is a ton of information out there about Pivo. The Facebook group is a good place to start as it's run by the Pivo peeps. Rather than do a bunch of trial and error myself, I took the time to read a few articles which explained each setting. That's how I ended up with the settings listed below. Why waste time trying out different settings when someone else has already done it?
After watching Pivo lose me for thirty minutes during my first attempt, I did some research and discovered that I had one setting in particular set incorrectly for my purposes - the predictive follow. Turn that sucker off. It does NOT do what you think it should do. In the end, I discovered that the optimal settings for working in an arena are as follows:
For my second go at using Pivo, it worked as perfectly as it could. As I was watching the recording that evening, I was suddenly looking at Izzy's midline and legs. Based on the position of his body, I am 99.9% sure my GorillaPod - the bendable legged tripod that I am using by wrapping it around the fence, must have slipped. I am not surprised as it actually did a pretty good wobble as I was setting things up. Outside of that little bit of use error, the Pivo tracked me nearly perfectly.
I had positioned the Pivo at "E" on the top rail of the fence which is a good six to eight feet from the edge of my dressage court. This worked great because I do touch "E" when I am riding, but since the Pivo is set back, we didn't fill the screen completely. And actually, with auto-zoom turned ON, you can hardly tell which screenshots are from close up and which are from the "A" and "C" ends of the arena.
I was also pleasantly surprised with how well my phone picked up my constant chatter. I talk quietly to my horses the entire time I ride, particularly to Izzy. On the video, I can hear lots of nope, nope, good boy comments. I have a lesson this afternoon, so I am really curious how well it will pick up my trainer's voice. She's usually pretty loud, but I don't want her to have to stand next to my camera the whole time.
Overall, I am really pleased with how well the Pivo worked. I did have that glitch near the latter half of my ride, but I know that was completely the fault of the user and not a reflection of Pivo's abilities. It's hard to video when you're pointed at the ground. For what it's worth, my trainer frequently can't see what she's filming either, so I tend to get a lot of shots of the dirt. It's hard to video and teach at the same time.
After just a second use, I am completely satisfied with the Pivo and have no regrets. From what I've read others say, it does sound as though the Pivo likes iPhones better than Andoid phones, and the newer your iPhone, the better. I have the iPhone 7 Plus, but it is at least three years old. I keep the iOS updated which I've read helps. I have also read that phone and app updates can make things worse instead of better, but I think the Pivo peeps work out kinks as quickly as possible.
I don't plan to use the Pivo for every ride - I don't have time to sort through that much video, but I do plan to use it for lessons and at least a couple of other times a month. I know that Pivo can be temperamental - see above, so here's to hoping it likes following Izzy and me around.
If nothing else, the Pivo company gets huge points for order fulfillment. I placed my order on Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday, I had a shipping confirmation, and by Thursday early afternoon, my Pivo had arrived. That's a good first step.
With a headache caused from sleep deprivation and long days spent staring at a screen, I decided to approach the getting to know you of my new toy with a bit more patience and thought than I typically would. I like to just rip open my packages and get to it. Instead, I opened each box carefully, examining things as I went. Besides showing up much more quickly than I had expected, the next thing that impressed me was how nice the packaging was. It came boxed up in the same sturdy boxes that Apple products come in. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say this was an Apple product.
Each piece, from the Pivo Pod itself to the charging cable to the remote control, came in individually labeled boxes. Even the manual came in a sleek little box. On the one hand, I hate paying for expensive packaging, but on the other, nothing makes me doubt the quality of a new gadget more than when it arrives in a box crumpled or damaged with loose pieces rolling around.
I must have been feeling pretty puny because I actually opened and read the manual before I even powered the device on. As directed, I downloaded the Pivo App and created an account. All of that went seamlessly; I allowed this and allowed that, and before I knew it, the Pivo had snuggled up to my phone - I have an iPhone 7 Plus, and was paired so completely that I wondered if the Pivo was going to follow me around for the rest of its life. Because that's one thing it did instantly, follow me. I did a toggle here and a toggle there, and Pivo was locked on to me like its life depended on it. I guess it sort of does.
The app isn't super intuitive, but it didn't take me more than 20 minutes to have the essentials worked out. My husband had to step in and help though because the Pivo wouldn't quit tracking me as I desperately tried to get behind it so I could see what was on my screen. He served as my object to track while I watched the screen and figured out the remote control. I was able to switch between video and photo - I doubt I'll take many pictures with it, and how to start, pause, and stop a recording. The one thing I haven't yet figured out how to do is to tell Pivo to stop following me. Although, that might not be a road I even want to venture down as not tracking riders is the number one problem.
At least ten years ago, probably more, my husband bought a Joby GorillaPod tripod so we could take better selfies while traveling. That was back when people still used regular cameras instead of cell phone cameras. The thing has been in storage for a long time. Just this summer I drug it out and attached my document camera to it so I could teach math. A decade later, and now the thing is finally earning its keep. The Pivo attached perfectly onto the tripod's mount like they were designed for each other. The GorillaPod even has a liquid level which makes getting the Pivo to sit level a breeze.
Once I had the basic functions sorted out, I plugged the Pivo Pod in so that it could charge - I have a lesson this afternoon. Overall, my initial impression is a good one. The order and delivery process went off more smoothly than I could have asked which earned big points right off the bat. The package arrived undamaged, another win, and the Pivo paired to my phone on the first try. There is obviously a learning curve, but after less than a half hour, I feel ready to give it a try.
So unless it refuses to track me, and I have seen that happen - I joined the Pivo Facebook group already, I think I am going to like it. I don't need more than a video or two a week, and I don't care if it's not presentation quality video, I just want to be able to see what's going on as we school different movements.
So what do I think so far? The Pivo seems worth the 150 bucks I paid for it.
While it's mostly a huge waste of time, Facebook does have its uses. My favorite thing to do is check in on my friends. Sarah has the cutest little boy who loves her horse almost as much as he loves her. Sandy does all of these fascinating runs/walks around the world on her NordicTrack. Laurel shares pictures of the tantalizing meals from her family owned restaurant, Sorella. Valerie's online shop, The Dressage Pony Store, is constantly tempting me with beautiful show clothes.
I also follow what's going on over at USDF. My group member organization, the California Dressage Society, has their official page as well a members only page. I skim the political stuff as quickly as I can although I occasionally get sucked into reading something that just makes me angry. And then there's the so and so likes this product, this page, this group. That stuff has a lot of distraction potential because if so and so likes it, it's probably worth liking. The owner of that page/product knows that which is why it's such an effective marketing tool. That is how I saw the Pivo ad; a friend liked it, so it popped up on my feed.
On Sunday afternoon as I was eating lunch and scrolling through Facebook, a Pivo ad caught my eye. If you're an equestrian, you've probably already seen or heard about Pivo. You might even have one already. If you've never seen Pivo, it's a small device that uses your cell phone to record video. The thing that makes it so useful for equestrians is that it has a horse recognition feature so that it can track you while you ride.
I've been interested in the concept, but the truth was that I assumed it was a cool gizmo too expensive for occasional use. But then I saw it on Facebook. I clicked the ad and saw the current sale price. I have no idea if they're normally this cheap, but at $155.87 out the door, I thought it was worth the risk. I ended up buying the faster model, the Pivo Pod Silver, which is currently selling for $139 directly from Pivo. For an extra $20, I upgraded to the Pivo Pod Silver Starter Pack which includes the Smart Mount and Travel Case.
If you're new to Pivo Pods, there seem to be two versions, the Pivo Pod and the Pivo Pod Silver. They look nearly identical, but the Pivo Pod Silver claims to be two times faster. I figured that I should probably go with the faster model as Izzy has been known to move more quickly than asked for. That's a joke. When dealing with technology, I like to get the fastest model possible.
Both models, the Pivo Pod and the Pivo Pod Silver come equipped with Auto-Tracking*, Multi-Stream Live*, Smart Capture* and 9 Quick Create modes*
as well as:
Panoramic Mount (with bubble level)
Extendable stabilizer legs
Tripod-ready (¼ thread)
Micro USB charging cable
The only difference is that the Pivo Pod has a rotation speed of 10 seconds per 360º rotation while the Pivo Pod Silver has a rotation speed of 4 seconds per 360° rotation.
(*All features require companion Pivo Pod app.)
I am not an impulse shopper. I like to research things, check out reviews, think about it a while, so I don't know what came over me. All I can say is that a Pivo Pod Silver should be on its way in a few days. I hope it gets here before Saturday as I am taking Izzy to a Cavaletti Clinic with Erika Jansson on Sunday. It's supposed to be able to pick you out of a group of moving horses, so it would be fun to try it out.
I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to try it out.
There are probably a million apps that will track your "run," or in my case - ride, but I am loving the free UnderArmour app, MapMyRun. I've used it out on the trail a few times where I was able to map the distance and pace that we've covered. This would have been an awesome app back when I was still endurance racing. Back in the old-old days, we used nothing, but then handheld GPS devices became available. I had a Garmin 12 which was huge and not terribly reliable in canyons and under trees, all place we were likely to be riding. The apps available on our phones today are so much better, and they're free. Progress, you gotta love it.
The other day I forgot to wear my watch which is just about as distressing as forgetting to wear a helmet. That actually happened a few months ago. It wasn't until the end of my ride when I started complaining (to myself) about the sun in my eyes. I reached up to adjust my helmet, and to my horror, discovered I wasn't wearing one. How in the holy hell did I NOT notice I WASN'T wearing my helmet? For forty-five minutes.
Anyway, back to the watch thing. I time every single ride so that I know how long my warm up is and how long I've been riding. Without my watch, I'm just as likely to ride for twelve minutes as I am two hours, and both would feel the same. A watch keeps me on track.
I had worn my breeches with the awesome cellphone pocket, so I turned on the MapMyRun app and dropped my phone in my pocket. One of the things I love about the app is that at each mile ridden (run), a pleasant voice comes on to tell you you've reached a mile. She then tells you how long it took and after you've done two or more miles, she tells you what your average pace is. I rode Izzy for 1 hour, 1 minute, 18 seconds which covered 4.65 miles. Here's what it looked like.
When I opened the map, I laughed out loud. The green dot is where we started, and the red dot shows where we ended. Is there any doubt where the arena is or whether I used all of it? For the past several months, I always ask Izzy to sidepass to the gate so that I can open it without getting off, and then we work in some corner of the property focusing on walking without bracing through the neck. His not mine.
As we headed left out of the arena, right on the map, we walked through the tunnel carport - a fun trick to check his trust level, but as we passed some barrels that are in the driveway - they're filled with dust control product awaiting application, Izzy decided that he. simply. could. not. So we did. Obviously we spent quite some time weaving through those barrels. Once he decided that why yes, yes he could, we meandered back to the barn (the red topped roof at the bottom of the photo) where I hopped off.
Speedy's hocks were injected last Wednesday, but I had been given the okay for an easy ride on Saturday. Since I had the app up and running, I decided to map that ride as well. You can see the route above. That ride took 48 minutes and 29 seconds and covered 2.0 miles. I was riding with a woman who just moved to the ranch - there are now three of us, but the other one only comes one day a week for a lesson on her pony. Sarah, the horse DG rode was quite a slow walker, so Speedy and I stopped and waited for her quite a lot. We normally do that loop in about 35 minutes; sometimes less.
I don't normally ride with my phone in my pocket - I only have two pair of breeches with a pocket big enough to hold my phone securely, but I think I am going to start mapping more of my rides. It was quite illuminating to see how "far" we had ridden in our arena.
It's funny that I rode more than twice as far in the arena than I did on the trail.
I've never kept my horses anywhere that had a true dressage court. Maybe someday... At the last barn where I boarded, the owner was fine with me laying poles from Home Depot on the ground to form a short dressage court. When I moved to the current ranch where my boys live now, I just never set my poles up again. For First Level, and even Second Level, the lack of a measured space didn't seem to have too much of an impact on my dressage scores. The same can't be said of Third.
After last weekend's show, I showed up bright and early to the ranch and asked if it would be okay to assemble a dressage court. The ranch owner is a kind woman and supports Speedy and me however she can. She instructed Reggie, the ranch's doer of things, to drag the arena and bring my poles over with the tractor. I spent the next two hours measuring and placing poles. I ended up with a 20 x 48-meter dressage court.
With my poles laid out, I added my orange cones that have the letters taped to one side. Since it's not 60-meters long, I had to decide where to modify the length. I subtracted 2.5 meters from each 12-meter section, and 1-meter from each 6-meter section. While it's tight at H,M,F, and K, it will feel like I have oodles of room once I am back in a standard length court.
The first day I rode in my new space, I wanted to kick myself for not setting up my poles THREE YEARS ago when I first moved to the ranch. It was a whole different experience riding from letter to letter and actually using a measured-out center line. I could see how this is going to improve my test riding accuracy as well as the over-all quality of our movements.
With my spaced measured out, I decided that the cones weren't a good every day solution. I've used them before, but not only are they hard to see, any time there is a puff of wind, they get knocked over and blown away. I've had to hunt them down after a windy evening, and I didn't really relish the idea of looking for them every morning. I went back to the ranch owners and asked if they had something heavy that could serve as my letters. No they didn't but what about using ...
A quick trip to the grocery store, and I had just what I needed. I bought square water jugs and printed two of each letter on a piece of paper so that I could apply a letter to the "front" and "side" of each jug. This way, I was able to angle the jugs so that I can see the letter no matter from which direction I ride.
I cut the letters to size with a paper cutter and affixed them to each jug with packaging tape. For less than $10 (I already had 4 jugs), I had new letters that wouldn't blow over, were essentially water proof, and were cheap to replace if kicked or damaged.
The whole project took me less than an hour, and they look really good! I even added the center line letters in red although I can't see them when riding. That's something I can always fix later on.
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy they are to see while riding. If I thought having long sides and a 20-meter short side were helpful, having letters is a game changer! As I rode, I was able to keep my figures much more round and even, particularly on Izzy. Even he seemed to like the new set-up. It was like driving a car out in a field versus driving on the freeway with marked lanes. Izzy just seemed to know where I wanted him to go!
We're supposed to have one last lesson tonight before Sunday's CDS-show. I can't wait for Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to see my new work space. Hopefully it will help me improve my geometry. It certainly can't make it any worse!
If you're interested in using water jugs yourself, or some other similar material, I'm leaving a pdf of the arena Ietters I created. Just download and print.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read