Until now, scientists had only been able to evaluate the movement of horses visually, which is inherently subjective. But the human eye is only capable of registering images with a frequency of 20 Hz. This makes the human capacity for assessment insufficient in order to arrive at a consistent and objective evaluation of the functioning of the horse’s locomotor system, especially when diagnosing lameness - much less when predicting a horse’s performance.
With the current developments in information technology, Utrecht University’s Equine Clinic (UKP) wanted to switch from subjective to objective measurements. The question was: how could technology help to achieving that goal?
Modern sensor technology and smart computer applications can translate automatically recorded signals from the horse into objective, factual and therefore relevant information. This is extremely practical for both the ‘learning’ students as well as the ‘practicing’ veterinarian.
The challenge was to translate the scientific knowledge acquired through the clinic’s own ‘gold standard’ limb movement and limb loading measuring systems QHorse and Force/PressurePlate into mobile measuring units based on modern inertial measurement units (IMU); a smartphone is in fact already an IMU with which you can measure the accelerations, angles and direction of a smartphone wearing object (That’s why the screen rotates as you move it).
The University Equine Clinic has recently started two projects to this end. In the EquiMoves® project (www.equimoves.nl), the UKP examines the scientific application for developing a practical field app based on inertial measurement units (IMUs) for businesses, such as an equine veterinary practice (business to business; powered by a STW Valorisation Grant). This involves attaching sensors to the horse’s limbs and body. The inertial sensors used have measurement frequencies of up to 1000 Hz; more than 50 times faster than the human eye.
The Rhaebus® project (www.rhaebus.com) has developed a mobile movement registration system for horses using a smartphone app for the consumer market (business to consumer; powered by a STW Demonstrator Grant). It can be used at home to evaluate the effects of treatment for lameness and to monitor the effects of training on competitive horses, for example.
Both projects present practical solutions for veterinarians, trainers, owners and insurers, but also for equestrian and breeding organisations.