Garmin is building a heart rate monitor that'll work on a zebra's butt

Pair of zebras facing camera
(Image credit: Getty)

Garmin has registered a patent for yet another heart rate monitor following the launch of the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro and Epix Pro with the new Elevate V5 sensor. However, this upcoming device isn't designed to strap around your wrist, or even your chest. In fact, it isn't for humans at all. Instead, it'll be made to fit on a the tail of a horse, or any other equine – including ponies and zebras.

The document, US 20230363712 A1, was published by the US Patents and Trademarks Office last week, and describes how "the heart rate sensor can contact a tail of an equine and comprise an optical heart rate module (OHR) and a transmitter. The OHR module can output light into skin of the equine, receive reflected light, and convert the reflected light into electrical signals."

Horse riding is available as a trackable activity on many of the best Garmin watches, including the Garmin Fenix 7 series (I just checked), but this would be the company's first big move into the world of equestrianism. 

The document includes a diagram showing a cuff-style device fastened around the base of a horse's tail, with an optical sensor that appears to sit close to the animal's rump. Further illustrations show that the sensor unit is likely to be removeable for charging, and will use the same Elevate V5 sensor as the company's latest watches.

Handling horses

Heart rate sensors for horses already exist, but usually attach to the girth, which fastens around the horse's body and holds the saddle in place. This has a tendency to move around, causing inaccurate readings, and the light can be blocked by the horse's fur, which sometimes means the animal's belly needs to be shaved.

This wouldn't be a problem for Garmin's new device, because the area under the tail is bare and more stationary than the belly. It wouldn't just be able to detect heart rate, either; like a running watch, the device could also track blood oxygen saturation.

The monitor has obvious applications in horse racing and training, but Garmin notes that it could be used on any equine, including "a horse, pony, donkey, mule, or zebra" – possibly for veterinary purposes.

A patent application doesn't guarantee that a product will ever enter production, but Garmin's documentation shows a lot of careful thought about the practicalities of working with horses, including allowing for one-handed application so the user can face the animal and watch its face for signs of agitation. I'll keep my ear to the ground for more news, and bring you further information as soon as I have it.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.