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Horse Gait Analysis: Eight-Point Sensor System Shows Promise

Horse Gait Analysis: Eight-Point Sensor System Shows Promise
Horse gait analysis is getting more advanced: A recently developed and tested comprehensive motion sensor system can simultaneously record and analyze data remotely from eight parts of a moving horse body.
 
The strategically placed inertial measurement units (IMUs) on the horse can help evaluate gait and movement in a variety of situations, said Filipe Serra Bragança, DVM, a PhD candidate in equine musculoskeletal biology at Utrecht University’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Department of Equine Sciences, in The Netherlands.
 
By collecting kinematic movement data wirelessly from the horse’s poll, withers, sacrum, sternum (underside of the barrel), and each leg, veterinarians and even judges could complement their visual assessments of horses in motion, he said. Such a system could give critical information about lameness, neurological disorders, performance, and natural gaits.
 
“Similar IMU-based systems have used one to three sensors, but by using more sensors in different locations, like the body and the limbs, we can provide the users with additional relevant information,” Bragança said.
 
The research team’s eight-point system appears to be as reliable (if not more for measuring limb motion) than complex and expensive optical motion capture (OMC), or OMC camera-based systems working off a series of markers placed on the horse—the current “gold standard” of objective lameness evaluation, they said.
 
In their study, the scientists tested their system on seven sound Warmblood mares walking and trotting in hand in a straight line. At the same time, they measured the mares’ movement using the gold standard—about 10 to 15 reflective markers placed on horses’ bodies strategically and 18 infrared cameras recording motion capture data.
 
They found that their results closely resembled those provided by the motion capture infrared camera system, Bragança said, demonstrating good performance of the IMU.
 
“It is important that we work with validated and tested equipment,” he said.
 
Results differed mostly with regard to limb movement, but the researchers said that’s probably because the eight-point system is actually more reliable in certain situations than the camera system, which can’t detect leg movement as accurately because the cameras are not sensitive enough to depth perception on moving limbs.
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