By Rennie Dyball
Does your trainer tell you to “look up!” or “sit up!” every lesson? Do you jump up your horse’s neck from time to time? Find yourself looking down just to double-check your lead? There’s a new device on the market that works with riders to help fix all those issues and more.
The EQright is a real-time feedback system that clips on to your helmet and alerts you with a gentle vibration anytime you indulge in bad habits on horseback. And its creator, Erin Halkins, says the device was born out of necessity: “You know you have an ‘eyes up’ problem when you literally have to invent a product to fix it!”
The Plaid Horse spoke with Halkins to learn more about the product and what it can do for your riding.
How did you come up with the idea for the EQright?
EH: In the summer of 2018, I came home from a very frustrating lesson where I just kept missing my distances, rounding my shoulders, and throwing my body. It all came from looking down or tipping forward. I knew I obviously needed to practice this, but I didn’t have a way to practice when I was by myself. Half of the time I didn’t realize I was looking down or leaning and there were no tools to help me recognize it and fix it. Then it literally just came to me: I need something to put on my helmet to scold me when I look down. Looking down is such a common struggle for so many people. I struggled with it as a junior, during my brief stint as a professional, and now as an adult amateur. In the year and a half that we’ve been developing this product, we’ve been focused on making something that’s effective. We also wanted it to be discreet because we like to look good when we ride!
Can you explain how it works?
EH: The rider calibrates the EQright while in the saddle. When you press the green button, it is actually taking a measurement of the distance between the device and your chest. When you look down, that decreases the measurement, so the device sends an alert. What I love about this is you notice it immediately. The very first ride, you’ll feel a difference because it catches you each time you look down or round your shoulders. So you’re working toward building proper muscle memory. Over time, you start to come out being more conscious of your body being taller. You will start to feel weird if you’re not sitting up tall with your eyes up or if you’re throwing your body at the jump.
How can the device detect the other riding mistakes besides looking down?
EH: When you round your shoulders, you concave your chest and chin without realizing it, and that shortens the distance between the device and your chest as well, so the device knows to send an alert. And if you’re throwing your body up the horse’s neck, the neck can shorten the measurement so EQright will alert you.
So the EQright was only intended to fix looking down, but once you started using the prototype, you found that it actually does much more?
EH: Exactly. I was amazed – I made this to help with the sole purpose of keeping my eyes up, but it has completely transformed my riding. Friends that have used it, including trainers, have been beyond excited by their results and their students’ results. Personally, my back is flatter and my body is quieter through transitions and over fences. I’m the creator but I’m also a religious user of it. I won’t ride without it.
Can the EQright help adult riders with long-ingrained bad habits? What about beginners?
EH: This device is for everybody who wants to improve their overall position or struggles with looking down. From the new rider who doesn’t yet understand how their body position affects the horse, to the rider with a hectic life who can’t make it out to regular lessons but still wants to improve. The prototype has even been used by very experienced 3’6” riders for medal finals prep. Personally, I’m an experienced rider but I ride alone a lot and we all need somebody on the ground to point things out. This device acts as those extra eyes. And our main mission with this product was to keep it simple, effective, and affordable.
Does the simplicity of the design factor into the price point ($169.95)?
EH: Yes. So many people want to go and create these crazy apps. You don’t need an app to fix these common riding problems. You need something to remind you the second you look down: Ahem, eyes up.
Long-term, how does the product help to improve your riding?
EH: In the immediate, you get results right away because the device catches you right away. It’s real-time feedback. Over time, you start to come out being conscious of your body being taller, even without the device reminding you. I really started to notice a change in my riding within the first week. That’s when I started to catch myself. After a month, I felt my riding was completely transformed and my muscles had changed. Even if I forget to charge the EQright, I find that I remind myself to be taller and more aware. All the feedback so far has been very consistent. Riders are so much more aware. It changes how you think about your riding. So you can work through those bad habits when you ride by yourself, or in lessons to support how your trainer is helping you.
Any theories as to why looking down is such a common problem?
EH: Personally, I always want to check on things. Confirmation of, oh, yup, he’s round. Or going to a jump—it’s like the harder you stare at that jump, the more you think it’s gonna come to you. Never works out so well! Really, if you just sit up, relax and ride your ride, you’re gonna be fine. And the real-time alert helps you do that.
Looking up and holding your body tall also puts you in a safer position while riding.
EH: Funny that you mention that, because my very good friend has a prototype and she recently went to ride and her baby horse took off bucking. She told me she was so happy she was wearing the device to remind her to stay tall, which she felt kept her on her horse.
To learn more about how the EQright device works and to purchase, visit www.eqright.com and on Instagram: @getyoureqright
About the Author: Rennie Dyball is the author of several books, including The Plaid Horse’s middle grade novel series, Show Strides. She’s also a contributing writer for TPH and a ghostwriter for celebrity books. Rennie lives in Maryland and competes in hunters and equitation.
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