Respiratory Recordings

Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed a device that can record horses' respiratory sounds as they exercise in a normal environment, instead of limiting these recordings to treadmill workouts.

In recent years, researchers have tried to characterize sounds associated with upper respiratory problems in horses, such as low frequency expiration sounds that are associated with dorsal displacement of the soft palate. However, one factor has limited their studies significantly--in order to record respiratory sounds, horses had to be confined to treadmills. This limited the number of horses that could be used in the study because of cost and logistics. It also limited the study data to a clinical setting, which some researchers say can alter the data. The study was published in the July issue of the Equine Veterinary Journal.

After testing several prototypes of the device, researchers at the University of Bristol came up with one that could affectively record respiratory sounds with little hindrance to the horse.

The device incorporates a miniature microphone and an airflow direction sensor (to differentiate between inspiration and expiration sounds) mounted on a lightweight, plastic face mask. The device stores high-quality recordings and air-flow signals on a portable MiniDisc player carried by the rider, according to Jeremy F. Burn, PhD, a professor in the department of Anatomy at Bristol.

He explained that treadmills can cause horses to make different respiratory sounds compared to regular over-the-ground exercise.

Burn explained, "The differences between over-ground and treadmill exercise arise from the difference between the belt/treadmill as a ground surface and normal ground conditions. There are small energetic differences which may be attributed to the effect of the foot slowing down the treadmill belt during stance phase."

According to Burn, the device could prove beneficial for future research and to horse owners.

"At the moment, the benefit is only in producing recordings that can be listened to and analyzed retrospectively," he said. "The potential benefit is that it may be possible to construct mathematical models to relate sound characteristics to respiratory conditions.

"Given the technique is developed successfully to become diagnostic, it will increase the number of horses that can be used for research into disease prevalence, etc."

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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