Does a fitness band register your fitness when riding a horse?

Some fitness trackers do, some don’t. A good number will also pick up your activity but tend to underestimate it. Let me explain.

If you’re an equestrian, wondering if the time you spend on horseback riding actually registers as exercise on your fitness trackers or not, the answer is: kind of. Most fitness bands and smartwatches will pick up some of the physical activity, but likely underestimate the full effort.

Tracking Activities While on A Horse – What to Expect

We are going to look at it in 5 different ways to give you a better understanding:

1. Steps 

When you’re on a horse, you’re going for a ride, not a walk. And standard fitness trackers like Fitbits and Garmins don’t fully get that. They mainly count steps by detecting your arm motions. So just sitting on a horse while it walks or runs isn’t going to rack up much step credit on those devices.

Your body stays relatively still in the saddle while the horse does all the moving. These trackers rely on your motion, not the horse’s, so they miss counting all those steps the horse is actually taking as if they were your own. It’s a limitation to consider if you want to track your riding workouts.

The tracker sees your activity as sedentary, not recognizing the exercise of controlling and riding the horse. So don’t expect an accurate step count from the saddle.

2. Heart Rate Increase

Optical heart rate sensors on many bands and watches will pick up on elevated heart rate while riding. The exertion of controlling the horse, bouncing trotting, sitting to canter, and running through fields does increase heart rate like cardio exercise.

So, higher heart rate while riding may contribute somewhat to calories burned estimates. Just don’t expect super accurate overall calorie counts.

3. Specialized Equestrian Trackers 

Some companies like Equilab and Health Development have created fitness trackers specifically for horseback riding.

They use advanced motion sensors optimized to detect horse gaits, combined with the rider’s biometrics, for better-estimating exertion. These can provide more accurate insights into just how intense a workout, riding can be. But they come at higher costs than mainstream trackers.

4. Riding as a Workout 

To make the most of wearable fitness tech while horseback riding, manually initiate a workout mode on your tracker at the start of your ride, tagging it appropriately as “horseback riding”, “trail ride” etc.

This tells the algorithms to specifically monitor heart rate, motion, and duration to approximate workout intensity and calorie burn. You’ll get better credit towards daily exercise goals.

5. The Limitations

While today’s standard fitness trackers have limitations in accurately quantifying riding as exercise, they can still provide some useful indicators of your overall activity and training. Just don’t expect them to fully capture the demands of equestrian sports.

As technology advances, future devices will get better at automatically detecting a wider range of physical activities.

Does Fitbit work with horseback riding?

Fitbit has some limitations in tracking horseback riding as exercise. Here’s why:

Steps – Fitbit relies on wrist motion to count steps, so being on a moving horse does not register step counts. You won’t accumulate much distance or stride data.

Heart Rate – The optical HR sensor will detect elevated heart rate during riding, which contributes to calorie burned estimates. However, wrist readings may be inconsistent.

Calorie Burn – Without accurate steps/distance data, calorie burn estimates for horseback riding won’t be highly precise. The exertion is underestimated.

Automatic Detection – Fitbit’s Smart Track feature may or may not recognize horseback riding as a workout. It depends on intensity and wrist motion patterns. 

Manual Tracking – Starting an Exercise mode for “horseback riding” on your Fitbit provides better tracking tailored to the activity. But still limitations.

Specialized wearables like Equilab are optimized specifically for equestrian workouts using advanced motion sensors. But Fitbit’s standard model capabilities are limited for quantifying horseback riding. It can provide general activity trends, but not highly precise tracking for this workout type.

What is the Best Watch for Equestrians?

Let’s first take a look at a general overview of what to expect, in relation to horseriding:

Fitness Tracker Step Tracking Heart Rate Tracking Calorie Estimation Auto-Detects Riding Riding Mode Available
Fitbit Minimal Decent Inaccurate No Yes
Apple Watch Minimal Good Fair No Yes
Garmin Good with GPS Very Good Good Some Models Yes
Equilab Excellent Excellent Excellent Yes Yes

The key features to look for if you’re looking for fitness trackers to track horse riding are GPS tracking, heart rate monitoring, durability, and waterproofing. Make sure the watch is comfortable to wear for long periods and has useful functions like countdown timers and stopwatches. Match your riding style and needs to pick the right equestrian watch. 

Here are some models we recommend for the best watches for equestrians:

1. Garmin Fenix 7 

Garmin Fenix 7

When it comes to smartwatches built for adventure, the Garmin Fenix 7 is a top choice for equestrians. This sturdy, multi-sport GPS watch is ready to go the distance on the trail. During your rides, it tracks key stats like heart rate, calories burned, and oxygen levels. 

The Fenix 7’s long battery life lasts for days between charges – perfect for endurance rides or multi-day treks off the grid. Its GPS mapping allows you to track your ride routes, speed, and elevation in real time. 

You can even load up trail maps ahead of time to explore new areas. The watch withstands dirt, sweat, and rugged terrain. Whether you’re cantering up hills or trotting on dusty paths, the durable Garmin Fenix 7 keeps up. For equestrians seeking a high-tech training partner, this watch has the advanced features you need.

2. Timex Ironman Rugged 30 

Timex Ironman Rugged 30

The Timex Ironman Rugged 30 offers a budget-friendly training watch for equestrians. This durable timepiece packs useful functions for daily riding sessions. It keeps track of workout timing with its stopwatch, alarm, and 30-lap memory recall. 

The calendar display helps you stay organized, while the Indiglo night light lets you check the time after sunset. Although affordable, the Rugged 30 is built tough with water resistance up to 100m and a scratch-resistant glass lens. So it can withstand dusty trails, muddy rides, and riding in the rain if needed. 

3. Casio Pro Trek

Casio Pro Trek 

Adventure seekers listen up – the Casio Pro Trek PRG-340-1JF is a rugged smartwatch ready for the trails. This tough wearable is built for the great outdoors with handy features for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians alike. Its GPS keeps track of your routes and speed, while the optical heart rate monitor provides training data. By downloading offline maps to the watch, you can navigate turn-by-turn on the trail without cell service. 

The Casio can withstand wet weather and hard falls thanks to its waterproof, shock-resistant design. Like a standard smartwatch, it also displays notifications, alerts, and app updates on its wrist display when connected to your phone. So you can ride knowing your important calls and messages won’t be missed.

Final Thoughts

Fitness bands can offer useful insights into your riding sessions but have limitations. The best device depends on your specific needs and budget. Focus on bands with GPS tracking to map your rides. Optical heart rate sensors may struggle to get consistent readings while riding. Look for advanced metrics that factor in calorie burn estimates based on movement. Don’t expect extremely accurate calorie counts. Treat the data as a helpful estimate rather than an absolute fact. 

Common Questions

Do fitness bands track your heart rate accurately while riding horses?

Most wrist-based optical heart rate sensors will struggle to get consistent readings while riding due to the excess arm motion. Chest straps tend to be more accurate if you need precise heart rate data.

Can fitness bands count steps and estimate calories while riding? 

Yes, many fitness bands use accelerometers to factor in movement and intensity. However, calorie estimates may not be highly accurate during horse riding. Take the data as a general estimate rather than fact.

Will GPS fitness bands properly map my rides?

Bands with built-in GPS can successfully map your riding routes, distance, speed, and elevation if worn properly. Make sure it maintains contact with your wrist throughout the ride.

What fitness data can I expect to receive while horse riding?

The main metrics are time, GPS route mapping, estimated calories burned, and heart rate if the band’s sensor can maintain adequate contact. Advanced bands may also track cadence, balance, gait analysis, and form.

Should I get a smartwatch or a dedicated fitness band for riding? 

Smartwatches typically offer more versatility and connectivity. However, dedicated fitness bands tend to have better battery life and focus on activity-tracking features. Choose based on your needs and budget.