Just recently Shannon Peters gave a clinic from her home base in San Diego, California. Nothing about this is unusual, except for the fact that Peters' students were riding thousands of miles away in Canada. At the request of her clients, Peters had agreed to try real-time, virtual coaching. Utilizing a system that allowed her to watch the students' rides in real-time, she was able to provide immediate feedback via a microphone, to an ear piece worn by the rider for an experience very similar to your standard lesson.
"It has worked out so well! I can see how this a real wave of the future. A microphone system is hooked up through the computer and directly to the rider, so it is real-time coaching" explained Peters.
On Peters' end the set up was simple. "I just needed to video call them over Skype, and it all worked great!"
To provide Peters' with a clear, steady video stream her clients utilized a robotic device, PIXIO, that follows the motion of the horse, automatically keeping them in the center of the frame and in focus. Designed for athletes, this addendum to your standard video camera makes it possible for even those riding on their own to video themselves, or participate in virtual lessons without any assistance. The only requirement is a wireless connection.
When considering the possibilities that real-time virtual coaching may grant riders, the opportunities are limitless. Peters' quickly pinpointed the benefit of the practice, saying "It certainly cuts down on travel." With distance no longer a barrier clinicians could be giving lessons to students in California one hour, and Florida the next. Riders living in more remote areas could have access to regular, world class dressage coaches, and clinicians would be able to reach a much greater number of students without ever stepping foot outside their home. In some cases this could even bring the cost of clinics down, making it more affordable to students to ride with high quality coaches.
Sounds too good to be true? Not the case. When asked if there were any drawbacks during her experience, Peters' had little criticism.
"The only problem we have had is actually on my end, as our internet speed is quite slow! So once in a while, we'll have momentary glitch, but it is rare. The benefits definitely outweigh any downside."