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Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

Reading through some of my posts it is pretty obvious that I lean towards research topics. I have no scientific background and can’t pronounce most of the terminology used in scientific reports, but my mind tends to always be asking questions and that runs it into the world of research papers. Through scientific endeavors we know a lot more about horses these days then we knew in the past, but there are still an awful lot of topics left on desktops with no funding to initiate.

Research on horses is expensive and most horse studies use a very small population because of the expense. Think about it; it is pretty expensive to have a hundred or more horses around for a research project: land, feed, labor–– Cha-ching, cha-ching. There are also rules that have to be abided by. Most research is done through academic organizations and they have ethics boards on how the animals can be handled or treated and they are very susceptible to lobby groups. So if you wanted to do a study where you tested the reaction of a horse to a tap on the nose by your finger, you might not be able to get that approved. A finger tap could be defined as cruel in some interest group’s vocabulary. And there are things that we, as a society in the West, just won’t tolerate. You can do all sorts of nutrition tests on pigs because pigs are a food source. You test protein and you can put the pig down and necropsy it and look for findings. The pigs life is limited anyway. You can’t really do that with horses, certainly not on a research scale.

Yet, it is through research that we find stuff out, learn to eliminate harmful things and incorporate beneficial things for our animals. Just doing chemistry equations doesn’t really work; if it did we would have an answer to all the world’s diseases. Just play a game of chemical bonds between the bad-guys-disease-makers and the medicines. The pharmaceutical libraries are full of papers on what should happen, but what in fact did not happen.

But now we have the Internet. My son has his extra CPU power harnessed by Stanford for a gnome project, gamers are connecting and creating whole fantasy societies and people are connecting to share ideas around the world. What if we all could share a research project?

I first started thinking about this when I heard a podcast by the Science Times (New York Times) on Moebius Syndrome. A researcher connected into that particular population affected by this syndrome and asked for volunteers to take a survey. She got a really good response. Cornell is doing a study on skeletal variations of the horse and they put ads in horse publications and sent packets to horse owners for measurements. And just this week I received a survey from a Ph.D. candidate doing a project on horse personalities. (You can participate through a link below)

Now putting surveys in the hands of untrained scientists can be a can of worms. But let’s be optimistic and say you could develop a survey that allowed you to detect the outliers and wild cards. Going to the masses might give enough information that would make a follow-up project much more informative and meaningful because you would have already narrowed down a focus through those survey results.

I’ll bet every vet has a few clients in his or her practice that they feel confident in. They are the clients that the vet knows really follow the instructions: the wound is hosed twice a day for 20 minutes-really. The eye drops are put in every three hours around the clock- really. The horse is walked 1 hour a day for 10 days – really. Why couldn’t these individuals be asked to join a “survey army”?  We are talking about basic research, but let’s say you want to do research on horses drinking after work in hot weather. Wouldn’t it be great to get 300 inputs to that question instead of 15? It could be done. Yes, lots of work and effort to come up with a standardization procedure, but think of the payouts. And once a procedure has been developed it can become an industry standard and used throughout. Think of the potential world-wide. There is a lot of information and a lot of variances that could be discovered.

The fact of the matter is that we really are at a point where this is being done by researchers. We just need to expand our horizons and get more equine researchers thinking this way. We can participate in helping to discover the magic that makes up a horse.

If you have 20 minutes why not try your hand at being part of a research army. Rachel Kristiansen at the University of Mississippi is conducting a survey about horse personalities. Take Ms Kristiansen’s survey and become an active member in helping to help your horse.

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Eliminating the pencil with applications

I’m a gadget girl. No I don’t need them, but I like them and I use them and I justify them by thinking of all the people I help keep employed when I buy a new gadget.

This past holiday I got an iTouch, my newest gadget. I had asked for one because I am intrigued by the applications you can get for them. I need a dictionary everywhere I go. I need a Spanish dictionary half the places I go. I need a way to keep track of what it is I’m suppose to be keeping track of. I need my contacts with me because I’m always at the post office sending stuff and missing zip codes or whole street numbers. (What “Janine in Boston” won’t get it there?)

Imagine my dismay when I found only a few apps. for horses! There’s this one for training to a tempo, great for dressage or endurance. http://www.equiapps.com/equitempo/

This app has a lot of extra features, all the FEI dressage tests, animated diagrams and ability to record the movements to match your particular horses strides. Check out the explanation on YouTube.

Being OCD about the geldings’ health I was looking for a nice equine first aid app. but only came up with ones for veterinary terms and this one (of several) for medication information: http://www.avettool.com/

Actually, it looks pretty good if you are a vet student or recent grad. There are a number of apps. for veterinary terminology, mostly flash card format. The largest number of equine or horse apps. are for racing and figuring out odds and picking winners.

But the equine community is missing a lot of apps that could do the horse world good. Hay, oops, Hey, here’s a great opportunity for some equine income for any enterprising, computer savvy, individuals, and you don’t have to be in an office and forego riding time to make these buggers.

Since I (hopefully) have inspired someone, here are my app. requests.

  1. Equine first aid; based on the Hands on Horse Care book from Horse and Rider. One of the best first aid books because it is sequential and gives practical advice, if  you need a vet  and what to do while waiting for a vet. But, hey folks, I’ll take any equine first aid app. How many of us really have the book with us in the aisle way- but an app on a mobile device is apt to be on my belt.
  2. A Nutrition App. The NCR tables (our tax payer dollar paid for them, why can’t we have access to them?). List of sources of nutrients (protein- alfalfa, whey, ect). An enterprising feed mill could develop an app. that guides the user through nutrition needs for their horse and then offers the recommended feed and amounts to be feed.
  3. A forage App.  Show me pictures of stages of hay, describe good quality, describe stages of growth and likely protein, carb and sugar content. Describe different types of hay, growing seasons, restrictions, pros, cons, etc.
  4. Equine toxic weeds. Show me pictures, and tell me the symptoms and what to do, if I should be concerned and how to rid it in my pasture.
  5. My very own equine health calendar with reminders (and cute icons- very important to have cute icons) for deworming, farrier visits, veterinary visits, vaccines, health record,  training and travel dates.
  6. A Budget App. Hmmm, on second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea.

Those are the horse care Apps. I’d love to see. I’ll bet those of you who show, train, trail ride, ship have a few requests of your own. I’d love to hear about them.

I’d love to be able to join in the equine cocktail conversation with, “There’s an App. for that!”

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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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Mares are looking at the stallion, looking at the dog, and we're looking at the dog, not what's about to happen

Mares are looking at the stallion, looking at the dog, and we're looking at the dog, not what's about to happen

We see a scene and then we focus on a specific element and miss some really important stuff. I took my dog to a trainer and at one point, while the dog was barking hysterically, and I was focused on calming her down, the trainer pointed out that the dog was afraid, “Look at the ear position and her eyes are dilated.” Her eyes were dilated! I missed all that; turns out it’s really important.

Same with my horses. I can sense they are getting tense before an explosion comes, but then my focus goes to control and calming and I miss all the other body signals and instigations.

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

So it made me take an afternoon in thought when I read in the doggy book, Inside Of A Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz, about eyes. (it’s a really interesting book if  you’re into your dogs.) It seems, on a cellular level, rods and cones in the retina take up the “picture” of the world and send that to the brain. But then the cell has to get rid of that picture and take up the “new” picture in front of it, otherwise our view would never change. The cell refreshes on routine, not just when something in the picture has changed and this takes time. A miniscule amount of time, but time just the same. Horowitz called this the “Flicker-fusion” rate although I’m betting there is some other super long scientific name we can’t pronounce. The book, after all, was written for real folks, not the scientific community.

Well, the flicker-fusion rate is different for different animals. Humans have a F-F rate of around 60 refreshes or flickers per second. I’m betting the superstar ball catcher may actually have a higher flicker-fusion rate, but now I’m wandering again. Dogs have a F-F rate of about 70-80 refreshes or pictures in a second. That doesn’t mean they will see more detail, but they will see movement faster. Hence, frisbee champions.  Apparently, the canine eye also refreshes fast enough to see the individual frames in the TV video instead of a smooth flow and this might explain their disinterest in watching Lassie. If your dog loves Rin-Tin-Tin then you might wonder if Poochie has a slower F-F rate than its litter-mates.

But you’re interested in horses. Well, so am I. And the flicker-fusion rate made me wonder about horses. What is their refresh rate and how does it affect what we do in their environment and what they see?

Turns out, I checked with a nationally known equine ophthalmologist, the horse’s flicker-fusion rate hasn’t been studied. It is assumed it’s probably similar to a dogs. I’m betting it’s even higher because they are prey and susceptible to minute movements.

Doesn’t it make you pause to think about the florescent light flicker? We seem to be aware of it on a subconscious level because it is almost identical to the human flicker-fusion rate. Those office headaches are often attributed to the florescent light flicker. The horse probably sees the light as a real ANNOYING flicker. If we have a stressed animal in a barn, do we ever think about the flicker effect of the lights? How about those fans? Bet fans are like a strobe light to horses. Some adapt, but that one guy who stays in the corner, turns away, etc, could it be to get away from the fan?

How many times do we wonder why the horse acts the way it does and we can’t see any reason. Maybe the reason we can’t see is because we have a slower F-F rate and we don’t see the movement the horse does. Is the trickle of water that looks like a stream to us a series of individual dots to the horse?

a stream or droplets- depends on the flicker-fusion rate

a stream or droplets- depends on the flicker-fusion rate

I’ll certainly be looking at my horse through a new set of eyes in the future. I wonder if his eyes dilate when he becomes afraid, and would I ever be able to see that?

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