Monday, November 26, 2007

Where's My Brumby Now: Chris Pollitt Offers Donors a Chance to Ride Along for Hoof Satellite!

I am posting a research brief from Dr. Pollitt that should be of interest to every reader of Hoofcare & Lameness Journal. I think a brumby's hoof data would make a great Christmas present! Above: Australian feral horses ("brumbies") photographed from the air by Dr Pollitt in July of 2007 while conducting preliminary research.

Australian Hoof Research Project Brief: Determining the range of the Australian wild horse (Brumby) and the relationship to foot type and conformation.

Our team has spent much of the past 12 months investigating the use of GPS technology to track the movements of horses. As a result we have developed the ideal tool to track the day-to-day movements of horses in both the domestic and wild environments.

Our GPS tracking units allow us to accurately pinpoint the location, speed and altitude of the horse at one-second intervals for up to one week or at 30-second intervals for up to six months.

Domestic horse wearing a collar with GPS tracker attached.

A GPS unit attached to a strap around the horse's neck is able to fix the position of the horse by aligning its position with at least six satellites orbiting overhead and storing the data on board. When data is retrieved, it is interfaced with Google Earth to 1) produce an aerial photograph of the horse's movements (see photo) and 2) be overlaid on a geographical mapping system which applies the data to soil and vegetation type, use of water points and topography type.

This exciting technology is being applied to horses for the first time by our research team, with the goal of establishing a complete picture of the movements of horses, both domestic and wild, and how they interact with their environment.

The effect of movement and environment on the horse’s foot is a significant focus of the research.
We know from preliminary work that the typical domestic horse’s foot travels very little (approximately 7 km daily) in comparison to its wild counterpart which may travel up to 50 km or more in a single walk. We have several populations of "Brumbies" (Australian feral horses) under investigation to determine natural foot structure and function under various environmental conditions.

Tracking data (3 days) from horses grazing a large 40-acre forested paddock

We are about to embark on the most exciting part of the research: to track the wild horses. Brumbies will be darted silently from a hide with a tranquilizer, giving the team two minutes to photograph feet, place permanent markers to determine hoof wall growth rates and attach the GPS collar (see photo).

On reversal of the tranquilizer, the horse will rejoin its family band unaware of the intervention. The same horse will be recaptured using the dart gun at the end of the trial to retrieve equipment and then released back to the wild.

This work will begin in March 2008 and continue for 12 months in locations in Central and Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory and Eastern Kimberly region of Western Australia.
The project will ultimately identify the relationship between a horse’s movement and the effect on foot conformation, structure and function.

Our goal is to make well-informed recommendations of the ideal conditions to keep domestic horses to improve the well-being of their feet.

You can help in this groundbreaking research. The more GPS units we can attach to wild horses, the better and more accurate the data set will be. For AUS$3000 (approx $2,600 US) you can own and name a wild horse for the 4 to 6 month tracking season. We will supply photos and location data at the time of GPS attachment and, when retrieved, we will use the GPS download from your horse to generate a report using Google Earth maps.

Ultimately, the combined data from all the horses will be compiled into freely available scientific reports.

Please help if you can.

Professor Chris Pollitt

Professor of Equine Medicine
School of Veterinary Science

The University of Queensland

St Lucia, Brisbane, Queensland
fax 07 3365 2351

Note: To learn more about Dr. Pollitt and his observations of brumby feet, refer to "The Natural Hoof Down Under" in Hoofcare and Lameness Issue #69. He has also been a keen observer of zebra feet in the wild.

Double-click on any photo to view it in an enlarged size but please remember that these photos are the property of Dr. Pollitt and are protected by the copyright of Hoofcare and Lameness Journal and, to say nothing of Dr. Pollitt's six satellites circling the earth.