As equine lameness may begin subtly, and can range from a simple, mild problem affecting a single limb to a more complicated one affecting multiple limbs, veterinarians know that early detection is the key to successful treatment.
The problem, said Kevin Keegan, a professor of equine surgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the university, is that, presently, detection still relies on simple visual observation with the naked eye.
That is about to change thanks to a co-operative effort by a team of researchers including Prof Keegan, Frank Pai, a professor in mechanical engineering at Missouri University, and Yoshiharu Yonezawa at the Hiroshima Institute of Technology in Japan. Together, the three have developed a system called the Lameness Locator, which is now being marketed by university spin-out Equinosis.
The system itself comprises sensors that are placed on the horse’s head, right front limb and croup, near the tail. The sensors monitor and record the horse’s torso movement while the horse is trotting.
The recorded information is compared with databases recorded from the movement of healthy horses and other lame horses. These comparisons can help equine veterinarians to improve and streamline their evaluation of the condition of a horse.
’Our biggest challenge now is to introduce this to veterinarians, train them on the proper usage and interpretation of the data and show them that it really works,’ Keegan said.