E-TRAKKA - New Technology for Training Horses

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13th January 2006


E-Trakka is a personal fitness monitoring system for horses – during training it combines readings from a heart-rate monitor with readings from a GPS (Global Positioning System) –based velocity meter to produce a single fitness score.

Invented by Andrew Stuart who at 15 was a jockey and at 19 retired due to height and weight problems; he switched to training and became foreman to Bart Cummings.

After a short stint training on his own, he developed a keen interest in the problems associated with the lack of any accurate fitness monitoring equipment for racehorses.

Over a period of 13 years he has developed the E-Trakka system which is now used by the likes of Clarry Conners and David Hayes.

The system was trialled on Makybe Diva who was pulled out of retirement by Trainer Lee Freeman so that her exercise profiles could be examined and kept for future examination purposes.

The E-Trakka system is the result of one mans vision combined with exciting new and modern technology.  Basically the system tracks a horse’s speed while in work using the satellite based GPS positioning technology combined with a heart rate monitor inserted in the horse’s saddle blanket.  This provides the horse’s measured heart rate at different speeds allowing comparison with the horse’s exercise profile over time.

The system will in time provide a database of exercise profiles of thousands of horses, allowing any trainer to see how his horse compares with others of the same age, sex etc and the whole horse population.  It’s biggest success to date is with the horse Mirror Mirror, Winner of the 2006 Magic Millions 2 Year Old race.

How does it work?

The ABC New Inventors website provides the following information….

E-Trakka measures heart rate and velocity whilst the horse is in training in order to determine fitness.  It utilises a GPS-based velocity meter coupled with a heart rate monitor imbedded into a specially designed saddle blanket.

The ability to measure a horse’s fitness during training is a valuable indicator of the horse’s racing ability and a tool for the early detection of lameness, disease and poor physiological potential.  Heart rate is a measurement that determines the capacity of an individual horse to perform in races and has been shown to have a high correlation with oxygen uptake.  Oxygen uptake is the ultimate measure of aerobic energy supply that shows the ability of the horse to use oxygen to support the demands of exercise.

The E-Trakka comprises:
• A saddle blanket with a data processor which includes a heart-rate monitor, a GPS system, a processing unit and a radio modulator.  The saddle blanket also contains the power source.
• Linked to the blanket are 2 electrodes which pick up the horse’s heart-rate.
• A GPS antenna which fits into a pocket on the jockey’s cap and links back to the blanket.
• A download modem and the software to interpret the information.
• Small “on board” display panel which can alternately provide the jockey with a heart-rate reading or a velocity reading.  This device can be mounted on the bridle between the horse’s ears or worn on the jockey’s arm or leg.

The saddle blanket contains a battery powered data processing unit.  This processor consists of a heart-rate monitor, a GPS system, a small computer processing unit and a radio modulator.

Data is fed to the processor from the following sources:
• 2 electrodes which are placed on the horse’s body to measure heart-rate.
• An antenna in the jockey’s cap which relays GPS information.

The GPS system in the blanket is used to calculate the velocity of the horse.  It is also able to provide data on the position of the horse on the track.  The heart-rate and velocity readings are processed and relayed back to a trackside computer via the radio link.  Specifically designed software interprets the data to produce a fitness score through a specially devised equation:

Velocity/Heart-rate Max = Fitness Score

A low performing horse might have a fitness score around 45, and a high performing horse would be somewhere around 62 or 63.

This gives the trainer a simple scale for determining changes in the horse’s level of fitness.  At the end of the training session the computer compiles a second by second account of the horse’s performance.  Changes in performance from one session to another can be easily tracked, alerting the trainer to early signs of illness.

TIMING:  Because the GPS can provide information on the horse’s location as well as its speed it is possible for the computer to give timings over certain parts of the course; the last 600m for example.  This eliminates the need to try to clock the time with a stopwatch.

“SPEEDO” The saddle blanket also links to an “on-board” readout for the jockey.  This small device, mounted on the bridle or worn by the jockey can provide constantly updated readings for either velocity or heart-rate.  The jockey can toggle between the two.

How does it prevent injury?

By first determining the average speed of a particular horse over a few training sessions you will come up with data and a fitness score that represents “normal” performance for that horse.

Small variations in this performance can then be statistically analysed.  If the horse’s performance drops it could be an early indication that the horse has an illness or may be starting to go lame.  For example a higher heart-rate at a certain speed would indicate the horse is having to work harder, so there may be something wrong.  Physical signs of lameness, i.e. hobbling, would only develop a couple of weeks later, by which time the injury might be much more serious and difficult to treat.

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