by: Marsha Hayes
September 25 2010, Article # 17009
Cutting-edge GPS technology will provide real-time tracking of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) Endurance competitors as they race tomorrow in Lexington, Ky.
"Anyone with a laptop will be able to track the horses, at the event, or at home, around the world," explained Emmett Ross, endurance discipline manager for WEG. Ross also noted the system will be in place in the staging area to alert crews when their horses are coming into a vet check and allow them to adjust race strategy based on knowing competitors' positions.
For equine enthusiasts on site at the Kentucky Horse Park, several large viewing screens will be stationed around the park in the trade show and hospitality areas, and perhaps other sites to enhance viewing of the lengthy WEG event, projected to last around eight hours.
Announcements will also be broadcast on site alerting spectators when horses will be arriving in the vet-check staging area.
The GPS system initially will be set to "ping" or update data every 30 seconds. Ross plans to lower the update rate to six seconds near the finish, where at that time, "You will be able to really see that little icon move along."
Because the Kentucky course does not allow spectators on the trails, public roads, or private lands where horses are competing, "This system will be a way to allow everybody to view the event," said Ross.
Swipe cards will also be added to enhance efficiency at the games. According to Becky Hart, chef d'equipe of endurance Team USA, the cards have been used in the Middle East and Europe and furnish valuable time-tracking data to crews and event veterinarians. Ross also noted a back-up system is in place, should electricity fail.
When a horse comes into a vet check, a crew member swipes that rider's card which records that horse's number, team, and logs the time of when the horse entered vet check. When the horse is presented to the vet to determine if his or her heart rate has dropped to the required rate to allow the horse to continue, the card is swiped again. After a set number of horses have swiped a computer printout is generated.
Because the time between check in and pulse down can be indicative of a horse's fatigue, Hart explained print-out access allowed one to, "keep an eye on the competition" by watching for an increase in pulse-down time. "It also allows me to keep track of each loop time, for my team and [their] competitors," Hart continued.
According to Ross, the computer print-outs assist event-monitoring veterinarians in awarding Best Conditioned awards by providing a summary of pulse-down times over the 100 mile race. Soundness after the event will also be keenly scrutinized, but the swipe card's fast, accurate analysis of each horse’s pulse rate data is a valuable veterinary analysis tool.
During the vet checks, hand-held heart rate monitors will connect to large viewing screens, allowing spectators to see for themselves the equine athlete’s moment of reaching the criteria needed to start another loop.
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