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From tragedy came a high-tech idea -- 'smart nanny cam for horses'

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From her tragedy of losing one horse, Alexa Anthony came up with a high-tech idea to monitor horses. (KOMO)

REMOND, Wash. (KOMO) - Alexa Anthony throws a blanket on her horse, Elektra, for the night. It’s going to be cold in the stable and she wants Elektra to be warm.

But in 2012 on Christmas night, after doing the same routine with another horse called Magic, a horse she rode in the NCAA Equestrian Finals, something horrible happened.

“He got colic, he got really sick from that, I didn't know because it was the middle of the night,” said Anthony. “So we came at 8 o'clock the next morning, and it was too late.”

Had she known sooner of his symptoms, she could have saved him.

“I think it took me three or four years for me to come into the stable and not start to cry,” Anthony said. “I definitely lost a piece of me that day.”

But from her personal tragedy rose the germ of a high-tech idea that’s now called StableGuard. Think of it as a very smart nanny cam for horses.

“We use an artificial intelligence to recognize specific behavioral characteristics in our horses and notify the user only when there's critical things happening,” Anthony remarked, who is now the chief executive officer of Magic AI, StableGuard’s parent company.

Using a video camera mounted in a horse’s stall, StableGuard works by monitoring the video stream for specific behaviors that could signal a horse is in distress such as the lack of eating or drinking or on its back against the wall or looking at its stomach, a symptom of colic.

“The temperature drops to 20 degrees and your horse doesn't have a blanket on, you would want to know that as well,” said Anthony.

StableGaurd comes with digital thermometers and in the case of a horse losing its blanket in cold weather or another other unusual behavior, a distress alert is sent to the horse’s owner through a mobile app and a plays a short video showing the moment of distress.

Now the horse’s owner can take action or dismiss the alert without the need to sift through hours of video footage.

“The system is set up to measure the temperature in the barn and to know if the horse is wearing its blanket,” said Jacob Sullivan, chief technology officer for Magic AI.

“Horse owners gave us a range of behaviors that they themselves would look for if they were able to watch their horses 24/7,” said Sullivan. The startup's software patterned those behaviors into its artificial intelligence program.

“The artificial intelligence uses specifically something called machine learning to recognize horse activity and behavior from the video stream,” says Sullivan.

Magic AI is the opening stages of selling StableGuard. Initially, it's being targeted to stable owners with 10 or more stalls. For a stable that size, Sullivan says the price is roughly $4 a month per horse. That includes all equipment and installation, but it also requires a minimum two-year subscription to the service.

For Anthony, she feels she now has peace of mind not just for Elektra, but for all the horses her system monitors.

“All too often bad things happen to horse owners,” said Anthony. “Not only are they big financial investments for their owners, they are also pets and loved ones, they are almost like people's children.”

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