Voltaire Design launches equine industries first 'Smart Saddle'

Fitness trackers are wildly popular these days. Several companies have created wearable devices that help users count steps, calories and activity. Equine athletes are about to have their own activity tracker, tucked inside a gorgeous saddle created by Voltaire Design (www.voltairedesign.com).  The saddle is not only the lightest the company has ever made, but it’s also one of the most customisable and, according to Voltaire founder and president Brice Gouget, the first “smart saddle.”

Gouget worked for Devoucoux saddles for several years before starting his own company in 2010 out of his garage in France. He partnered with Devoucoux’s former head saddle maker Olivier Puychiot, and engineer Géraldine Gilmas. The company has expanded since and now employs 72 people.

Voltaire Design began sponsoring the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington in 2011. Shortly after the company’s debut, Olympic show jumper Beezie Madden began using Voltaire saddles exclusively.

Brice Gouget is founder and president of Voltaire which created the Blue Wing saddle. It ha Photos provideds a fitness tracker inside that can provide data about a horse’s stride, the number and height of jumps, and how long the horse trained.

The “EquiSense” device built into the saddle will allow riders to track and record data using a smartphone app.

“It can tell you how much time you spent walking, trotting and cantering,” Gouget said. “It can tell you how many jumps you had. If you use it five times on the same horse, it can recognize that horse by its rhythm. It can tell you how high you jumped and the length of your strides. It can display data by day, week, or month. You can see what’s been done on every horse.”

“It took a while to make it happen,” Gouget said of the new saddle, which will be available for sale in the spring. “When fitness trackers first appeared, I thought about doing it. It took a while to get everything together and make it happen. We teamed up with a company that has really good knowledge on connected devices. Teamwork was the key to making this happen.”

Another notable feature of the Blue Wing is the foundation of the saddle, known as the tree. The Blue Wing’s tree is made of a lightweight composite material with flexible points at the edges that move with the horse. Gouget hopes people will appreciate the inner workings as much as the looks of the saddle.

“It comes with endless possibilities for personalization,” Gouget said. “You can have brushed aluminum on some areas of the saddle if you want. You can have it in alligator if you want to be very fancy. You can do something more sporty or more fashion-oriented. The saddle is eco-friendly, which I think most of our clients are going to like.”

Unlike other athletes, equestrians haven’t had data readily available to them for analysis. The Blue Wing will change that for riders who can afford its price tag.

“I think giving the riders data to explore will give them additional information to help them understand the horse’s performance and well-being,” Gouget said. “It’s not going to replace good horsemanship, but it will give riders tools to analyze and understand new things. It’s going to change a lot.”

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