Gait analysis technology in horses: What do equine veterinarians think?

Veterinarians who use gait analysis technology with horses are generally positive about its use in equine practice, researchers have found, while non-users aired concerns about costs and the complexity of data interpretation.

The use of quantitative gait analysis is becoming more common in equine orthopaedic practice, with several systems commercially available.

The number of users is increasing steadily, Aagje Hardeman and her colleagues noted in the journal, Equine Veterinary Education.

At the same time, some clinicians are questioning the technology, they said. The main concerns mentioned are an over-reliance on technology, the much larger quantity of parameters taken into account by an experienced clinician compared with the currently used systems for lameness assessment, and the less than straightforward relationship of measured asymmetries with what is clinically referred to as lameness.

“Quantitative gait analysis is rapidly gaining ground in equine practice, and pros and cons are regularly discussed within the scientific literature,” the study team, all with the Utrecht University in The Netherlands, noted.

“However, no data exist on the appreciation of the technique by equine clinicians, their motivation to use it or not, and their perception of its value in daily practice.”

The researchers carried out what is understood to be the first inventory survey of current users and nonusers of quantitative gait analysis in equine clinical practice in a bid to learn more about their opinions, expectations and experiences of the technology.

A questionnaire was sent to a group of equine orthopaedic clinicians working in an equine clinic or practice. Respondents were classified either as users — having clinical experience with quantitative gait analysis — or nonusers. The study team used 72 completed questionnaires in their analysis — 40 from users and 32 from nonusers.

Within the sample population, users of the technology were more positive about the usefulness of quantitative gait analysis than nonusers, the study team found.

“Veterinarians who purchased a system were motivated by better objectivity, transparency, documentation and client service.”

The main reasons for veterinarians not buying a system were costs and the complexity of data interpretation.

Among the users, 67.5% believed that quantitative gait analysis had made them better veterinarians. Of the nonusers, 50% thought it could potentially make them better veterinarians.

Of the users, 82.5% were positive or very positive about the use of quantitative gait analysis in equine practice, and 80% assumed their clients to be positive or very positive regarding its use.

Among the nonusers, 62.6% had a positive or very positive view on the use of the technology in equine practice, while 12.5% had a negative or very negative opinion.

Only a minority of both users and nonusers considered the technology suitable for equine professionals other than veterinarians.

The study team said that more information needed to be gathered to allow for the generalisation of the results.

The responses by veterinarians indicated that further technical developments were necessary to meet their requirements, such as an increase of the number of analysed parameters, the ability to analyse back and neck motion, analysing under tack, increased functionality for lameness in more than one leg, and an increase in user-friendliness.

“Repeating studies like the current one, with a larger sample of equine veterinarians, at regular intervals, may help in monitoring this process and can generate important information to detect tendencies and clinical needs, help clinicians in their decision-making, and improve the technology by the industry,” they said.

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