Important step forward for gait analysis of horses

Aug 19, 2013
A state of the art gait laboratory use infrared motion capture measurements of movement in three dimensions – a number of reflective markers are attached to the horse, and the resulting movement in a three-dimensional space are interpreted in a computer. Credit: Sensors

Horses who develop a limp are one of the major sources of frustration for horse owners as well as vets. The same applies for Wobblers disease (ataxia) where growth abnormalities or articular process joint osteoarthritis put pressure on the spinal cord causing ataxic gait. At least one in a hundred horses develop Wobblers disease, which often leads to the horse having to be euthanased. Both lameness and Wobblers disease have an effect on a horses gait, and so far veterinarians have only been able to study horse movement in a gait-laboratory, which commonly only allows study of a few steps at a time on a straight line.

Using inertial sensors; small sensors containing technology like what you find in a cellphone, i.e. , and magnetometers, veterinarian and PhD from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at University of Copenhagen, Dr. Emil Olsen and his collaborators from Dr. Thilo Pfau's research group at Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom have managed to measure horse movement (displacement) as well as the timing of the hoof's contact with the ground very accurately.

"Our previous research shows that inertial sensors placed right above the horse's fetlock joint can be used to reliably determine the timing of the hoof's contact with the ground. Furthermore, we're a big step closer to being able to measure movement during training of a horse under real-life conditions, because we have also managed to validate the method against the reference standard , and this provides us with tools to evaluate the development and change in coordination and symmetry simultaneously," Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and PhD Emil Olsen explains.

Better, cheaper treatment

Using this new method, veterinarians will be able to analyse the movement patterns of with much better than before. Professional trainers will also be able to utilise the sensors, i.e. to check whether a horse actually moves rhythmically, which is an important criteria in dressage as well as other equestrian disciplines.

Strictly scientific, the sensors are also quite interesting, as researchers will be able to look into the motor skills and of horses in a much more thorough way than previously, although veterinarians are the primary target of the new method.

"Our goal with this new system is to achieve a broader screening of the horse's coordination, and through that, to be able to discover diseases and problems earlier. It will also be possible to monitor diagnostics and rehabilitation outside the gait lab with equipment economically within reach for most vets," Emil Olsen adds.

The sensor system has already hit the market, an example is Equigait, a product developed by Emil Olsen's PhD supervisor Dr. Thilo Pfau. The new research results presented here haven't yet been implemented in any particular product.

Explore further: Deep sea fish eyesight similar to human vision

More information: The new research results have just been published in the article "Functional limits of agreement applied as a novel method comparison tool for accuracy and precision of inertial measurement unit derived displacement of the distal limb in horses" in the Journal of Biomechanics.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Horse owners urged to guard against pigeon fever

Jul 09, 2012

Experts are cautioning horse owners to be on the lookout for pigeon fever, a bacterial illness that causes abscesses typically in the pectoral region of horses, but in other anatomical sites as well.

Researchers identify virus that causes horse hepatitis

Mar 19, 2013

(Phys.org) —Theiler's Disease is one of the most common causes of equine hepatitis. Death rates in horses that develop symptoms range between 50 and 90 percent. Although veterinarians have known about ...

Recommended for you

Dogs hear our words and how we say them

Nov 26, 2014

When people hear another person talking to them, they respond not only to what is being said—those consonants and vowels strung together into words and sentences—but also to other features of that speech—the ...

Amazonian shrimps: An underwater world still unknown

Nov 26, 2014

A study reveals how little we know about the Amazonian diversity. Aiming to resolve a scientific debate about the validity of two species of freshwater shrimp described in the first half of the last century, ...

Factors that drive sexual traits

Nov 26, 2014

Many male animals have multiple displays and behaviours to attract females; and often the larger or greater the better.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.