Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science & Technology
Horse racing is high stakes at Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville, Illinois. A jockey’s skilled riding technique can push a horse to victory. Truly understanding the four-legged athlete’s abilities and limitations could lead to greater success.
Some of the owners and trainers at Fairmount Park are first to experience new technology designed to better understand their horse’s capabilities. It’s made possible through innovative technology created by St. Louis-based Equine Smartbit.
The company created a “SmartBit” for measuring the horse’s wellness and performance while training.
“Thoroughbred racing has really lagged behind other professional sports,” said Michael Moore, owner and breeder, as well as managing partner of Saddleback Stables. “The smartbit will provide important real-time information that will be valuable to horsemen and really enhance their chances for success.”
Biometric microsensors are integrated into the smartbit for the tracking of vital signs in real time. Trainers can monitor the horse’s heart rate, body temperature, blood oxygen and respiration in correlation with the horse’s movements while running the track.
The high-tech smartbit is an add-on feature equipped with sensors for the center of an otherwise traditional horse bit, so that the placement is under the horse’s tongue. The device has a system of biometric and environmental sensors that take measurements through the mouth.
“The tongue combined with saliva for biometrics is absolutely perfect. It’s internal, it’s not invasive,” said Mike Saigh, co-founder of Equine Smartbit. “You’re really getting accurate readings by looking at the mouth from a scientific standpoint. This is the first time in equine history that a scientific method has been used on a horse.”
Trainers can monitor vitals in real time through the company’s mobile platforms. The data collected allows trainers to understand the horse’s capabilities so they can adjust training.
“You can see if a horse has more athletic potential. You can push it harder, or you can slow it down,” said co-founder Shower Zhang. “You can adjust the training intensity according to the readings.”
The acquired data allows trainers to recognize problems, be proactive and adjust training to prevent injury.
“They can’t talk. They go around the track and some of them are stressed,” said Saigh. “Creating this new humanity for equine is extremely valuable.”
Jim Watkins is a Thoroughbred racehorse trainer at Fairmount Park and he’s president of the Illinois Horsemen’s Association, HBPA.
“If you have a horse that underperforms and you can’t figure out why, you’re always searching for an answer as to why that performance was not up to standard. This additional information can be helpful in that manner. You might adjust the feed, the training schedule, medication intake,” said Watkins.
Equine Smartbit is described as an engineering and design company built on a platform of innovative products and patents applied across a broad range of fast growing industries. The company recently launched a product for the bovine industry. It’s similar to the smartbit device, but instead of placement in the mouth, the device is designed to wrap around a cow’s tail. Equine Smartbit said it has successfully tested the product and is planning to go to market this year.
“We will be able to monitor the bovine’s health and wellness as we are doing with horses,” said Zhang. “It provides a new study on bovine behavior that scientists have never been able to do, and will potentially develop new practices for the bovine industry with this real-time and continual scientific data.”
Zhang said the hope is to position Equine Smartbit in the agriculture industry by providing tools for monitoring animal health and wellness.
FUTURE APPLICATION FOR HUMANS
Saigh explained how the advanced versions of the company’s technology will add sensors to track movement, impact, and electrochemical capabilities. The goals of the applications are to improve the welfare, health and performance of animals and humans.
Saigh’s new technology company, Salivat, will deliver the human applications for health and team sports performance starting with a sensor armband which continuously monitors Temp, HR and SpO% for workers, students and frontline workers to ALERT when Temperature, O2 saturation deviate beyond set optimal levels.