High-Tech Equine Research

Motion sensors, easily wearable heart rate monitors, and thermography cameras that detect eye temperatures are just a few examples of the cutting-edge technology that's flooding equine research labs with new information.

Photo: Courtesy Qualisys

How equine researchers are using the latest gadgets and gizmos to diagnose lameness, collect data, and much more

Smartphones, flat-screens, high-speed cameras, analog software, GPS tracking, Bluetooth. These amazing technological advances and more have changed the way we live, work, play, and communicate. But that’s not all they’re doing. They’re equipping researchers worldwide for studying horses in ways they might have thought impossible just a few decades ago. 

In this article we’ll take a look at some of the most exciting technological advances in equine research and how they’re helping scientists better understand horse health, movement, behavior, emotions, and learning. We’ll see why technology matters and where it’s leading us.

Giving Horses a Voice

In situations ranging from housing and social separation to locomotor pain and relationships with humans and beyond, technological devices are opening windows into the equine mind. Researchers have frequently relied on assumptions about what horses feel and think. But the latest sensors, monitors, detectors, readers, and other gadgets are taking the guesswork out of this area of science. 

“Horses can’t tell us where it hurts or what they need (though they often try),” says Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, MRCVS, professor and Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair Emerita at Michigan State University, in East Lansing. “So one of the things we’re trying to do with technology, whether it’s for checking lameness or having horses touch a screen to say whether they want their blankets on or off, for example, is give horses a voice.”

Lars Roepstorff, DVM, PhD, professor of equine functional anatomy at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who performs research for the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), agrees. “Technology teaches us how the horse reacts—mentally and physically—to different research treatments and regimens,” he says. “It actually allows us to look at and even measure their mental state, in ways that only technology can.”

This article continues in the August 2017 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. Subscribe now and get an immediate download of this issue including this in-depth feature on how technology is changing equine research and how it may affect your daily routines with your horse.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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