Meter wheels may soon go the way of dodos, car phones and FEI phases A-C: relics of bygone days. That is, if Nick Hinze, eventing and global positioning enthusiast, has anything to say about it.
“You can buy a $25 meter wheel, or you could just use GPS,” said Hinze, creator of the recently launched CourseWalk application, available for an introductory $4.99 download for Apple and Android platforms.
“I hike a lot and use GPS to track my hikes and share them online,” said Hinze, 31. “I’ve always liked GPS and mapping, and one day it just came to me: Why not a course walking app? My wife, Tracy, thought it was a great idea.”
Nick, who is also the founder and manager of www.trailheadfinder.com, an interactive hiking directory, met Tracy, who events her 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding Merrimac at the intermediate level, through a local outdoors club near their home in Bedford, Virginia.
“We’re both big outdoors people, and when I first met him, he told me he’d ridden before,” said Tracy, 31. “I was like, ‘OK, yeah right, you’ve been on those trail rides where you pay $30 and ride for an hour.’ But he actually rode for about 10 years. He did some jumping and competing, so he likes to joke that he won ribbons before I did.”
Though Nick, who grew up in Strasbourg, France, took twice-weekly lessons at a local barn through high school, he never owned a horse. But when he married Tracy, who’s been eventing since she was 10 years old, he got inspired.
“Tracy’s horses are too high-level for me, and she didn’t have a beginner horse,” he said. “I’ve always liked draft horses, so we bought Picasso from a trail barn where they had about 100 other horses. He grew up being a trail horse, following other horses. At first, even going in front of another horse was weird for him.”
After two years solidifying their partnership, Nick and Picasso, his 9-year-old draft gelding, are now attracting attention at the beginner novice level (check their Facebook Fan Page, “Picasso –The Eventing Draft Horse,” for evidence), both for the gelding’s skewbald good looks and his antics.
“At the Carolina Horse Park [N.C.] in June, he stopped at a ditch, and I ended up on the other side,” said Nick, laughing. “The water has been somewhat of an issue: He wants to stop in the water and roll. He hasn’t done it at a show, but I know if he stops in the water, I’m in trouble! We’ve been working hard, though, so hopefully we’ll get it together. When I’m ready and he’s ready, we’ll try going novice.”
Course Walking Gets Technical
The CourseWalk app, for which Tracy served as chief tester, utilizes GPS and 3G Internet to record a map of your track while you walk.
“I wouldn’t let him show it to me for a while, because I wanted to view it as fresh as possible,” said Tracy, who trains with Sharon White. “I wanted to see what it would be like to use for someone who hadn’t seen the development. So we did a test run at Five Points [Horse Trials (N.C.)] with our iPad and made lots of little tweaks.”
Speed, fence location, descriptions and photos can all be entered as you go, and there are pause and undo buttons if you need to re-walk a line or happen to venture off-course. Once you’re finished, you can view your course—with calculated minute markers included—in its entirety, and even take a look at live scores or your dressage test, both of which are included in the menu.
“People have also requested the ability to record their actual ride and then overlay it, so you’d be able to see where you went slow or fast and see how you rode your track in comparison to what you walked,” said Nick, who is already planning a series of upgrades based on user requests and feedback. “We’re anticipating that people are going to lose their phones in the water, but they’ve been requesting it!
“Long-term, we’re going to launch a sharing website where anyone can post their course, and other people can download those to their own phones,” he continued. “The idea would be that shows could post official tracks, and people could download them. Short-term, we’re going to have new features like incorporating altitude. We’ll show you whether you’re going uphill, downhill or flat by using a different colored line, and you’ll have the ability to drag or change the minute markers because of terrain.
“We’re also going to include more dressage tests from different countries and more links to live scoring from different countries,” he added. “The app will work anywhere there’s a GPS signal and 3G Internet.”
At the official website, www.coursewalkapp.com, users can download the app, read FAQs and get in touch with feedback.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. The original version of "Navigating Cross-Country In The 21st Century" ran in the Oct. 10, 2011, issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.