From Endurance to Dressage
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.
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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%: