In the age of Coronavirus and social distancing, I've had a ton of interest in online lessons for riders who want to keep training but are unable to travel to clinics or lessons. Although I'm relatively inexperienced with online lessons I've always been interested in learning to do them, and I've had plenty of practice this past week! I will give a brief overview of the basic process for those interested, with practice it is actually relatively easy to do although you have to have some patience and the ability to take a joke (as is the case with many things technology-related LOL).
Technology Requirements: Both student and coach need to have a smartphone or tablet, with access to both good WiFi and an audio/video call service (examples include FaceTime, Skype, and GoogleDuo). You can download the app for the specific service onto your phone. My experience has only been with GoogleDuo but I know others have used different platforms. I think in both cases the instructor can also access GoogleDuo from their computer, but I've just used my phone so far.
Student phone placement: The video seems to work best if the phone is placed on the short side of the arena to cover as much of the arena as possible, preferably on the quarterline and angled to see both sides of the arena. With this placement and the lack of zooming capabilities the instructor won't be able to see into the corners by the camera. The phone can be placed on a stand, tripod, or even leaned up against the wall. The instructor wants to see as much of the arena and the horse/rider combo as possible, so it behooves the student to play with the placement of the phone prior to their lesson, in order to get the best angle for the instructor.
Audio: The student needs to wear some type of bluetooth headphones that connect to their phone (obviously wirelessly) so they can hear the instruction while they're riding. In theory anything that remotely connects to your phone and still works at a significant distance (remember the rider will be potentially riding 200 meters away from their phone) will work. One of my students highly recommends the Skullcandy JIB wireless headphones, she has found they work the best of the ones she's tried. I've found the audio on the instructor's end to be no problem.
Video Quality: Obviously the video quality isn't great for the instructor in this scenario. I've found personally that although I can't see minute details with this method (as example its hard to see when the rein gets a little floppy), I can see the big picture very well (partially because you don't get bogged down in too many minute details). So I found overall frame, way of going, engagement to be in some ways easier to see. Interestingly its also easier to see overall usage of the arena.
To improve video quality for the instructor, zooming and tracking capabilities are preferable. There are a few different tracking cameras on the market, but Pixio (which uses a video camera), Pixem (which uses a smartphone/tablet) and Soloshot (which only works in an outdoor arena, as it relies on satellite GPS information) seem to be the most popular among riders right now. I personally don't have any experience with these devices yet, but you can research the Pixio/Pixem devices at tv.movensee.com.
Starting the Lesson: At the specified time either the rider or instructor just calls the other on the GoogleDuo app. It does seem to take some trial and error to get the audio and/or video to work correctly, so it's best for the rider to have at least practiced with phone placement and checked the connectivity and distance of their wireless headphones/earbuds before actually scheduling a lesson. Another option would be to schedule a 10 minute "technology trial" between instructor and student just to get some of the kinks worked out before scheduling an actual lesson, especially if both parties are new to the whole thing. Like I said, some patience and practice is required when figuring out technology and a new platform, for both student and instructor.
With a little practice this basic method actually works quite well for giving remote lessons. Contact me if you're interested in learning more or would like to set up a lesson!!