Dec. 14, 2017
Story re-printed from NCEA.
Waco, Texas -- One Christmas night while attending the University of South Carolina, Alexa Anthony's favorite horse, Magic, was stricken with Colic, a relatively common digestive infection in horses. If caught in a timely fashion, Colic can be treated with simple medicine and the affected horse is fine.
However, if the horse goes untreated for several hours, the condition can become deadly. Unfortunately, that scenario played out for Magic. Anthony went to check on him the next morning, but by that time it was too late to save Magic.
It was an unfortunate event that could have been prevented had Anthony been notified during the night of Magic's condition. So when Anthony graduated from college and began working for Intellectual Ventures in Washington state, she tried to think of ways to use her profession to better the equine industry.
Intellectual Ventures is the world's largest intellectual property firm, and Anthony soon began learning a lot about artificial intelligence and business and product development. While speaking with a colleague one day, Anthony told him about what happened to Magic and how she wanted to one day come up with an idea that would one day prevent tragic occurrences like that from happening.
"Why don't you solve the problem using artificial intelligence and computer vision?" the colleague asked Anthony.
That was the beginning of Magic AI Corporation and StableGuard, a product that Anthony hopes slashes the number of tragic, preventable horse deaths. Anthony is the CEO of Magic AI and the colleague who helped her come up with the idea, Jacob Sullivan, is the CTO.
StableGuard is the world's only artificially intelligent 24/7 mobile device monitoring and alert system that's used to notify horse owners of distress, security issues or emergencies with their horses.
"My background was in horses so I wasn't super passionate about optimizing people's schedules with AI," Anthony said. "I wanted to apply it to the equine industry." Anthony is doing just that with StableGuard. Video cameras are placed in each horse stall and the horses are digitally monitored 24/7. Thanks to AI and the advanced technology used by StableGuard, the cameras can keep an eye on every aspect of a horse's comfort. It can see if a horse has been eating or drinking, can track the animal's movement around the stall, and the system is continuously updated to recognize a growing list of injuries, stress behavior, security issues, and medical ailments.
Whenever any kind of problem arises, StableGuard sends an alert to the owner's mobile phone. It's the type of technology that could've saved Magic, the horse that Anthony rode to the National Championship while at South Carolina.
Anthony has enlisted the help of several of her former Gamecock teammates. Katherine Schmidt received a text from Anthony one day asking her to participate in a survey about StableGuard and the benefits.
"It was basically some early market research about if being a horse owner, because I have five horses of my own, if this is a product that I would be interested in and any feedback I had," Schmidt recalled. "From there, I took the survey and told her this was really cool. I had actually been working on finishing up my MBA at the time and I said, `Listen, if you need any help with this, don't be afraid to reach out. I'm really interested in this and I think it's a great idea.'"
The next day, Anthony asked if Schmidt could help out with the product on the East Coast. A professional rider, Schmidt travels the region participating in horse shows and can receive great feedback from people all over the nation. She accepted Anthony's invitation and has been a big part of the team ever since.
There's a personal side for Schmidt as well, as she tragically lost a horse in another preventable death.
"There was a horse named Dawson that got cast in his stall and ended up fracturing his hip because he was stuck," Schmidt said. "No one saw him for a while. Eventually he had to be put down because of the fracture in his hip. You can't really recover from that when you're a horse. He could've been saved sooner if StableGuard was in his stall."
"I've generated a lot of support from not only the AI industry, but also the equine industry because this is a really big problem," Anthony said.
StableGuard is still in the early stages of its existence as Magic AI just became incorporated in June. However, the feedback received has all been positive. As a former collegiate athlete, Anthony hopes her product can benefit the NCEA.
"We do want to work with the NCEA," Anthony said. "A big part of that has to do with the horses that are donated to each facility. Oftentimes they're donated because they have a health history that's not ideal. Maybe they had Colic in the past and that made it hard for the owner to sell so they donated it to the school or maybe they had an old injury and they have to keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't happen again."
StableGuard could help the schools in the NCEA watch the horses that work so hard for each university and the riders. Anthony said plans are in the works to install StableGuard at One Wood Farm, the home farm of the University of South Carolina equestrian team. Head coach Boo Major and the Gamecocks are in the process of fundraising for the project. If interested, please contact Gamecock Club Lead Annual Gift Officer Philip Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-777-4277.
"I think the idea is absolutely phenomenal and can be incredible as far as what they're trying to do," Major said. "As they develop it, it's going to be an extremely popular product. I'm fascinated with the whole thing. It's going to be so helpful to people that have breeding programs or those who have a horse that's had some kind of surgery, or even if you just have an extremely expensive horse that you want to keep an eye on 24/7."
While talking to people across the East Coast, Schmidt has been overwhelmed by the support and praise for StableGuard.
"Every single horse person I talked to gave me a positive reaction, saying, `This is something that the horse industry needs because there is such a lack of technology that can help us save lives, especially since we're not in the barn all night long to look after these horses,'" Schmidt said.
Anthony is joining her love of horses with her professional career to make a difference in the equine industry. So many NCEA graduates go on to do great things in their professional careers, and this is one more example. But Anthony and her team hope to make a lasting impact on the future of the NCEA and the hundreds of horses at schools all across the country.
Maybe one day technology can prevent beloved horses from tragically losing their lives when their owners are away. That is the goal for Anthony and her team as the memory of Magic drives her to grow her business.
"If schools implemented (StableGuard) it could really help to save the horses' lives," Schmidt said. "Those horses with the NCEA do so much for us and work really hard and we appreciate them so much."
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