Variation in gait parameters used for objective lameness assessment in sound horses at the trot on the straight line and the lunge

A. M. Hardeman, F. M. Serra Bragança, J. H. Swagemakers, P. R. van Weeren, L. Roepstorff. Equine Veterinary Journal  ISSN 2042-3306 (2019), DOI: 10.1111/evj.13075

Objective lameness assessment is gaining more importance in a clinical setting, necessitating availability of reference values. The objective is to investigate the between ‐path, ‐trial and ‐day variation, between and within horses, in the locomotion symmetry of horses in regular use that are perceived sound.Twelve owner‐sound horses were trotted on the straight line and on the lunge. Kinematic data were collected from these horses using 3D optical motion capture. Examinations were repeated on 12 occasions over the study which lasted 42 days in total. For each horse, measurements were grouped as five replicates on the first and second measurement days and two replicates on the third measurement day. Between measurement days 2 and 3, every horse had a break from examination of at least 28 days. Previously described symmetry parameters were calculated: RUD and RDD (Range Up/Down Difference; difference in upward/downward movement between right and left halves of a stride); MinDiff and MaxDiff (difference between the two minima/maxima of the movement); HHDswing and HHDstance (Hip Hike Difference‐swing/‐stance; difference between the upward movement of the tuber coxae during swingphase/stancephase). Data are described by the between‐measurement variation for each parameter. A linear mixed model was used to test for the effect of time, surface and path. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) were calculated to access repeatability. Mean between‐measurement variation was (MinDiff, MaxDiff, RUD, RDD): 13, 12, 20, 16 mm (head); 4, 3, 6, 4 mm (withers) and 5, 4, 6, 6 mm (pelvis); (HHDswing, HHDstance): 7 and 7 mm. More between‐measurement variation is seen on the first measurement day compared to the second and third measurement days. In general, less variation is seen with increasing number of repetitions. Less between‐measurement variation is seen on hard surface compared to soft surface. More between‐measurement variation is seen on the circle compared to the straight line. Between‐horse variation was clearly larger than within‐horse variation. ICC values for the head, withers and pelvis symmetry parameters were 0.68 (head), 0.76 (withers), 0.85 (pelvis).

Lunge measurements on a hard surface were not performed.

Between‐measurement variation may be substantial, especially in head motion. This should be considered when interpreting clinical data after repeated measurements, as in routine lameness assessments.

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