From Endurance to Dressage
Pivo Pod Heat Shield 2.0
For most of the country, keeping a Pivo Pod dry is probably more of an issue than keeping it cool. If you live in the Southwestern part of the U.S., you know that dry heat with no shade is a common experience for six months out of the year. It's not the Pivo Pod that needs to be kept cool; it's the phone I attach to the Pivo Pod. My arena has some great shaded parts, but they're not in a good location for Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, who gives me lessons through Pivo's Meet feature. Sean likes to be parked at A/C, but the shady spot is at V, the worst place to sit if you're looking for straightness and accuracy.
Over the past couple of years, I've tried a several different things to shade my phone during an hour long Pivo Meet. One of the first things I had to do was get a newer phone. Pivo Meet takes up a lot of processing power, and my iPhone 7 Plus was just not up to the challenge, so i bought an iPhone 12 Pro. The next thing I did was use an umbrella which wasn't very effective. I later created a shade box - see above, which definitely helped. When the shade box wasn't quite enough, I also bought a cell phone cooling device (seen below) which helped tons.
I then went an extra step. I wrapped the shade box in a mylar thermal blanket that did keep my phone even cooler. During the fall, I had intermittent connectivity issues with Sean Cunningham that made lessons really frustrating. With so much rain this winter, I didn't get many lessons, but when we started up again in the early spring, the connectivity issues seemed to have resolved themselves. And then suddenly, the issue reappeared. Both Sean and I checked our data usage, our device settings, and anything else that we could think of. Still the poor connection showed up about every other week.
As I was setting up for a lesson a few weeks ago, I realized my box had seen better days. It was sagging and required some shoring up. I used it one last time and then trashed it when I found a new box. As I was gathering the materials to redo my box, including a new mylar blanket, it occurred to me that the mylar thermal blanket might have been causing a Faraday Cage effect. Sci-fi movie lovers probably know what a Faraday Cage is, but if you're not familiar with the idea, a Faraday Cage is a protective enclosure that prevents certain types of electromagnetic radiation from passing through it.
I ran the idea by the ranch owner who is among other things, a highly educated geologist. After discussing the idea, we both came to the conclusion that the mylar could indeed be blocking a cell phone's low-powered electromagnetic waves (radio waves). While the heat shield box wasn't a true Faraday Cage, it served the same purpose which was to block electromagnetic waves. I tore the mylar blanket off my new box and gave it a try. My next lesson went smoothly with no glitchiness in the connection.
Despite being less than two years old, my iPhone 12 Pro's battery was not charging to full capacity, and if I used it a lot during the day, it ran out of juice quickly. With a European vacation just a week or two away, I opted to trade it in for an iPhone 14 Pro Max. When Sean joined me on Pivo Meet this past Saturday, he was quite happy with both the clarity and connection. With the shade box and the cooling device in place, the lesson went smoothly without a single loss of audio or video.
So, if you build a heat shield, skip the mylar blanket!
Creating Softness with an Inside Leg
As usual, I used my Pivo Pod to record my Sunday ride. While I love having a lesson on Saturday with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, it's my Sunday rides that give me a chance to try out what I learned the day before.
While I have learned to be flexible with each day's riding goals - Izzy doesn't usually read the same playbook as me, I knew that playing around with creating bend from the inside leg was definitely a must do. It didn't matter if we did it in the canter or not, but we were going to work on it. I warmed Izzy up as usual, but I kept reminding him that if he braced and leaned into my inside leg instead of bending around it, a sharp poke would be waiting for him.
Just to be clear, the goal is not the sharp poke. The goal is to encourage softness and bend around my inside leg with the lightest possible aid. Ideally, that would be a weighted inside seat bone. Right now, I haven't made that aid clear enough for Izzy which is why I am helping him to connect the dots: inside leg at the girth means bend. If he doesn't bend, he will feel a sharp poke. If I can become very consistent in asking and reinforcing, he will learn very quickly to wrap himself around my leg and soften through his neck and poll. He is already making those connections.
Early on in the ride, I asked for the right lead canter. As soon as he braced and leaned into my inside leg, I gave him a poke and carried on. It only took three circles for him to make better life choices. In the video below, you can tell right when I put my spur in because he hops away from me, but about the third time around, I had convinced him to stop bracing as we passed the gate end of the arena. Was it perfect? No, but he demonstrated that he was listening. We went on to something else.
Throughout the ride, I put on my teacher hat and presented the idea of creating softness from my inside leg in lots of different ways. So often, my students only learn a new idea after seeing a number of different examples. With Izzy, I walked up each quarterline asking for a change of bend with my inside leg. It was like dribbling a soccer ball: bend to the left, bend to right, bend to the left, bend to the right. Each time I asked for the new bend, I did it by first weighting the new seat bone and then pressing my calf at the girth. Only if he didn't change the bend did I poke him with the spur.
I also asked for some steeper leg yields which he is doing really well. We still have too much shoulder one moment followed by too much haunches the next, but that's really all just pilot error. I need to remember to ride him forward into both reins evenly while monitoring the haunches. I tend to ask for too much haunches which is something Speedy "taught" me.
To finish up the idea of creating bend and softness with my inside leg, we worked on traverse to half pass. The half pass to the right was a real struggle. He kept fighting to take the bend away from me. I had him do the half pass twice, and when he gave me a half pass that was at least better than the first one, I took what he was willing to offer and moved on to the left side. It wasn't great by any means, but I was really encouraged by the effort he offered.
In the video below, his traverse is pretty decent, maybe not super consistent, but the bend is there. In the half pass, the bend is not nearly enough - at least I don't think so, but what I was rewarding was his effort. He didn't take the bend away; instead, he kept trying which is all I ever really want from him - the try.
The one thing that I have learned about this horse is that as he's learning something new, it tends to get worse before it gets better. It might take him a few weeks to accept my inside leg as an aid for bend. And for certain, I know that over-using the spur is a recipe for disaster which is why I've asked Sean to keep an eye on my effective use of the aids (as it were). Even knowing it might get worse for a bit, I am so encouraged by the progress we're making. I know none of this is brilliant, but I am proud of our progress.
Who knows? Maybe we'll get to show Training Level, Test 2 next year!
When I rode on Sunday, I finally dragged out my Pivo as has been my custom over the past year. The past few weeks had been so hot that recording my Sunday rides wasn't a priority, and it didn't seem like I would get worthwhile video under those conditions anyway what with horse and rider melting. As it so happens, I didn't get great video under better conditions either. I am still recovering mentally from the heat wave. At least that's my excuse.
I set my Pivo Pod up as usual, but things just didn't want to work right. With all of the new accessories, it is getting harder and harder to keep Pivo level.
When I went back to watch the recorded video, I was disgusted to see that for 90% of the video, Pivo had chopped off my head.
The only time that I was in the frame was when I rode this exact line. When I rode any further away, Pivo captured Izzy, but cropped me out of the frame. So today, you gets lot of photos of us riding back and forth.
I have to take the blame for this one. For the first time ever, I had Pivo pointed too low. Like most Pivo mistakes, this one was completely user error.
That's okay. There wasn't anything interesting to see anyway. The ride was just about reconnecting with Izzy and reminding him that I was there for him no matter what happened.
There was one blooper moment I wish I had been able to watch though ...
Pivo Pod Heatshield
In yesterday's post, I shared how to use a Pivo Pod along with the accessories that I have slowly added over the past two years. Today I promised a "Heatshield" DIY project. Here it is.
Cut the edge off the plastic lid so that it creates a flat disk. Heat up a nail (I used the burner on my gas range) and poke a hole in the center of the disk big enough so that your tripod's mounting screw will easily fit in the hole. See photo below.
Cut off all four flaps of the box. Lay it on one long side. On the (new) bottom of the box, along the front of the long side, cut out a rectangle that is approximately 2 inches by 3 inches. This gap needs to accommodate the top of your tripod. See photo below.
Lay the flat disk over the opening so that it lines up with the front of the box. Use duct tape to secure the disk to the cardboard. The disk will allow you to place the HeatShield on the tripod before you screw Pivo to the tripod. The plastic disk needs to be very thin so that the Pivo has sufficient threads to be securely attached to the tripod. Likewise, the opening that you cut in the cardboard needs to be big enough to allow the top of the tripod to fit within the gap so that the thickness of the cardboard doesn't interfere with Pivo attaching to the tripod. The Heatshield will be "sandwiched" between the tripod and Pivo. See photos below.
When my iPhone 12 Pro is mounted to Pivo, the camera is on top and on the right side of the box (as I face it). As Pivo follows me, it will rotate such that if the right side of the box is not removed, Pivo will face the inside of the box and be unable to see me. When Pivo rotates to the left, the camera comes outside of the box so the left panel of the box is never in Pivo's view. See photos below.
For your specific camera, you will have to ascertain what Pivo's radius is, and how far to the side of Pivo you will be riding. If you will be circling Pivo, this Heatshield will not work for you. If you mount Pivo at A or C, test how far your phone spins to determine how much of the box's sides you must cut out. See photo below.
Once the disk has been attached and the side of the box removed, you are ready to apply the Mylar blanket which will reflect the sun's heat. Lay out the Mylar much like you would for wrapping a gift. Determine how much Mylar you will need, and trim off the excess.
Using a regular stapler, staple the mylar to the box. I used enough Mylar that I was able to wrap the edges of the box in Mylar. See photo below.
Even though the edges were stapled, I applied a layer of duct tape around the uneven layers of Mylar to ensure that it stays in place and doesn't tear. See photo below.
Before using it outside, you should do a dry run to be sure that everything is sturdy and well attached. In the photo below, you can see my box attached between the tripod and the Pivo Pod. My cooling fan is attached to the front of my phone. As Pivo rotates to the right, nothing obstructs its view. When it rotates to the left, it will come out of the box so the left side of the box won't block what Pivo can see.
With the Heatshield and cooling fan in place, seen resting just to the side of Pivo, my phone is able to stream the Pivo Meet without overheating. Of course, you can't see the phone in the photo below because I needed it to take the photo.
While Pivo is an awesome tool, it does need some support. It rarely rains where I live, so keeping Pivo dry isn't an issue. With temperatures well above a hundred degrees for most of the summer, overheating is my main problem. Even in the winter, we'll have days comfortably in the 70s, and if Pivo is not in the shade, even those temperatures will cause my phone to get hot while running a Pivo Meet.
Duct tape and a cardboard box can fix a lot of problems. How are you protecting your Pivo from the elements?
Interested in a Pivo Pod?
A few different friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers have been asking me about Pivo. What is it? How does it work? What do I need if I want to get one? Even though I have written about my Pivo experiences quite a few times, my set up has changed a lot in just the past year. So ... here goes.
First, what exactly is a Pivo Pod?
Basically, it's a small, rechargeable device that pairs via Bluetooth to a smart phone. It rotates the phone when recording video or using the Meet option for Zoom-like calls so that it both tracks your horse and zooms in and out as needed.
Which Pivo Pod do I need, and what accessories should I get?
I have the Pivo Silver which has since been renamed Pivo Pod Active. While Pivo offers a bunch of different accessories, I bought the basic package which has served me perfectly. If you intend to use it for recording your riding, get the Pivo Pod Active as it has faster tracking than the Pivo Pod Lite. Depending on your situation, you'll probably discover that you need a few more things. Here is my current pile of accessories along with links for where to buy them.
My accessories include:
One of my biggest issues with the Pivo Pod while doing virtual lessons is that it causes my phone to get really hot. Last year, I used a box to shade my Pivo, but once I switched from the Pivo Play app to the Pivo+ app for virtual lessons, the amount my phone heated up exceeded the cooling that my box could offer. I covered the box in a mylar thermal blanket which helped through most of the summer. Then, our temperatures skyrocketed, and even that wasn't enough. Thanks to my friend Wendy, I discovered a cell phone cooler which is primarily used by video gamers. So far, used in conjunction with my box, I haven't had any more overheating, and it is as hot as it ever gets here.
How does Pivo Work?
Pivo has three apps - all of which are free to download. Pivo Play is used for recording, and Pivo Cast is used for virtual lessons. It is my understanding that Pivo is pulling support for Pivo Cast, and maybe even Pivo Play as well, in exchange for Pivo+ which does what both the other apps do, but all in one app. Anticipating that support for the other apps will soon disappear, I made the switch to Pivo+ which is now the only app I use.
Pivo has a fantastic Facebook page, and the customer support has been great. It's not a complicated device to operate, but it does have limitations. If you choose to purchase one, remember that you are getting the cheapest AI device out there which means it's not a twenty-second century robot. Its brain is pretty tiny, but it tries its best to follow you. Setting yourself up for success requires some strategic planning on your part.
First of all, it doesn't track YOU; it tracks moving rectangles. Horses are more or less moving rectangles with legs. Pivo cannot tell the difference between your horse and another horse in the ring, so be prepared to ride by yourself for best results. If Pivo spots a better rectangle, say another horse or a product banner with nice contrast, it's going to ditch you in favor of the best rectangle it can find. Riding a dark horse in dark lighting makes it hard for Pivo to differentiate between your horse and the dirt. If your horse is the same color as your footing, Pivo can't "see" your horse.
There are things you can do to help Pivo's vision. Put a white pad and leg boots on a dark horse. Use a black pad and leg boots on a light horse. Wear clothing that contrast with your horse's coat or tack. Remove horse-sized rectangles from your riding area. To set Pivo up for success, your horse, the footing, and the surrounding objects and vegetation need to provide contrast.
In my experience, Pivo works best FOR ME set up at A or C (and even E/B). My horse is not reliable enough for Pivo to be set up on a tripod at X. Out of sheer buttholeness, Izzy would either aim for the tripod or flick a hoof that direction to see if he could topple Pivo. Other riders have great success with Pivo situated in the center of the ring, but not me. My Pivo is set up at A, mounted to the top rail with the bendy legs of my flexible tripod.
How do I use Pivo to record?
When I record a ride, usually on Sundays, this is my set up process:
How do I use Pivo for virtual Lessons?
First, talk to your trainer, he or she might already have some experience doing virtual training. Second, your trainer has to use Chrome as the web browser. Whoever is watching you also needs a device; whether it is a smart phone, tablet, or computer doesn't really matter, but the larger the screen, the easier it is for him or her to see you. Even when you do everything right, there will still be days where things go haywire. Ask me how I know.
To do my virtual lessons with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, this is what we do.
How do I keep all of that stuff stored and charged?
One last bit of advice ... Doing virtual lessons requires a lot of cables and pieces of "things." I keep everything stored in its own little bag. Pivo came with a mini case which inspired my other storage solutions. My ear buds live in a cushioned zippered bag, and my cooling device lives in a hard sided case that once held a no longer used piece of technology. Everything else is big enough to be dropped into my backpack.
Underneath my desk, I keep a dedicated surge protector for my laptop and Pivo gadgets. Every Friday night, since I have lessons on Saturday mornings, everything gets plugged in to charge overnight. Having a spot for each device ensures that nothing doesn't get charged for my weekly lesson. In the morning, I grab everything, stuff it into its storage container, throw it in my backpack, and away I go. Frankly, it is a lot of work, but I now have the system down pat. Usually. A week or two I forgot my phone and had to race back home to get it.
If you're thinking about a Pivo, you probably already have a need for it. If you join the Facebook group, remember that people who aren't having problems rarely post their success. You will see far more Pivo sucks! posts because not all riders are willing to investigate or do their homework. Ask questions, and if you do, you will get Pivo to work reliably for you. In just two years, Pivo has paid for itself more times than I can count. What I save in fuel costs and wear and tear on my truck has enabled me to take weekly lessons from a trainer who lives nearly three hours away.
In tomorrow's post, my "Heatshield" box.
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 the lower levels. 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%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: