Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to School Video: Motion Capture, Equine Biomechanics and the Future of Horse Sports

Qualisys demonstrated its 3D gait analysis system at the International Conference for Equine Locomotion (ICEL) at Stromsholm, Sweden this summer.

It's back to school time in the USA. And it affects all of us. Maybe it's seeing all those three-ring binders in day-glo colors in the stores. Maybe it's the traffic jam around the mall. Maybe it's seeing little kids "learning" how to wait for the school bus.

But "back to school" resonates in each and every one of us, whether we are conscious of it or not. This time of year, our thoughts turn to self-improvement. Taking a class. Getting our lives in order. Clearing out the clutter. Making a plan. Finally learning Photoshop.

Maybe, like New Year's resolutions, the plans fall apart or fade. After all, for most of us it is a case of "back to work", not "back to school".

If you're looking for a secure future in the world of hoofcare and lameness, it is likely to involve some form of gait analysis or motion capture, and it's not too far off the mark to suggest that an understanding of gait and joint mechanics is deficient in most of our resumes.

For instance, Qualisys writes,"The work was made in cooperation with equine researchers attending the conference...We set up a 60 camera system indoors and in the outdoor setting seen here we used 40-something Oqus 3+ cameras."

Yes, you read that correctly: 60 cameras for the indoor test and 40 for outdoors.

Would you have any idea what they would need 60 cameras for, what they were pointed at or what they were trying to capture?

Here's Jens Frederikson, who rode for Sweden in the jumping at the London Olympics, schooling a horse for an audience of mo-cap cameras at the stables at Stromsholm. (Qualisys photo)
A few years ago, radiographs were big, clunky sheets of film that veterinarians kept to themselves. They slid in and out of envelopes, and there was always a worry about dust and dirt and fingerprints.

Today, we take them for granted. They become part of a horse's portfolio and the ability to be at least familiar with them is assumed to be part and parcel of being a horse professional.

A data collection session at the McPhail Center, where the equine biomechanics course is held.

We are coming to a point where the same will be true of a horse's biomechanics portfolio. Maybe our horses won't be lucky enough to have 60 cameras pointed at them at once, but some mo-cap footage from somewhere may follow a young horse far into his performance career. It will be important that any and all video footage of a horse enhance his gaits and movement, not detract from them, and the horse's mo-cap files will be most critical of all.

If you're a horse professional interested in equine biomechanics, the best immersion course offered in the world will be held the first week in October at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine's McPhail Center for Equine Performance.

Dr. Hilary Clayton instructs the course
 Dr. Hilary Clayton presides over a soup-to-nuts assay of equine anatomy, gait and the intersection of the two in the field of study known as equine biomechanics. Students enjoy a casual classroom environment, hands-on access to the joints of horses, and a chance to work in the setting of one of the world's premier laboratories for equine study.

The course is under the auspices of Equinology, which offers courses all over the world for aspiring equine body workers and affiliated professionals. Admission to the course has some prerequisites and requires advance registration.

Your future could begin when you sign up for Equine Biomechanics with Dr. Hilary Clayton.

Normally, this blog is a big advocate of conferences but the buffet-table style of education offered at most conferences with a big selection of speakers and topics can become diluted. After a while, people attend conferences to hear particular speakers or to have their own chosen theories or techniques reinforced or validated by the speakers. They don't go to hear what doesn't fit their agenda.

Sometimes you need to step back from the all-you-can-eat buffet and sit down for a serious meal. You'll find that your return on investment is manyfold, and your palate may be expanded. Horse professionals have few opportunities for continuing professional education that takes them back to the classroom--and back to thinking seriously and critically about their work.

This is one of those opportunities. So if the thought of a new pencil box can still make your pulse quicken, there's a course for you--if you get organized now...and if your pencil box always had a picture of a horse on it.

About the Qualisys video: Most of us are accustomed to horses who trot, rather than pace. Both the trot and the pace are two-beat gaits, meaning that pairs of limbs strike the ground simultaneously. In most simple terms, the trot requires pairs of diagonal limbs (right front-left hind), while the pace requires pairs of limbs on the same side of the horse (right front-right hind) to extend and land simultaneously.

This video shows an Icelandic being set up for a motion capture by Qualisys, and then shows the resulting imagery. The point of the video is that the horse is demonstrating the Icelandic's ability to pace.

Studies utilizing the Pegasus limb phasing system and probably other systems as well were also front and center at ICEL 7. 

To learn more: go back and watch "Equine Biomechanics Integrated with an Icelandic Horse's Disco-Rhythm Hoofbeats by Swiss Researchers" from the University of Zurich vet school, as shown on the blog in January 2011.

Click to instantly order your copy of this beautiful anatomy education reference poster of the inner hoof wall.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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