From Endurance to Dressage
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!
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%