Instructors around the world speechless as electronic heel position indicator hits the market.
OK, they’re not speechless. But they’ll surely have a lot less to say about keeping your heels down and more voice left to inform you of all the other things you’re doing wrong thanks to this amazing new gadget poised to hit arenas worldwide.
The Level Up Heel Indicator, which looks a bit like a Fisher Price spur, contains a tiny microprocessor that measures your heel angle when your foot’s in the stirrup. It runs on a watch battery. When your heel creeps up above level, it beeps, and won’t stop until your heels are down. You can adjust the volume to avoid driving your horse, and other people in the arena nuts. (Or not, depending on your equitation.)
The gizmo is the brain child of Kathy Phillips, who, frankly, was “tired of paying someone to tell her daughter (and devoted product-tester) Katlyn, 15, an eventer, “to keep her heels down!” A retired police office with 20 years on the force, Phillips knew a thing or two about alarms, though usually of the car variety. Her husband ran a hobby shop for decades. They realized that the leveling indicator that helps keep the wings on model planes even as they fly could be adapted to the heel of a riding boot.
All the product testing (and smiling for catalog pics, not always easy for teens) has paid off for Katlyn. After a season training with her parents’ invention, “her dressage scores went up by about ten points,” says Phillips.
The “smart spurs” debuted at Equine Affaire this winter. I got to check them out at the recent American Equestrian Trade Association show. Unfortunately for Phillips, the dreadful weather trapped their floor models at a shipping center in Michigan. But the prototypes they had on hand were way cool.
The Level Up Heel Indicators are going into production any minute. Keep your eye on their Facebook page for more info. They’ll retail for about $150 a pair and will be available in 40 colors.
Phillips and her family have hi-tech plans for the Level Up 2.0. They’re hoping to make the device bluetooth compatible. Not only could the alarm then be sent directly into a pair of ear buds, but an app could track the rider’s progress (or lack thereof, in my case) and then make nifty charts. I suggested one day having a choice of tones for the alarm. For example, the sound of my German trainer yelling would be much more effective for me, personally, than a quiet beep. Who knows, perhaps George Morris could license his voice…?
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