From Endurance to Dressage
Since I've been riding weekly with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I've only used my Pivo Pod for Pivo Cast (Pivo's version of a Zoom call) and not for recording video. I am sure the day will come when Pivo Cast will be able to both record and manage a video call, but for now, it's one or the other.
On Sunday, I decided to set up the Pivo Pod and record a ride. Izzy has made so much progress in the past six months that I wanted to see it for myself. I keep all of my Pivo equipment in a mini backpack. I've got the Pivo Pod, charging cable, and remote in its case. I have my Powerbeats ear buds and their charging cable in a mini carry bag. I also have my solar charger and its two cables. I also keep a reusable jumbo twist tie for attaching the solar cable to a fence if needed, and I keep my bendable tripod in the backpack as well. Keeping all of that stuff charged up and ready to go is a bit of a pain, but having it all in one convenient bag makes it manageable.
I got to the barn, and pulled up to the arena to set everything up before I even saddled Izzy. As I put my truck in park, I reached into my purse for my phone, and rolled my eyes in complete exasperation. I had the Pivo and it's many accessories, but I had forgotten my phone at home. Whomp, whomp.
Of course, I had a great ride. In the middle of the ride though, Izzy tripped and almost had us both rolling in the dirt. In the canter, he stumbled, throwing me over his right shoulder. He leaped up from the dirt, further unseating me, and bolted to the side. I scrambled hard to get my butt back in the saddle and my feet back down where they should be.
Once I finally got him back under control, the poor guy was super worried about the near fall, so we walked for a few minutes until he felt more sure of himself. I really wish I had caught that save on video. Then again, it's probably better not to see how near death we all come when we ride. Ignorance is bliss!
Technology is great, but only if you remember to bring it with you.
Over the weekend, I tried to re-watch the Sandra Bullock movie, The Net, but it just didn't ring true enough for me to finish it. It's from 1995, so the techno-jargon was more than a little dated. If you haven't seen it, Bullock's character, Angela Bennett, stumbles onto a conspiracy. She's a hacker, so to prevent her from revealing what she has discovered, her identity is erased. Since she works from home and has no friends in real life, no one believes she is who she says she is. You can figure out what happens next.
Some of the movie is pretty prophetic though. There is a scene where she orders a pizza online - that was not even a possibility back in 1995 and probably not even available in 2005. Like Angela, I find that I am living more and more in a virtual world. As we did last year, my students are once again enrolled in my virtual classroom. While I have briefly met some of them, our relationship is being nurtured through the chat feature in Google Meet/Zoom, the Canvas Inbox (a type of email), and Parent Square (a Facebook-like interface).
I've mentioned before that I am the vice-chairperson for the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of the California Dressage Society, my USDF Group Member Organization. We now run our monthly meetings in-person for those who choose to attend and virtually via Zoom for those members who either don't live nearby (me) or who don't want to meet in person.
Over the weekend, Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, gave me another lesson virtually. While we've tried before, this time, it went perfectly. For our first attempt at using Pivo Meet, we did it at STC Dressage during an in-person lesson just so we could trouble shoot. For the second attempt, my iPhone over-heated before the lesson really even got going, so we tried again the next day. That worked for most of an hour, but again, my iPhone over-heated.
I bought a new phone, and we scheduled another lesson. The Friday night before, I got a notification that I was nearly out of data, so I had to cancel the lesson. It took a full week, but I was finally able to upgrade to a plan with unlimited data, so Sean and I agreed to meet virtually on Saturday morning. With a brand new iPhone 12 Pro, unlimited data, and an umbrella to keep my phone from over-heating, I was ready.
To my relief, everything worked perfectly! For those who may be considering doing virtual lessons, here's a run down on what you'll need.
Launching a Pivo Meet:
It helps to have some experience launching virtual meetings, but if you're brand new to Zoom-like calls, you'll be able to figure it out.
At the end of the lesson (more on that in a day or two), Sean and I discussed the technology. We both felt like the iPhone 12 Pro gave us a better experience than we had with the iPhone 7 Plus. The video and audio worked seamlessly. We didn't have the delay that we had seen and heard with my old phone. Our communication felt instant and we could both hear without any delay or lag time. From Sean's end, he reported that the Pivo tracked me perfectly without losing me once. I couldn't see the video of course, so I don't know how well he could actually see me, but he didn't have any complaints.
That evening, I checked my data usage. Since the new plan had only gone into effect on Friday evening, I was able to see approximately how much data the Pivo Meet took. My hour long Pivo Meet used 1GB of data. My old plan was for 5 GB of data, so it's clear that plan had to go. If you're planning on doing Pivo Meet lessons, check into how much data your plan allows.
Overall, Pivo Meet is going to save me a ton of money. Diesel is currently $4.00 a gallon, and at 13 miles per gallon, that comes to $80 in diesel for each lesson. The Pivo itself cost $170 (case, remote, and extender thing) and the Powerbeats were another $80. I also bought a tripod for $24. I did buy a new phone and a pricier data plan, but I would have done that anyway. I've had the Pivo Pod for nearly a year and used it long before I even thought of doing a virtual lesson. Even so, my expenses come to $275. I've taken two virtual lessons that didn't require any traveling or diesel, and after the next lesson or two, what I've invested in equipment will pay for itself.
If you're thinking of giving Pivo meet a try, my advice is to go for it!
I bought a Pivo Pod in September of 2020, and it has far exceeded my expectations. I know some riders use it every time they ride, but that's too much work for me. Setting it up is fairly simple, but watching an hour of video is way too time consuming. Instead, I like to limit its use to lessons and clinics.
When I was riding with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, it worked brilliantly. Chemaine is loud, and she talks to you throughout the whole lesson. After the lesson, I would make a cup of tea, grab a notepad and pencil, and watch the recorded lesson as I took notes. It was like getting two lessons for the price of one.
Now that I am riding with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I've been using the Pivo a bit differently. Sean uses the Cee Coach, a two-way communication system which means I can hear him while I ride, but the Pivo Pod can't. Since I can't hear Sean on the Pivo's recordings, I skim through the video looking for moments that I remember, and I watch those.
I've been riding with Sean about every other week since the very end of March, exactly four months. During that time, I've made the nearly six-hour round trip drive at least nine times. It has been worth it, but it has also cost a small fortune in diesel, and the wear and tear on Newt's tires is no small thing either. That girl is HARD on rubber.
With the start of school just around the corner, I knew that two or three trips a month to Ventura County just wasn't sustainable. When I first started working with Sean, he was the one who suggested virtual lessons. That's how he works with David Hunt, president of the International Dressage Trainers Club (IDTC) and FEI Judges' Supervisory Panel member. They use a Pixio for Sean's weekly lessons, but Sean was more than willing to give Pivo a try.
A few weeks ago, we gave Pivo Meet, Pivo's version of a Zoom call, a try while I was at STC Dressage. We wanted to see if the Pivo Meet would actually work, and, after a bit of trial and error, we found that it did. This past weekend, we gave it a try for real. Sean worked from his laptop at STC Dressage in Ventura County, and I worked from my ring here in Bakersfield. Technology is a marvelous thing.
I set everything up and waited for Sean to join in. To my surprise, I suddenly heard him in my ear, and we got to work. Sadly, the lesson lasted less than ten minutes. One second Sean was offering feedback on the leg yield I was riding, and the next, I heard a very empty silence. Sean ended up calling me on my phone. He wasn't sure what had happened, but he had been kicked out of the Pivo Meet.
It took me a few minutes to figure out that my phone had overheated in the sun. I repositioned it, but the magic was gone. My camera just wouldn't work. While I was super frustrated, Sean wasn't put off at all. He explained that it had taken him a few tries to work out the kinks for his remote lessons. That made me feel a lot less like his biggest waste of time. We rescheduled for Sunday morning.
The way Pivo works is that it tracks the horse's outline. If the Pivo can't really "see" the horse because of shadows, poor contrast, bright sunlight, or whatever other reason, it has trouble following. Putting Pivo in the early morning shade would mean it would be looking directly at the sun as it rises, that wouldn't work. I scoped out all four sides of the arena and noted that from the A end of the arena, which looks mostly north, there was some shade from a big cottonwood tree, but not enough to totally shade my phone.
I've seen other riders use small umbrellas to keep their Pivo Pods dry, so I thought an umbrella might shade my phone. If you have horses, you'll already know that umbrellas are quite often terrifying for our four legged friends. Fortunately, one of the ladies at the barn had an umbrella in her car, so on Saturday, Izzy met an umbrella. He glanced at it, gave it a "meh," and went back to grazing on the lawn. I brought it nearer. I twirled it. I raised it over my head. Izzy never even glanced my way.
You already see where this is headed. On Sunday, I set up my Pivo Pod, attached the various cords and cables, and looked around for something on which to attach the umbrella. I grabbed a discarded jump standard, and attached the umbrella with a jumbo twist tie. It turned out to be the perfect solution. My phone and the Pivo Pod were nicely shaded, and the whole thing was sturdy and mostly unobtrusive.
I went back to the barn, bridled Izzy, and started the walk back up to the arena. When we turned the corner, Izzy SLAMMED on the breaks. His head shot up and his hooves backpedaled. I could hear him shouting, OH, NO YOU DON'T. Uh-uh, ain't gonna happen, no way, no how.
The umbrella from the day before had been black with polka dots. Mine was plain black with nothing distracting on it. Apparently, Izzy had not been paying attention the day before when I twirled the umbrella in front of his face. There was no point in arguing with him, so I just stopped. I patted his neck as he moonwalked to nowhere. We took a step forward. And another. And another. Eventually, we walked past the umbrella and approached it from the other side. We crept up towards it until we were right next to it.
And again, I am sure you know what came next. I reached out very quietly to turn the Pivo on and send Sean the meeting link. While I was busy with my phone, Izzy reached over my head to sniff the umbrella. He touched it with his nose, and then started to nibble it. Suddenly, the umbrella that he felt SURE was going to kill him 10 minutes ago, was now his best friend. I had to elbow him backwards before he ripped it, or worse, broke my shadow "machine." For the entire lesson, he forgot the umbrella was there.
Pivo Meet was finally a success. Everything worked, Sean could both hear and see me, I could hear him, and Pivo only lost me once. The only problem was that the Meet shut itself off after an hour. I think there might be a time limit on how long you can keep the Pivo Meet open. An hour is plenty of time though, so I think we can work around that.
Besides the Pivo Pod case, remote, charging cable, solar charger and its cables, PowerBeat wireless ear buds, jumbo twist tie, and tripod, I now have to add an umbrella to my list of Pivo Pod accessories. Still, when I add up the cost of the Pivo Pod, the earbuds, and a few of the other smaller pieces, it's all a lot less than what I spent in diesel (and time) over the summer. Being able to ride every week with Sean will do more for my riding than any other thing.
I am so happy he's a techie kind of trainer!
I finally did it; Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, was able to give me a lesson using Pivo Meet. Since I was at STC Dressage for the weekend, we used the time to do a virtual lesson, in person. Sean takes a weekly lesson from David Hunt who is currently serving on the Judges Supervisory Panel in Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Since David lives in England, Sean uses a Pixio and Cee Coach communication system while David coaches from his computer. They have found the system to be more than adequate, and as a result, Sean is getting great coaching from a world renowned trainer who's working an entire continent away.
It was Sean who first suggested we try something similar. Right now, I am able to make the nearly six hour round trip to STC Dressage every ten days or so, but once I return to teaching in mid-August, I won't be able to do that drive as frequently. If we can make the Pivo Meet work reliably, I could take a weekly lesson instead of going to his barn only once or twice a month. During the four months that Sean and I have been working together, we've developed a sufficiently solid working relationship that we both feel comfortable working together from separate counties.
Before we could do the lessons virtually, I had to find some earbuds that could work over Wi-Fi without losing the connection. Pivo Meet is a lot like a Zoom meeting. We can each see and hear each other, but since I am riding, I can't see Sean which means I need to wear earbuds that are synced to my phone. When I first researched the different options out there, price was influencing my decision more than anything else. Once I got serious about doing lessons using Pivo Meet, I decided I should use a better set of criteria in making my selection.
After reviewing a lot of different earbuds, I bought the Powerbeats Wireless Earbuds from Amazon. While not cheap at $99, they have more than 10,500 reviews, and 89% of them are positive. I decided to go with wireless with wires - who came up with that description?, as opposed to truly wireless because I didn't want to accidentally drop and lose one.
To my surprise, these little dudes are fabulous. The sound quality was exceptional, and never once did Sean and I lose communication. He plugged his headphones directly into my laptop which helped him hear me better over the wind. I attached my phone and Pivo at the C end of the arena, and Sean sat at a table on a raised platform (see photo above) behind the Pivo. The Powerbeats earbuds paired instantly with my iPhone, and even down at the A end of the arena, we could hear each other clearly.
I worried that the earbuds might glitch as the controls are located on the flat panel that bears the "b" logo which rest immediately under the straps of my helmet. Nope. Once I had the power on and the volume set, I put on my helmet and never once needed to touch the earbuds. They were comfortable right out of the box - they come with three extra ear pieces of varying sizes, and in fact, I forgot I even had them on.
As great as Pivo is, it's not perfect. When I would forget and ride too close to it, it would lose me, but Sean reported that it immediately un-zoomed itself, looking for me. He was able to control the Pivo from the laptop, so he could remotely track me if needed. Once he assumed control however, it no longer tracked me automatically. He played around with that feature for a bit just so he would understand its limitations and functionality while we were both in the same "room." Overall, he felt like it gave him a good enough picture of what I was doing for him to coach me.
The set up did take some time, but I only practiced twice, once a few months ago, and once an hour or so before this lesson. The steps were pretty easy to follow, and I even forgot to do a few things like close all ten billion open apps on my phone. Even so, it worked pretty smoothly. I did write about Pivo Meet once before, so I used that post as my tutorial.
For this dress rehearsal, these are the steps I followed:
One successful experience doesn't mean we have the process perfected, but Sean is happy to give it a try. Since it will save me so much time and money (diesel is expensive), I am definitely looking forward to trying it for "real" next week. Unless we're in the Pivo Meet, we won't be able to hear one another if there is a problem, but I think once we have Pivo Meet open, Sean is tech savvy enough to get Pivo at least pointed in the right direction. And luckily for me, he's a sharp enough trainer that he can see a whole lot with even just a glimpse of Izzy's body. Mine too for that matter. My next lesson is on the 29th, and we're going to give it a try. I'll let you know how it goes.
For what I'll save in fuel over the next three lessons, Pivo will pay for itself and the Powerbeats. I am all in!
I am diving into the world of virtual lessons. I love my Pivo Pod and have it dialed in so that it works effortlessly every time. It has taken a few tweaks, but it now works perfectly. If you're considering a Pivo Pod, here are my quick recommendations:
Now, I want to start using Pivo Meet for remote lessons so that I don't have to spend nearly six hours driving for a lesson. Not only is my whole Saturday spent just so I can get a 45 minute lesson, but the price of diesel keeps going up. Driving to a lesson now costs around $70 which is nearly the price of a lesson!
While I would have loved for someone to just tell me what to do to make Pivo Meet work, I know from experience that doing the research myself usually gives me a better understanding of the process. I started off with this article from Pivo. The process is pretty simple:
The last thing I need to do - besides practicing some more, is acquire a set of wireless ear buds. Holy moly is that a rabbit hole. Apparently, there are wireless earbuds and true wireless earbuds. The first are wireless, meaning they connect via Bluetooth but they are connected to each other by a wire. True wireless earbuds aren't connected to each other. Both styles vary wildly in price, but I think I have found a pair that will suit my budget and needs both: PowerPro Sport 5.0 Bluetooth Headphones. What I like about these besides the functionality is that they claim to work up to a range of 100 feet.
Before spending the money on the earbuds though, I want to do a bit more practicing. I need to make sure I can get Pivo Meet to work smoothly every time. Right now, I am having a few problems, but I feel quite confident they are due to user error. While reading posts on the Pivo Facebook page, I also discovered that connecting the earbuds and getting them to work during the Meet can be problematic, so now I need to get that part working as well. Thank you, Janet and Ruth, for the tip.
If you have any other Pivo Meet tips, feel free to share!
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 …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
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