A motion detection system, which can identify lameness more accurately than the human eye, has been developed at the University of Missouri (MU).
The ‘lameness locator’ places small sensors on a horse’s head, off front leg and croup, which then monitor and record the horse's movement while it’s trotting. This data is then transferred to a computer, where it is compared with the movement of healthy equines in order to diagnose if the horse under analysis is lame.
To test the efficacy of the device, a professor of equine surgery and an equine surgery resident from MU set up a test where adjustable shoes were put on horses to temporarily induce symptoms of lameness.
Kevin Keegan (the professor, not the football manager) and Meghan McCracken then monitored the horses, using the lameness locator along with a number of vets.
They found that the motion detection system was able to identify lameness earlier than the vets more than 58% of the time, and when the lameness occurred in the hind legs of the horse it was at least 67% more accurate.
“There are two reasons why the lameness locator is better than the naked eye," Keegan said. "It samples motion at a higher frequency beyond the capability of the human eye and it removes the bias that frequently accompanies human subjective evaluation."
Lameness is the most common ailment in horses, and early detection would mean more equines making a full recovery – and less time and money spent on trying to identify so-called ‘mystery’ problems.
"If veterinarians can detect lameness earlier, before it gets too bad, it makes treatment much easier," Keegan said. "Lameness often goes undetected or undiagnosed entirely, which can cause owners to retire horses earlier than needed, simply because they cannot figure out why the horses are unhealthy. The lameness locator should be able to help with that as well."