A leading expert in equine locomotion and performance suggests lameness needs to be redefined to reflect new digital assessment techniques that use preset parameters to detect gait asymmetries in horses, according to Vet Times.

Using expert visual evaluation of gait to identify the presence or absence and degree of asymmetries to detect lameness is subjective, says Paul René van Weeren, chairman of equine musculoskeletal biology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

The lame horse is described as having a disorder, defect or loss of function, and this clinical diagnosis has associated welfare implications if the horse is still asked to perform.

Van Weeren et al wrote in the Equine Veterinary Journal that advanced computer technology is starting to change this.

Optic motion capture, or the use of inertial measurement units, is enabling the detailed study and quantification of the horse’s gait; objective assessment against preset thresholds.

“Digital equine gait analysis is sure to become an indispensable additional tool for clinical decision-making,” van Weeren writes. “At this early stage, we must define the use of terminology to avoid confusion and prevent the formation of wrong perceptions. Using the term ‘lame’ for any horse falling beyond thresholds set for quantitative gait analysis or not showing the ideal motion pattern when assessed clinically is inadvisable.

“We should reserve the use of that term for horses deemed unfit to compete, based on a comprehensive assessment of the animal that includes, but does not rely entirely on, the appreciation of the degree of gait asymmetry.”

van Weeren, P. R., Pfau, T., Rhodin, M., Roepstorff, L., Serra Bragança, F. and Weishaupt, M. A. (2017), Do we have to redefine lameness in the era of quantitative gait analysis? Equine Vet J, 49: 567–569. doi:10.1111/evj.12715

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