Posts Tagged ‘future’

Horse Park of NJ

It’s pretty cold outside, here in the Garden State, and I am inclined to “let my fingers do the walking” for anything I need. Rather than using the telephone, which birthed that phrase, my fingers walk over my computer keys. I started looking at trails to ride when my tech-savvy son introduced me to Google Earth. Wow, pretty nifty, I can get the lay out of a show grounds before I arrive as well as learn the best route to take, whether there are hills, lakes, and shade in the area. Check out the Horse Park of New Jersey. I’m guessing those back fields are where cross-country fences go.

Hmm, do I want to board here

Oh, I like this. I then wandered to some advertised barns, hmm, that one doesn’t really have much pasture space, this one looks like a dry lot, Nice ring, hey, trailer parking! But do I really want my horse living here?

All of this information is gleaned from a bird’s eye view from the Satellites above Google Earth (e-gads, I’m assigning ownership to the earth, what’s wrong with me!)

Check it out while you are planning your riding adventures, be they trails or shows.

I get excited about the picture value of things like this. I’m an information junkie. But after the first hour of “ah-ha” moments, another side of my brain starts knocking on the door. That little suspicious grey matter always arrives in my room when I am at the height of gaiety.

It’s a privacy issue. Short of the military or government, we can’t tell the satellite it isn’t allowed to look down on us or take a picture of us. That big house behind the gate, just get an address close by and you can look in.  Who said it was okay in the first place? It’s a moot point; it isn’t going to change.

Enter the world of algorithms. I neither know, understand or like numbers, but I admit that just about all of life can be described, analyzed and saved as a set of numbers. I know that computer programs exist with facial recognition and it is an algorithm that works these wonders. How long do you think it will be before the Department of Environmental Protection has a computer program developed to look at satellite photos of farms and analyze where are the manure piles, what’s the animal count, is the water fenced off, where is the erosion control, do the permits match up with what has been done.

I don’t think this will happen in the next 10 years. But year 11? You know it’s going to happen. Perhaps it is happening now and we don’t even know about it.

Now, aside from the privacy issue, we shouldn’t get too concerned if we have been good stewards of our land and animals and are following the rules applicable to us. (Another plug to work to make sure we get rules we can actually follow.) But I’ve worked on horse questionnaires. There is a large percentage of owners who never answer these questionnaires because they are afraid of the government coming  on to their land and snooping. Turns out you can snoop from the skies

So in the end, will Google Earth lead to more people answering questionnaires. After all, if I can’t hide anything anymore, might as well stand up and be counted.

Down by the shore

Hey, hey, hey,  what’s behind the fence of the house I wondered about last year. WOW!


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New Hampshire Red

Have you heard the story about the little red hen that wanted to make a cake? It’s an old story and in summary form runs like this:

Hen wants to bake a cake

Hen asks friends to help

Friends all have an excuse

Hen bakes cake all by herself

Friends come to ask for a piece.

Hen has a few choice words for friends.

I am starting to feel like that hen: already have the chicken legs going, am known for flapping my wings and I

Chicken legs, big belly

look great in red. But it isn’t cakes that interest me, it is the use, health and welfare of our horses. Being in New Jersey, we are the sentry for what will eventually occur throughout the country. We are in regulation mode, losing real estate mode, losing horses and services mode.

As an industry we are diverse, non-cohesive and therefore non-threatening to politicians and non-important. We grumble when regulations come down to affect us, but we just wad up the notice, kick the dirt and spit. Wow, that really got a lot done. We are not proactive nor reactive, but very involved in the animal that is the target.

There are a lot of reasons for this problem, I’d like to tackle many of them in some of my future blogs. And they are valid reasons. But if we are going to control our own destiny we have to understand the reasons for this malaise and work to solve them.

I propose that there are three major hinderances to getting people engaged in the workings of the horse industry: Fear, Ignorance, and Time

My personal guess is that Fear is the largest factor. People are afraid to be involved. That fear has a lot of different bases and if you asked someone he/she would deny it vehemently, except for the perceptive individual who understands what makes themselves tick. Fear doesn’t come from just the monster in the closet. Fear comes because of the unknown, commitment, or anticipation of  negative consequences. When we ask for someone’s help we are asking them to help with the unknown.

We are the great flexible, adaptable society. The dark side of that is the fear of anything that might affect those attributes. What if I commit to making a phone call and it’s a sunny day and I want to ride instead. Well, we do commit to things, to paying the mortgage, going to work, taking the kids to soccer practice. How do we overcome the fear of commitment when it comes to involvement with horses?

Let’s say I ask Bill to call a few people about holding a horse show. Bill has agreed the idea is a great one, and is very enthusiastic, offers to sponsor a fence and the use of his tractor. But he won’t make the phone calls. Why? Because there is fear. How much time is that going to take, what if the people called say no- rejection is a powerful force, will I be mired-in and be asked to do more things that I don’t have time for. Bill is afraid. He would never think that, he just thinks that he doesn’t have enough time. The truth is he is afraid of the unknown, of what this effort will mentally cost him, of losing time, of being rejected.

We are in an era where we are all VERY busy, we are too busy. That is not going to stop, so we need to determine methods that are easy for a very busy person to work with. How do we organize an effort so that it is in a digestible time-bite? Perhaps part of it is supplying all the needs. If I need you to cut out circles, here’s the paper, the scissors, the circle stencil, and I’ve timed it, should take you about 1 hour. Now it is known, a beginning and end, and I have an idea of how long it will take- and it’s not too long!

Then there is the great Unaware. The majority of equestrians who own horses don’t own the place where the horse lives. They are ignorant of how regulations affecting the property owners will eventually affect them. They are ignorant about how regulations affecting veterinarians, feed mills, etc will affect them. How do we engage these individuals to understand their voice is needed to ensure there is property to house and ride their horse, etc. In this case we need to educate them, but then we also have to deal with the fear of involvement as above.

We are not at a loss of problems facing the horse industry, but I believe the number one problem is the engagement of the horse riding and loving population. And for that engagement I think we have to overcome the Fear, Ignorance and Time constraints.

To wit; lack of youth involvement – Ignorance (less kids know or experience horses), Time (pack in between their already jammed schedules)

Boarders raising their voices about land and use issues: Ignorance, Time, Fear

Support for industry sectors such as racing: Ignorance, Time, Fear

I can keep going, but I suspect you’ve got the point.

What do YOU think are the major issues preventing people from becoming active in the expansion, use and regulation of horses? Better yet, what ideas do you have to help change this, to overcome these three or more obstacles? And who is the chicken that is going to do all of this? Where are the leaders for our industry? Where are the FUTURE leaders of our industry?

You can start to see the complexity of the issue. Life in today’s world is complex. Writing computer programs and developing financial instruments and fighting terrorists is complex. Yet, we do that every day. So we CAN handle complex situations, we just have to be willing to.

Hey, who's been eating my cake?

Oh, oh, oh, what’s that? Hey, the oven timer just rang, I’ve got to pull the cake out. Anyone interested in helping put on the frosting?

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I missed blogging in the beginning of the week due to a Web 2.0 conference. I’m a hybrid-luddite. I know nothing of how the computer works, but am fascinated by the potential it offers. I am also horrified by that same potential.

I ramble around a lot of odd places, picking up ideas and trends, and so it was the same at this conference. Each conference has its “hot” topic and it was augmented reality for this event.

If you are still struggling with e-mail, hold onto your hats because it is about to become Mr. Toads Wild Ride.

Augmented reality refers to anything that aids your experience of reality. AR doesn’t have to involve a computer- looking at a historic trail lighting up on a museum screen is augmented reality. But the really wowy stuff is with a computer. Take a look at shopping for an apartment in Amsterdam, then think about shopping for a horse. Thoroughbred and  Standardbred sales or getting more information on a horse at a competition; point your phone or goggles at the animal and there’s breeding and performance history as well as price if it’s for sale.

What are we going to do about our shortage of vets in the future? How about putting on your medical goggles that will walk you through stuff you can do yourself. (assess a wound, clean it , dress it, take a shoe off,  give a shot) You can bet in 20 years your surgeon will have some AR training like this BMW repair video.

It was an AR on-line shopping presentation that got me thinking about horses. What changes would we like to be able to view on a horse? Well, blankets and saddle pads just seem like a decadent waste. But, what about shoes? What if you could film a horse’s movements, coming, going, side to side, and then click on a different shoe to try and see how it would affect the gait.

The logarithms to do this would make my hair hurt and it isn’t even in the ball park of doable at the moment. Ten years out, though- an interesting thought. Imagine a computer screen with a video of your horse trotting at you and then away from you. At the bottom of the screen is a selection of bar shoes, wedges, trailers, lifts, aluminum, etc. Click.  You get to see bar shoes on your horse, but more importantly, you get to see how your horse would move in bar shoes. Your farrier could even show you how different trims would affect your horse’s angles. All of this before he even lifts up the first hoof. So instead of taking six months to try different shoes on your horse to find the best shoe and trim for his problem you can accomplish it in two.

Here’s another day dream. They are now developing software that allows for real-time monitoring of  thousands of items simultaneously. The preemie in critical care can have multiple systems monitored and take extensive calculations so that there is real time information that will allow you to make corrections and avoid disaster.

What if they could do that for a hoof. If you could put sensors in critical areas and monitor the temperature, blood flow, vasoconstriction, pressure, laminar stretching, etc. If you could tell the pressure was building before having to wait for a visual sign, would that help treat the disease?

Would it be a competitive training edge to have an AR run through of your horse’s performance? Take a look at this MIT video of a professor drawing out a motion flow. Now imagine drawing out a jumper or barrel course, put in your horse’s stride length and look at where you need to bend him, slow him, what happens when take off is at point A, B or C.

We never know where the future will actually end up. Augmented Reality is here to stay. The questions become “is this a useful concept for the equine industry and if so how best to use and not abuse it.”   AR horse racing—-hmm.

This isn’t augmented horsing, but a fun video

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Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

The absence of any blog last week after my last entry may have led many to believe I did a Thelma and Louise with T-man. Not so, the bad day ended, the sun shone on the next day and I found myself 3,000 miles across country and 7,000 feet in elevation. I went hiking with the “forever young” in the altitudes of Yosemite and read a good dog book along the way. It was a welcome break from covering the laments of the racing and casino situation in New Jersey. But those three topics, altitude, dogs and racing, wandered indiscriminately through my head while I attended to the Jersey Squat, hiking in the snow at Yosemite. (for the unfamiliar, the Jersey Squat is squatting down on your knees in precarious footing so you don’t slip and break an ankle. I have no pride when it comes to avoiding injury.)

Some of the hiking in Yosemite is up in the 6-8,000 feet range. High enough to make you huff a bit sooner than normal due to slightly less air molecules. Huffing made me think about stories of the Quechua in the Andes, who are described as having superior lung capacity and resulting stamina. Seems being born in the rarified atmosphere produces a larger, more effective lung at moving large quantities of air without wearing down the respiration muscles.

Jumping across the rocks, my mind also jumped to racing and what makes a winner. I’m not involved in the race industry but know that every angle of the horse is studied. The racehorse is bred for speed and anything that has a positive effect on speed is on the breeding check list. Top of the list is breathing power. If there isn’t enough oxygen to fuel the cells then it doesn’t matter how fast the muscles can move, or how much blood there is to move the oxygen, speed is not going to happen.

I did a wee little investigation when I got home and looked up some lung facts in Marlin and Nankervis’ book Equine Exercise Physiology. Great little book if you are serious about how you horse actually converts food into energy and then energy into movement.

available at Amazon

available at Amazon

Well, it turns out that you can’t increase lung size with training. You can increase the muscles that move the air in and out in the lung with training, up to 30%. That’s huge. But what if you could, through the environment and breeding, increase the actual size of the lung. Instead of growing the racehorse down in beautiful fields, what would happen if they were born and grew in high meadows, say 4-6,000 feet above sea level. It would take generations before a change was made. The doggy book described an experiment with foxes that took 40 generations, but significant (dramatic) changes were noted in that time. 40 generations is a long time for an experiment with horses, but doable. What if the high altitude produced a steed of larger lung capacity. This is assuming the stock bred was quality race material for muscle power, etc.

At the gallop the horse’s lung is a limiting factor. It would be interesting to see if just breeding and growing in a higher environment could enlarge the lung function and make it more efficient.

Of course nothing stands alone. What does thinner air do to the strength of bone, hemoglobin content, heart rhythm, etc.? The Quechua come out adapted, but populations of other high altitudes don’t fare as well. There is a definite genetic component. And what happens when that 2-year old comes down to train at sea level?But by using the environment as an influence there might be less alteration of the other aspects needed for racing.

I wonder, though, if you could produce a superior racehorse through high altitude breeding, would that actually change the breeding industry. At what point is there too much investment in real estate, facilities, and support industries to make such a huge change.

True, true, it is all fanciful thinking. But it sure kept my mind busy for the plane ride home.

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