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Lameness remains one of the most common medical problems in working horses. Vertical movement asymmetry of head and pelvis are common and accepted parameters in fore- and hind limb lameness evaluation, but it has been shown before that the subjective evaluation of lameness performed by equine practitioners are not reliable especially in low grade lame horses and that bias can adversely affect the correct evaluation of lameness. The body-mounted inertial sensor system used in this study provides objective measures of forelimb and hind limb lameness by measuring the head and pelvic vertical movement asymmetry. It has been evaluated before for reliability and detection rate of lameness and was found to be sufficiently repeatable to investigate for clinical use.
Diagnostic analgesia is an integral part during an equine lameness examination, but it can be challenging to perform in uncooperative horses. Using sedation in these horses might, because of analgesic and ataxia-inducing effects, interfere with lameness evaluation. Therefore the objective of the first study was to evaluate whether sedation with low-dose xylazine would alter lameness amplitude as measured by body mounted inertial sensors. Therefore 44 horses were randomly split into 2 groups and lameness was measured before and after injection of either xylazine (0,3mg/kg) or saline. Numbers of horses staying the same, improving or worsening were compared between groups at each time interval.
There was no significant difference in head or pelvic movement asymmetry between the xylazine and saline treatment group. However, a few horses with forelimb lameness in the xylazine treatment group showed a large decrease in head movement asymmetry which is equivalent to a decrease in forelimb lameness at 60min post sedation, concluding that a low-dose sedation with xylazine may be used without any concern of potential lameness-masking effects for hind limb lameness evaluation, but caution should be used in horses with forelimb lameness, especially in those of mild severity.
Extreme forces of impact or loading to the horse’s foot on completely inelastic surfaces may adversely affect sensitive hoof tissue, resulting in most domesticated horses being shod. The aim of the second study was to assess one method of temporary hoof covering, a hoof clog, to determine objectively if application of a Dallmer Hoof Clog in horses trotting over hard ground would affect the vertical head and pelvic movement asymmetry compared to the normal shod and unshod condition. The particular interest was to determine whether the hoof clog would prevent any lameness that might develop in horses trotting barefoot on a hard surface immediately after trimming. Twenty horses were randomly obtained from a riding school herd and evaluated objectively using body mounted inertial sensors first with their regular shoeing, barefoot and with a hoof clog applied. Overall there were no significant differences in either group between treatments (regular shoeing, trimmed and unshod, clogs). Even though not statistically significant, there was a trend that horses trotted barefoot developed a slight lameness, which could be ameliorated when applying hoof clogs. Results of this study support the contention that applications of these hoof clogs do not cause forelimb or hind limb lameness, are well tolerated, and may decrease concussion when trotting on hard ground.
The body mounted inertial sensor system ‘Lameness Locator’ was found to be a very useful tool for an objective comparison of horses examined under different conditions focusing on lameness.