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Friday, September 13, 2019

Equine Research: BEVA Congress 2019 award goes to Irish paper analyzing progress in equine motion study, including hooves and shoes

Irish researcher Sonja Egan (right) received the BEVA Congress's Peter Rossdale Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) Open Award for 2019 for her review of more than 500 equine motion analysis papers published since 1978,. The paper includes data on the shortcomings of the past and suggestions for the future, including specifics on hoof and horseshoe research. Presenting the award is 2019 BEVA President Renate Weller.

News from the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress underway in England this week is that a paper in the field of equine motion analysis has received a prestigious award. The winning paper was the result of a "scoping" review of what equine motion research has been accomplishing for the past 40 years, and how productively the field is moving forward.

Among the results from the paper are analysis of the way that hoof movement and shoe effects research has been conducted in the past and suggestions for future modification. Some findings from  the study are outlined for you here.
British Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2019


BEVA's Peter Rossdale Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) Open Award for 2019 was presented to Sonja Egan of University College Dublin for the article, "Research trends in equine movement analysis, future opportunities and potential barriers in the digital age: A scoping review from 1978-2018". It was first published online in January 2019.

Egan's paper looks at some of the frustrations or limitations in the field of motion analysis for horses, including small study samples and the lack of standardized data, which limits the ability to reliably cross-reference data and affects its "transferability". These limitations are often mentioned by researchers in their articles. Egan suggested that some pillars of progress in human motion analysis may be transferable to equine research. Nonetheless, of the studies in the group,  the researchers noted that "over 50% of research studies (they) included had a sample size of 10 or less horses."

Motion analysis for horses has a long history, stretching back into the 19th century, but Egan selected a window beginning in 1978. Advances in computer technology enabled the use of sensor-equipped treadmills, video analysis, force-measuring shoes/boots, strain gauges, bone pins, pressure mats, and on to wearable sensor-based systems.

Beginning with more than 2000 articles published, Egan's team used a set of criteria to narrow down the sample to more than 500 English-language articles for inclusion. These were, in turn, broken down into 13 parent themes: Performance, Gait Dysfunction, General Kinematics, Kinetics of Gait, Methodological Studies, Surface‐Horse Interaction, Intervention, Database, Motor Control, Breed/Discipline, Physiology & Anatomy, Horse‐Rider and Development. 

Five of the parent themes had subheadings: Performance (PERF‐Jumping Mechanics), Gait Dysfunction (GD‐Lameness, GD‐Tendon/Ligament, GD‐Orthopaedics), General Kinematics (GK‐Head/Neck, GK‐Back/Spine, GK‐Limbs/Hoof), Methodological Studies (MS‐Sensors, MS‐Treadmill, MS‐Force/Pressure/Kinetics, MS‐Other) and Intervention (IN‐Shoeing, IN‐Training, IN‐Medical).

The study of equine motion analysis has progressed through stages and layers of technology that advanced with the availability of hardware and software for use in studies. The award-winning study lamented that the data collected from the horses in these studies is not transferable and that hoof research has been limited to studying the slower gaits of horses. (Image: Chaja Hertog, used with permission.)


Egan found 6.9% of studies focused on hoof angulation, predominately investigating "heel wedges, studs, particular shoe types and their influence on limb coordination, anatomical structures, loading and breakover in the context of kinematics." In addition, 7.3% of studies investigated the function of specific limb and hoof segments.

While the analysis covered a wide range of research like a view from space, it does include some specific findings. For the 5.9% of papers that delved into shoe research, Egan and her team recommended:

• "Greater work required to investigate natural compensations and how that alters hoof orientation and uniformity."
• "More work using 3D kinematics, assessing impacts of faster speeds on shoeing, methods of injury reduction, chronic and acute treatments and optimal performance shoeing."
• "Recommend moving away from traditional methods and applying science across farriery."
• "There is disputing recommendations regarding the use of heel wedges, their adaptation period and if they are beneficial or detrimental in treating conditions like navicular and tendonitis."

The authors had similar recommendations for research into the influence of surfaces on motion (3.9% of papers reviewed). Future study recommendations in this area:

• "Investigation of loading force and force angles components, surface‐locomotor interactions and how this may relate to injury risk/injury."
• "The influence of moisture content/weather on surface and locomotor action."
• "Outlines recommendations to develop an objective surface comfort score".

The analysis ends with a provocative question, after noting the latest wave of research, which uses wearable sensor technology. "The question remains, do equine industry stakeholders want this information?" the authors asked.

About the award

According to BEVA, this award is given for the paper that best achieves the EVJ’s mission to publish articles which influence and improve clinical practice and/or add significantly to the scientific knowledge that underpins and supports veterinary medicine in relation to the horse. The award is made in recognition of British veterinarian and former EVJ editor Peter Rossdale’s immense contribution to BEVA and EVJ.

To learn more:

Citation: Egan, S. , Brama, P. and McGrath, D. (2019), Research trends in equine movement analysis, future opportunities and potential barriers in the digital age: A scoping review from 1978 to 2018. Equine Vet J. doi:10.1111/evj.13076.

Click here to read the abstract of this study; the full paper requires subscription or library access to Equine Veterinary Journal.

Note: This article is illustrated with Hoofcare Publishing file images, courtesy of Chaja Hertog. The images are not related to the award-winning paper.


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