Know your horse and avoid wrong rug syndrome.............
We all like to think that we know what we are doing, don’t we?
We are all experts, with our own opinions about what is good and what isn’t. Having recently stumbled upon a Horse & Hound Forum thread on Orscana, apparently, I am a muppet with more money than sense. What it really did was make me realise that people misunderstand products and their value to the horse owning population but are quick to jump to rather large assumptions and broadcast them.
Cool new stuff
Back in November I was doing my usual surfing of the net, looking for new stuff – horse related of course – when I stumbled over a company called Arioneo and a cool looking gadget called Orscana. Now, I don’t know about you but I spend much of my winter debating which rugs to put on, is my baby warm enough, has the temperature dropped since I last checked 5 minutes ago, I have even been known to go out at 2am to double check. The fact is I really have no clue whether my horse is comfortable or not, not really, as I cannot measure temperature. Feeling ears is poppycock. Heat is generated from the hind gut, it is a bit like a boiler but I have no natural thermostat that is capable of measuring comfort (hands do not do it).
I have a technology background, so it was a must have for me and before I knew it my credit card was in my hand and the deed was done. Not just one you have to know but I bought 4 off the bat – Chrissy pressies for the girls.
The day they arrived, I was ecstatic with delight, technology for my neddies!! I had already downloaded the app from the Apple store. Registering my details, it was then a question of syncing the sensor. It took me 5 minutes as I couldn’t find the button, then I realised it was the little tab on the back of the sensor. With Bluetooth enabled on my phone (most important or it won’t work) holding the tab down until the red/green lights flashed (pairing mode) the little radar screen on my app on my phone showed a + sign. By touching the +, the synchronisation process completed between my phone and the sensor and then I could register my horse.
Registering your horse accurately is really important. There are pre-determined algorithms (sets of rules) in the software that, based on the information you have put in, determine the comfort zone for your horse. That is key and critical as it is based on thermoregulation (the process that allows a body to maintain its core internal temperature) tests carried out on different breeds of horses and will determine your horse’s individual comfort zone.
Don’t zone out on me – this next bit is really really important. Horses are very capable of surviving to -40 and over 40 degrees of heat naturally, the problem is that we don’t allow them a natural existence. We clip them, we exercise them, we put them in lorries, we ask them to gallop and jump flat out and an hour later to be cooped up on their way home, we need them to ready to go when we require, we need them to cool off quickly, we keep them in 12 x 12 stables anything but natural. Oh, and of course, we stick all manner of rugs on them!
The key phrase is thermoregulation, or how a horse copes with changes in temperature in relation to its core temperature. Just to put this in context, the human thermoregulation temperature is very narrow, horses on the other hand have a range or comfort zone, hence why we get it so wrong, we don’t feel cold/heat the same way. Orscana has been designed with vets and the equine scientific community and has been developed to know what the ranges are for different breeds, measure it and provide you with the data to rug accordingly.
Back to the plot, once synced, I was in the game.
Fortunately, my Mum was staying so I bribed her (a promise of Cherry Brandy was all it took) to sew the little sensor pocket into my summer sheet, it took her all of 3 minutes and was very tidy job!!
On went the summer sheet with the sensor in the little pocket, correctly positioned in the dip of Stretch’s hip. The Arioneo guys have thought of most things, even the sensor is designed so that a horse won’t feel it when it is lying down, if you have it in the right place it is tough (no problems with my 18+hand KWPN and he lies down every night – I know). Checking the sensor was on (press quickly and the green light flashes for on, red light for off) data was now being recorded, it was 3pm. At 4pm Stretch was rugged in the normal way, summer sheet, under rug and a stable rug. At 6.30, my normal feeding time, I was ready to stick on another layer, I updated my app which, to my horror, was showing me he was already too hot. Instead of putting on another layer, I changed to a lighter stable rug. Thinking I would swap it back at 10 but no, Orscana showed he was nicely in his comfort zone.
I had been over rugging. I would have sworn blind I wasn’t.
There are always going to be people who say you are a muppet and that is fine by me. I will have the last laugh as I will be helping my horses to avoid suffering from heat stress, electrolyte imbalances, atrophy due to overweight rugs, posture and hollowness issues, colic issues induced by overheating, gaining weight because they are too hot, respiratory issues, certain behavioural problems nor heat related performance issues, the list is endless. Embracing technology that helps me, is for me a forward step.
On reflection here are the questions I was always asking myself, Which horse rugs for winter? How many rugs do I need? Which horse rug do I need? When to use horse rugs? When to take horse rugs off? Which horse rugs for when? What weight horse rugs? When to change horse rugs? Which rugs to put on the lorry? Thanks to Orscana it is now self evident.
Nor will I ever turn up at a competition with uncomfortable and heat stressed horses. The fact is I use the Arioneo fixing system on my travel rug or more often than not my Protechmasta, I can then see from the cab how the Stretch man is. He runs hot and so it is very important for me to monitor him. Often setting off at 4 or 5am to event it is chilly but by the time 7 or 8am arrives it is a whole other ball game, so keeping an eye on him in real-time is an added bonus. After competing, Orscana comes back into play so that I can make sure that I am properly managing the thermoregulation challenge and avoiding any temperature related injury.
But there is more
Orscana is cleverer than that though. It links to your local weather so you can see what the weather is going to do overnight and the following day. The app then uses your data and the data from the weather to give you additional assistance and advice. As you have full knowledge of the day ahead, you can rug correctly for the paddock too. Yes, it works out there too. It is water resistant but that doesn't mean that you can stick it in the washing machine, you will kill it if you do.
I have seen people say it will never work for them as their horses rip off their rugs. Strange that. As they can’t talk to us, wouldn’t you think that the poor beasts are trying to tell their Mums something? Like they are boiling and need to get the damn rug off? I have also heard people say a little sweat isn’t so bad they will lose weight, I have news for those people actually it is the reverse that happens and potentially a whole heap more problems may also be on their way.
The functionality doesn’t stop there. This little gadget also records what your babies are up to when you are away or tucked up in bed. I now know how long they lie down for, how long they are standing calmly in their stable or whether they are box walking. I used to plait Stretch the night before an event but with Orscana, I could see that he spent most of the night walking around his box, he is no longer plaited at night. It also records disturbed behaviour which could be rolling, kicking the stomach, rearing or anything that deviates from the motion sensors programming.
Data is accumulated over a 30 day period which allows you to look at and to establish patterns that are individual to your horse. I know on average what % of the time Stretch is lying down after a day off compared to a hard work out session. I now have complete picture of his normal behaviour so if we are staying away I know how settled or not he is which allows me to make decisions about warm-ups to ensure I can get the optimum performance from him.
Now I am not going to tell you it is perfect. Technology rarely is, just look at the British Airways disaster of the 2017 May Bank holiday, they spend millions on IT. Sometimes the Bluetooth is a little slow and you have to sync a couple of times or you have to switch the sensor on and then off to clear it. Niggles, but the data is all there and that is what I am interested in.
Yes, in the summer months my horses are often naked so I just don’t use it, though at night they may have very light summer sheets. With our very strange and variable weather I can ultimately make the right decision whether to rug or not backed up by the data from Orscana.
Orscana does not replace your brain, remove your personal responsibility or decision making capability and good judgement. What it does is give you access to information that you would never be able to get by any other method to make better, smarter decisions. It should be used in conjunction with good stable and horse management and as a valuable additional tool to a healthy comfortable horse.
Yes, you have to be fairly close to your horse about 100 feet. It is not designed, today to be an alert system, it is there to ensure that the decisions you have made or will make with regards to your rug regime are correct. For those of us lucky enough to have our horses at home, we can make instant decisions and make immediate changes. For those on livery yards, you are able to see the data and ask for changes to be made or let the Livery Yard owner/manager access your horse’s data.
You don't need anything special either simply an Android or iPhone and the app is free to download. I have all 3 of my horses on my app but you can have as many as you want, but clearly you will need a sensor for each horse.
For those of you who want to see what is going on even when you are not on the yard, you can now add friends/contacts into your settings that allow access to your sensor. If you are in Timbuktu and want to see what is going on at home, your friends can now send you your horses data. This is available today on Android and will be released shortly for the iPhone.
I have to tell you that my OCD has evaporated, I no longer phone friends asking what weight rugs they are using and my marriage is in a much better state because I am no longer dashing out to the stable at all times of the day and night!
Some would say that at £90 they would need to think about it, others think it is cheap. I would say that having used it for over 7 months, it has saved me a fortune in bad spending – no more stupid rug buys, no unnecessary vet calls, healthier horses, I have learnt a lot, I understand far more about my horses habits and what is normal for them, am far more clued in to the effects of heat and cold on my horses plus I now sleep better into the bargain.
Best of all I no longer worry about Stretch, Izzy or Benjii, I know that I have happy and comfortable horses.
And finally in the spirit of full disclosure, I jacked in my high flying technology job a month or so ago to help Arioneo spread the word. So you could say Orscana has changed my life in many ways.