A modern way of learning with Equestion

First up, an apology - this review has been a LONG time coming! When I set the new website up, I hoped to use the new Blog feature not only for #trainingtips but reviews of some of MiniD and I's favourite products.... the problem was knowing where to start! We have a lot of kit we use regularly that we really like, and choosing one item to be worthy of our first review has proved tough!

However, Lucy Mundy unexpectedly came to my rescue when she approached me with details of her Equestion app and invited me to have a look at it.... I started writing the review pretty early on, but then life and lockdown got in the way and I was too busy to finish it. The upside here is that I can promise you we have well and truly tested the app over the past couple of months - it's not just a one-time wonder, but something we have returned to again and again. So here goes...

Apps are the way of the modern world, and Equestion (part of the Rider Success Academy) have leapt with both feet into the 21st century with their interactive quiz-based learning app.

Me, I’m more of a ‘one toe in the water’ individual, clinging with hopeless desperation to my shelves weighed down with heavy old textbooks mostly bought (and undoubtedly now several reprints out of date) when I was studying horses at college. But this clever little app squashes all my dozens of textbooks into one affordable little bundle that you can carry with you on your phone any time, any where! And all for the cost of less than one of my old textbooks…

I was told when I was introduced to the Equestion app that it has lots of questions. They weren’t kidding. It has lots and lots and LOTS of questions! There are two levels, and they span pretty much every horsey topic imaginable, from tack and rugs, to horse behaviour, care and management, working on a yard, riding, and in level two even subjects such as trekking yards and riders with special requirements.

When I wrote the bulk of this review, MiniD and I had been playing with the app for a few days days, and I still felt like we had barely scratched the surface.

The questions are all multiple choice based and (I quote) “written by equine professionals with years of practical experience of teaching and assessing”. As you’d expect from an app designed to help you work towards your BHS exams, there’s a strong element of doing things correctly and safely, which might not necessarily be how you’d do things ‘in real life’! This gave me an advantage over MiniD, as I have worked on yards, and studied for my exams, whereas MiniD was initially a little quick to leap to only part of an answer (many of the answers were cleverly designed in that all parts could potentially be correct, but not in isolation!) Once she started to think more about the question and her answers, her scores started to go up. I can see this style of questioning being a real advantage for experienced owners/students who may well ‘know their stuff’ but need to get their brain back into ‘exam mode’.

When I was initially asked to review the app, I thought it would be interesting for myself, but have very limited value for (then) 6yo MiniD. And I was totally wrong! MiniD might be young, but it’s amazing what she has absorbed growing up around horses, and she really enjoyed putting herself to the test. Even before I had downloaded the app she was pestering me to get started, and I have been able to sit her down with it for huge chunks of time with her absolutely absorbed and leaving me in peace… result!

The instant feedback (the right answer goes green, the wrong one goes red) is a real plus. MiniD tends to lose confidence if she gets things wrong, and yet with this app she has happily blundered on, averaging around 40-50% correct when we first started, and increasing to more like 60-80% correct… even as I am typing this there’s a delighted little ‘yessss!’ coming from her direction every time she gets an answer right.

Within each level, the questions are split into topics. There’s some crossover as you’d expect – for example I took on the ‘Trekking’ subject (I have never been involved in trekking) and some of the questions were related to the fit of tack and equipment. You can answer as many or as few questions as you like within the levels – at any time you can choose to ‘End Quiz’, and then the app will give you a summary of how many questions you got correct. You can also choose to 'Test Yourself' to get random questions across all topics.

If I were to pick fault from MiniD’s point of view, there didn’t seem to be a progressive structure to the questions – they didn’t start off easy and gradually get harder. But the app is intuitive – it uses it’s large bank of questions to quiz you on all aspects of a topic, and as you get them right or wrong, it stores that knowledge to help work out what question to present you with next (you can reset at any time too). For most users, this makes more sense, as what is easy to one person might not be to another! I also found, somewhat surprisingly at times, MiniD’s ‘gut feel’ answers even on a subject she had never come across (‘Which type of fire extinguishers would you use….’) were often correct. I’m sure sometimes these were lucky guesses, but I also think they way the app writes and uses the questions and answers helped her think in a way that she wouldn’t have done just reading from a text book. There's also quality photo on every screen: some are used as part of the question, other times it just adds a visual appeal, and MiniD has always enjoyed looking at them whether they're part of the question or not.

As I said at the beginning, I’m not a natural app user…. The Equestion app is intuitive and perfectly straightforward to use. MiniD grasped it instantly, which pretty much says it all…! There's a tiny lag between pressing on an answer and the ‘tick’ appearing to show it had registered your choice, and then the same tiny lag after you press ‘submit’ – this confused me at first – you know when you’re waiting for a lift and you keep pressing the ‘call’ button because you aren't sure anything is happening… Yep, that was me! Otherwise, the only real issue I had was downloading it - and that was through no fault of the app but rather the settings on our WiFi - once resolved it was no bother.

Even a couple of months on, MiniD regularly asks to ‘play the quiz’ on my phone – it worked brilliantly yesterday in the horsebox on the drive home from our two days away. I was pretty tired, and MiniD doesn’t have any ‘tech’ of her own yet. Once she got bored of chatting to me, and reading some of her pony books, she was able to fire up the Equestion app, and I got to concentrate on driving while she was happily amused (and learning!)

Ironically considering my initial reservations, I actually think the app has far more value for MiniD long-term than for me - though there's still plenty of topics in the Level 2 section I have yet to exhaust. And it's all permanently and easily accessible wherever I am, because I always have my phone with me!

You can find out more about Equestion here https://www.ridersuccessacademy.com/equestion

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