Tracking Devices for Horses

Horseback Riding Tip: GPS navigation devices are helping one man track his horses in mountain forest pastures.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

GPS navigation devices seem to be everywhere these days, helping us humans figure out just where we are, where we are going, where the nearest coffee shop is and even where we have been recently. Do you ever wonder whether you might be able to use similar technology to find and track your horse?

Maybe you’d like to sit down at a café in Paris to see just what your horse is up to in the pasture back in Oklahoma? Or perhaps if your trail horse escapes and disappears into a half million open acres on a back country ride, you’d like to just pop open your cell phone and find him?

That day is here, and four American Quarter Horses happen to be the pioneers in the implementation of commercially available real-time GPS tracking equipment for equines.

K.L. Spear owns a 220-acre spread in Telluride, Colorado. The property borders national forest on two sides. He purchased his herd as trail horses for his family and himself. Trail riding in the area is a favorite family pastime, and his family rides nearly every day during the summer.

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Keeping the horses corralled close to the house was convenient for the Spears when it was time to ride, but that meant paying to feed hay and having them otherwise unnecessarily confined. Turning the horses out allowed them to roam and graze but could mean a time-consuming adventure when it was time to locate them to go riding.

Two years ago, K.L. discovered an option that he has found to be simple, cost-effective and perfectly suited to his needs. He got in touch with Global Tracking Group in Baltimore, Maryland, to see whether the tracking devices the company marketed for vehicles, dogs and other applications might also work for horses. The results have been impressive, according to K.L.

“We let (the horses) loose in the morning,” he says. “When we want to go get them to ride, or bring them in in the evening, we just log into the website, and I can see exactly where they are. Then we just drive our six-wheeler and go bring them back. It’s impressive how accurate it is. I can see a picture of my ranch, the corrals and everything. You can find them within 10 feet.”

K.L has a tracking device called the UBI-5000E, which is about the size of a lighter and costs $224.95. It fits in a holder that attaches to a halter. The unit is water-resistant and has a rechargeable battery that can last up to 10 days.

A service plan with a monthly fee is required to operate the device. The least-expensive plan runs $19.99 per month and provides automatic updates once an hour and gives 300 “voluntary updates” per month, the specific instances where you punch up your horse’s location immediately. More expensive plans automatically track more frequently; the $56.99 plan is the most expensive, with updates each minute and unlimited tracks.

Among the features provided in all the plans is the “geofence” that sends an alert if the device on your horse leaves an area you pre-defined.

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“It gives direction (of travel),” K.L. says. “You can track different points where they’ve been so you kind of know where they’re headed. They all stay together, so one device suffices for the whole herd. It’s a nice way to manage the horses.

“The other thing we found by allowing them the freedom to graze freely on the property is that they’re always moving, (they stay) in a lot better shape by this system. That’s the big plus of it as I see it, and it’s not very expensive.”

K.L. says the only drawback to the system that he has encountered is that the device is cell-tower-dependent. In areas with poor or no cell coverage, tracking with his GTG system won’t work. There is one low spot on his land where cell coverage drops out, so if it appears the horses have vanished, he can guess the first spot to look for them.

Only a few companies around the globe actively market GPS tracking technology for horses at the moment. The endurance riders during the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games in Kentucky were tracked by such devices, with service provided by AT&T.

“If people have good phone coverage on their ranch or property,” he adds,” it’s a very good system. I’ve found the Global Tracking Group to be very responsive. They get back to me right away and help me work through any issues. It’s a good system for me to let my horses go and know where they are.”

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