Gait Monitoring System Introduced

Farriers got an eyeful of what the future might hold for them at the highest levels of equestrian sport at the American Farrier's Association (AFA) Convention, held in March in Rochester, N.Y. This future is specialized video monitoring of horses at work to help make adjustments to their shoes for better performance.

Haydn Price, DipWCF, of Wales shared videos from the new Equinalysis system, developed with sports medicine funds from the British Lottery and the United Kingdom's World Class Performance program for international athlete development. He showed how he could improve dressage horses' movement with minor shoeing modifications.

Working with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) to monitor horses which might represent Great Britain at the 2004 Olympic Games, Price and BEF team veterinarian John McEwen, BVMS, had brainstormed with biomechanics expert Mark Johnson, BSc, MPhil, to develop a system to use in the field. Additional testing was conducted at the University of Bristol's equine sports medicine laboratory.

The system helps overcome subjectivity when veterinarians and farriers assess horses at work, and could be used for purchase exams. Individual horses' stride length, breakover distance, and carpal (knee)/tarsal (hock)/fetlock flexion can be measured, archived, and compared over time.

Price used pre- and post-shoeing video gait analysis--often viewing a horse's footfalls frame-by-frame when unshod, conventionally shod, and with shoeing modified--to monitor minor adjustments. The British monitoring system uses three cameras and sophisticated software, although results can be obtained in the field with a single camera, according to Price. The 3-D software was developed for human sports and will be available commercially in the future for equestrian performance testing.

Price videotapes horses on the surface where they will be working, since a concern with dressage horses is that the horse must not sink too deeply into soft footing. Expert shoeing keeps the horse from expending excess energy, stressing joints, tendons, and ligaments, or looking like he is laboring to execute a movement.

Price's focus in his AFA presentation was "hock displacement," when the hock appears to bow outward toward the end of a stride. Sport horse farriers are continually battling performance deterioration attributed to hock weakness.

Price employs what looks like a radical device--a flat lateral (outside edge) extension of steel protrudes from the heel quarter to the heel, often an inch or so in width at its widest point, with no ground contact under the outer edge. However, when the horse works in soft footing, the extension appears to prevent the horse from sinking too deeply and stressing the hock joints.

A similar shoeing modification was recommended in lectures by French anatomist Jean-Marie Denoix, DVM, PhD, of the University of Alfort, who refers to the shoe as "asymmetric," since the outer branch is so much wider than the inside.

Price warned that the extension will change the horse's musculature over time and must be used cautiously and temporarily. As an aside, he commented that few, if any, of the horses had hock injections while in the program.

"Farriery is a reactive profession," he stated. "We wait until there is a problem, then we change the shoes. This new system helps me change the shoes and prevent the problem."

For more information about the development of the Equinalysis system, visit


An in-depth examination of hock displacement and the role of Equinalysis testing was published in Issue #78 of Hoofcare & Lameness: Journal of Equine Foot Science.

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.

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